Oftentimes, people feel like they don’t need to be working on leadership skills because they’re not a leader yet. They’re not a Thought Leader, presenting to hundreds of people. They’re not a Manager, with direct reports looking to them for a career advice. Or, they’re not the “Lead” on the project.

If you reframe those “I’m not yet’s…” into “I could be somedays…” you can actually take some great steps towards them. Not only will it help you prepare for when you’re in that role, it will also give a nod to your organization that you’re hankering for the opportunity to take on that kind of responsibility.

Read on for some ideas of what you can be doing right now!

  1. For the Thought Leader: start honing in on your craft. Read articles, buy books, textbooks, attend lectures, watch youtube videos. Test out different methodologies and see what works, what doesn’t. Start to write. Write what works, write what doesn’t. Whether you write it for yourself, your blog, Medium, or submit it to fastco, getting your thoughts on paper on what you’ve learned will help you create your point of view. Consider asking your organization if you can present some learnings at your next all-hands meeting, or, a smaller team meeting in your discipline. Share your POV, and ask folks for feedback, maybe even consider taping and rewatching. By working on both your content and your delivery, you’ll be developing the skills to be on stage in no time.
  2. For the Manager: begin to develop your ability to receive and deliver feedback. By soliciting feedback, and working with managers to develop plans to improve, you’ll be getting better at figuring out how to navigate sticky conversations with future employees. And, even better yet, once you start soliciting feedback, you can begin to practice giving upward, sideways, downward feedback which will help you learn tactful ways to communicate what people need to hear. Which, will make you an even better manager because you’ll be able to push your employees to also give you feedback so that you keep improving, too.
  3. For the Project Lead: try out tactics that you think are important for a project to be successful. Some ideas you may want to run by the project lead (which they’ll probably appreciate since they’re likely already overwhelmed) and others you can probably just try out to cultivate a strong team dynamic. Some ideas? Organize team outings, ensure folks step away from their desk for lunch, practice inclusivity, or try a team norming exercise to learn about everyone’s different working styles and boundaries.

So, there you have it. Whether you want to one day become a Thought Leader, Manager and/or Project Lead, there’s a lot you can be doing right now to get ready!

Planning your career (or, your next job) can be a multi-step process that makes you feel like you wish you carried around a printed calendar, post-its and a pencil. But, sometimes we forget to forgo over planning in lieu of enjoying. Read on for three key lessons to remember when you’re feeling like a fiery manager of timelines.

  1. Remember that careers are lengthy. Think back to when you were a teenager and a bit of a brat. At the time you thought you were the bees knees and knew everything. Nowadays you probably giggle at the thought of your 14-year-old self being an insufferable know-it-all. What’s wonderful about that realization is that you’ve learned a lot since then. Apply that same thinking to your current career and it can be rewarding to realize that there will be a lot more to learn around every turn and there’s plenty of time to get even better. Sometimes that can be stressful to think about how much you simply don’t know, or, it can be invigorating to look forward to all that personal growth.
  2. Enjoy the process. Some days are harder than others and some goals more difficult to accomplish. It’s important to take your time and enjoy each step along the way. If you spend all your time focusing on finishing the marathon you’re less likely to enjoy training in the early mornings, eating weird granola bars and pushing yourself to the brink. Just think, if you only care about crossing the finish line you’ll miss waving to all your friends cheering on the sidelines.
  3. Focus internally. There’s a big world out there that’s distracting and full of noise. When you’re scrolling through Facebook, Instagram and Linkedin it’s hard to remember that social statuses aren’t the whole story. Rather than getting caught up trying to untangle just how they got where they are, refocus and think about what brings you joy. It’s important to let you define your own success by your own needs. And, by focusing on your personal needs you may discover that keeping up with the Joneses isn’t for you and you’re more of a pave your own way kind of gal.

Good luck and don’t forget to enjoy the ride!


There’s a lot out there about the importance of finding your Purpose, that Passion drives Success. That without passion and deep belief in your purpose you will never be happy at work. I’ve even quoted Steve Jobs, “The only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle.”

So today, we’re going to flip it, and take a look at Cal Newport’s, So Good They Can’t Ignore You: Why Skills Trump Passion in the Quest for Work You Love. The book was recommended, and reading it (twice) has resulted in an interesting way to approach the Follow your Dreams mentality. Now, Cal’s book doesn’t necessarily say that purpose isn’t important, or that you don’t need purpose to be successful, rather, he somewhat rethinks the order of events, and instead of having passion lead your next job hunt, he has “career capital” lead it.

Let me share with you a breakdown of the steps briefly:

  1. Don’t Follow Your Passion – Wait until you understand what you’re good at. I.e. I may just love puppies (I DO!), but, that may not mean I should become a professional dog walker. I may not like picking up poop multiple times a day.
  2. Claim a Skill/Career Path – This may seem a little like find your purpose, but rather than focusing on this big manifesto, you think about the things you are good at and enjoy doing. I.e. if I love taking dogs for a walks, maybe I consider becoming a dog walker. And, no worries if I find out that it isn’t for me, I can switch to something else, no pressure.
  3. Master that Skill – and create a “craftsman” mindset. As in, get really into your craft.  Ira Glass talked about how this applies to creativity: “All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase, they quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know it’s normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one story. It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve ever met. It’s gonna take a while. It’s normal to take a while. You’ve just gotta fight your way through.” Simply put, through repetition, continued generative effort and constant feedback you’ll create some very serious career capital. Maybe you’ll become a dog walker that is so good everyone in town wants you.
  4. Negotiate Control – once you have the grand master of skills, you can start asking for the things you need to make you happier. You have negotiation power now to start thinking about what you need to be happy in your workplace. Maybe you want to only walk dogs on Mondays – Fridays from noon to 7pm. Now that you’re the hottest dog walker in town, you can do that. People will be a-okay with you only working those hours because you’re simply the best.
  5. Define the Mission – now that you’re living that beautiful life of working how you want, you can take all that mastery you’ve created and apply those important skills to a bigger mission. Maybe you want to start a dog-walking business that walks rescue dogs or dogs that are up for adoption so they can get outdoors and meet potential new owners.

Now, all of this isn’t to say that passion should be tossed out the window. Instead, the focus is building up skills to support that passion, to understand that passion, and to execute on it. At first, it may seem overwhelming to consider what your skills truly are. One thing that can help is to start thinking about all the things you do in your day to day life, the ones you enjoy, and the ones that challenge you that you like to iterate on. This may help you start thinking about which company will let you build up those marketable skills a bit more. Good luck!

Business Insider

Excited to introduce Annie to you, a brilliant creator of the arts who, if you’re in the Seattle area you should try to catch one of the performances she works on. Read on for Part 1 of Annie’s interview!

Hi! Who are you?! What do you do?
I’m Annie Paladino, and I am an educator and theater artist. Originally from Orange County, CA, went to college in CT, lived for four years in San Francisco, and then moved to Seattle (two years ago). Currently I work in program coordination (after-school activities and summer camp) at a private K-8 school in Seattle, and I am the Associate Artistic Director of Akropolis Performance Lab. I’m also a freelance actor/director/playwright/producer and a teaching artist.

As Program Coordinator at a small(ish) independent school, I am responsible for basically everything that happens after school or during the summer. Hiring, program development, outreach, a little marketing, program administration, budgeting, teaching, scheduling, procedure/policy development…these are all things I do on a regular basis. The position was brand new when I was hired, so I’ve had a lot of freedom to design, develop, and run these programs the way I want to. I also teach several day camp programs during the summer. It’s a LOT of variety, which I love.

I have worked with many different theater groups both in Seattle and San Francisco, but this is my first time in a leadership position, which is both exciting and scary. Scary because I don’t tend to be artistically monogamous, but I was instantly at home with APL. APL is a very small company with virtually zero organizational infrastructure. We have no operating budget, the “staff” consists of me and the two Co-Artistic Directors, and all performers/company members are paid a small stipend on a per-project basis only. We seldom produce in traditional theater spaces; our most recent production was performed in the basement studio of the Co-Artistic Directors’ house, for audiences of 10 at most. So although I carry a kind of fancy title, it doesn’t come with a salary or 401(k).

Work/Life/Passion Balance, what’s your method?
Well, I kind of cheat. A couple years ago I realized that I have two careers — one in education and one in theater. One of them makes me money, and one of them (usually) doesn’t. But they’re both careers. It doesn’t seem fair to my work in education to call it a “day job”, when it is totally work done from passion and care. But it’s also not fair to call my work in theater a hobby — it is absolutely a career and my life’s passion. In many ways, it’s actually wonderfully freeing to not be earning my income from my art. It means that I choose projects based on interest/passion/”artistic need”/whatever, rather than on my need to make rent. This works both ways: I can prioritize projects that I wouldn’t take on if I didn’t have another source of income, AND/OR I’m not forced to take on projects simply for the paycheck. This means, generally speaking, that I’m not as busy and overworked as other theater artists/performers. So yes, I’m not acting in 12 shows every year, but good lord, I wouldn’t want to.

I work hard to keep balance in my life, and I’m sometimes successful. In both my current job and my previous job (in education research), my hours have varied between 75%-100% FTE, generally staying at 75% (i.e. 30 hours/week). I mostly got lucky in my first job that the position they were hiring for was 30 hours/week and included full benefits — it turned out to work fabulously well in conjunction with my work in theater. Enough time to earn a (very modest) living and have significant investment in the work, but with a little extra padding so as not to lose my mind during tech week for a show (which might end up being an extra 25-30 hours/week for a week or two). My current job was originally 50% FTE, but I asked for my time to be increased to 75% after my first year. Again, the extra hours are vital to maintaining any semblance of sanity.

Thank goodness for maintaing sanity! Thanks for checking out the details about Annie! Next week we’ll learn about what she prioritizes, and the importance of “well-roundedness”

If you’re hankering for more information about Annie in the meantime, check out these links: 
I’m sporadically on Twitter @anniepaladino
You can find info about my artistic work at
And Akropolis Performance Lab is online at

Last week we wrote about making daydreams a reality, but this week, we’re going to talk about flipping it. When you’re having all those daydreams, it can be good to think about all the great work you already do. Try writing down or considering just how cool your career is right now. You may have hit a rough patch, but take a moment to think through the good stuff. Maybe you have an amazing boss who inspires you each day. Maybe you figured out a new report that is helping everyone out. Maybe you are taking on an internal project and really running with it. Whatever it is, give yourself a chance to make yourself shine for a moment. And don’t just stick to work goals. Also consider the friendships, relationships or extracurriculars that you take part in. Those can be weighted just as heavily as your newest title.

Work all those details out to craft a 30-second elevator pitch. It’s similar to how you introduce yourself at parties, first interviews or meeting someone for coffee. By crafting a carefully created elevator pitch not only are you giving folks a great way to get to know you but you can also prepare to focus the conversation. Are you looking for a new job? Rather than focusing on what you don’t like about what you’re doing, talk about all the cool things you’ve accomplished, and work in what you’re looking to get more of from the next opportunity. This allows people to make quick connections between you, work, and people you may want to talk to!

It’s exciting to let your daydreams become reality and transform your reality into a daydream. And, it’s important to take a step back and think about the kind of story you want your life to tell. If the role is most important, the friendships, or the projects let those take weight. When you want to share your successes, what are those successes that you want to share the most? Listen to that story of your life you want told. If it’s not quite matching up yet, there’s plenty of time to rewrite.

Sometimes a wonderful daydream can be truly enjoyable to give yourself up to. Who hasn’t enjoyed a cup of coffee while imagining thanking your parents for your Academy Award, or running into an old coworker and their eyes glitter green while you tell them you were just promoted to Director of Everything? It can be difficult mid-fantasy to also assess just how much work is involved to get to that celebratory moment. So here’s a fun perspective to take when you’re enjoying that fantasy world:

  • Write it down. While you’re enjoying this imaginary work goal, write it down. And don’t just write it down, get the specifics down there too. If we’re continuing the Academy Award train, start writing your actual thank you speech. Consider what the award would be for – was it for Best Screenplay? Best Director? Best Costume Design?
  • Break it down. After you’ve written down all of those details, start sussing out the specifics. Are you noticing a trend that all of your daydreams include spending more time creating, analyzing, starting some thing new? Look for these specifics and start thinking about how your current skills align.
  • Map it out. As you’re reviewing the trends, and thinking about your current skills and how they relate, note the skills you don’t have. Maybe check out job postings for similar roles, or find someone who holds a similar position on linked in and snoop on their background. It’s possible that a coursera class, online course or workshop could help bridge the gap. Or, you can even set up some informational meetings with folks that you really admire and learn more about their path.

It’s good to let your daydreams become reality by busting your butt and getting some extra work in to make your zone-out moments your everyday moments. By breaking down your daydreams into reality you’re giving your brain a little nudge into reality. Or, you may find yourself zoning out about accepting and Academy Award less often…

Gosh, I am overwhelmingly excited to introduce Kate to all of you. An incredible human being who not only is insanely talented but just all around the best. Seriously the best. She moved to Richmond which I don’t love, but I still love her. Without further ado… Kate!

Hi! Who are you?! What do you do?
Hi! I’m Kate. I’m a creative director & graphic designer currently working for my own design company, Camp Studios, as well as at a full-time freelance gig for a big financial services company.

Work/Life/Passion Balance, what’s your method?
I didn’t so much find balance as I toppled head first into it (plus, if you’ve ever seen me do yoga, you know from one tree pose that balance isn’t one of my natural abilities). I worked for many, many years for many, many hours a week fueled purely by a passion for good design and a fear of disappointing others (clients, managers, teammates, my parents — you name it). Then one day, after a particularly ugly 36 hour stretch of work building an app we hated by that point, where we’d only been back to our apartments to shower, I tried to send the designers home, saying I could finish up. And the response I got was “If you’re doing it, we’re doing it.” And that’s when it whacked me right in the face: I’m setting a TERRIBLE example! What am I really teaching these designers whom I adore and cherish? That jumping to every unreasonable demand was more important than our health and wellbeing?

And that was really it. That was the tipping point of a long-simmering, rarely-acknowledged sensation of: there’s more to both life and work than this. It’s not that I didn’t want to be a designer any more, it was that I realized that being a designer on my own terms was infinitely more attractive. So, in fairly quick succession, my husband and I decided to do the following things: quit our jobs, start our own design firm, move out of Brooklyn and down to Richmond and, in between moves, take the entire summer off and live at the beach to regroup and recoup. It was scary and exhilarating all at the same time.

That was just over a year ago, and it was the best decision I’ve ever made. It certainly wasn’t without second-guesses and stumbles along the way, but on the whole, I’m so much happier now than I ever have been. Right now I’m balancing fairly well my fulltime freelance gig (read: dependable paycheck) and working on half a dozen clients of my own. It helps that good design is my passion, so work and passion bleed together and make the longer hours ok. I also have a much healthier attitude towards the amount of time I should spend on a project; it was liberating to finally realize that some of the things I was killing myself over went largely unnoticed by the client. Now I can decide whether I want to put in that extra two hours on a detail that will ultimately make me satisfied and proud of the work, or if it’s something I’m ok letting go.

Overall, what has helped balance me the most is putting my time and energies into the things that matter. In the last year, we moved states, took a two-month vacation, started a business, got married, bought a house and (juuust under the wire) got pregnant. I can’t say I necessarily want every year to be full of such massive changes, but I have a sense of momentum and accomplishment that helps generate the desire to keep growing and trying new things. I’m not even that stressed about the huge changes the baby will inevitably bring (she says optimistically). Talk to me in a year, though.

When you were a kid, what did you think you were going to be when you grew up?
Definitely not a designer or artist. I took art classes here and there but I certainly wasn’t an “art kid.” I was certain I was going to be a lawyer—I even went into college as a pre-law major. It wasn’t until I saw my roommate’s (a graphic design major) classes that I thought, “hey, that looks fun.” So I signed up for an intro to graphic design class my second semester and never looked back.

The best part is, when I called my parents to let them know I was switching majors, there was a long pause and they replied “Thank god you figured it out! We always knew you should be in the arts.” That was a huge relief (my folks are the best). Plus, I like to think that I’m always creating a solid, rational, evidence-based case when I present work to the client, so that’s how to work in some of that lawyer-y stuff.

Now that you’re pretty much a grown-up, what do you think you’re going to be when you grow up?
I’ll always be a designer. It’s in my heart and brain and soul and hands. With luck and hard work, our company will grow into something that will be sustainable for our family and allow me to achieve a great balance of work and motherhood.

Thanks for chatting! Where can folks find more info about you?
Our company site is, and our twitter handle is @camp_studios.

Anything else you want to share?
One article and one book resonated strongly with me around the time I was deciding to make all these big changes: “Why Designers Leave” on and (don’t gag at the title, it IS self-helpy but totally worth reading) “Choose Yourself” by James Altucher.

And this will always and forever be my go-to moment of zen: YouTube

Today, we’re welcoming September with its smell of apples, surprise NYC-heatwaves and lots of teachers and students heading back to school. September still has that feel of new beginnings even more than an icy December evening rocking sequins, tights and silly hats. With all of this school ramping back up, there’s no reason to hop on the continued education train! To help you get started, here are some ideas on how you can continue that education of yours!

  1. For the value-focused self-starter. Check out these free online education sources that are taught by real professors with lesson plans:
    Coursera, edX, Khan Academy, Books!
  2. For the self-guided self-starter. Check out these online resources that you can use when you have the time:
    Skillshare, Lynda, Codecademy (Free!), Udemy
  3. For the the career changer. If you’re looking to leverage this additional education to make a job-switch, consider a more detailed program that offers some accreditation and/or deeper knowledge:
    General Assembly, The Flatiron School, Coursehorse (they aggregate classes ranging from one-day workshops to full programs)
  4. For the one-timer. There are incredible lectures that you can get your hands-on to learn more about specific topics.
    TEDed, YouTube via NYTimes, Academic Earth, Lifehacker’s List

If you’re looking for more business-focused courses, check out the Business Insider article that pulled together some great courses in 2014. Another thing to consider is looking into the universities in your neighborhood to see if they have online courses, continuing education courses or even weekend seminars. These classes can be a great introduction to a new area of study and a university that you may want to consider applying to for a graduate degree in the future. If a graduate degree is something you’re into.

Any way you slice it there are opportunities out there to learn more about topics you’re interested in. Good luck on continuing to learn!

Work is something we all have on our plates, and with 24/7 access via mobile phones and email, it can feel like you spent an entire day (and night) accomplishing very little. Sometimes you may only be able to assess your output by the number of emails you sent or the number of meetings you attended. So when you feel that you’ve just been working a lot, but can’t quite say what you accomplished – productivity is key. Read on for 4 lifehacks that will up your productivity (and lower your working hours).

  1. Map your work – I know, it’s not a sexy one, but it’s important to plan ahead. By looking at the day you have in front of you, or the week, month, quarter you’re giving your brain an understanding of what’s on the docket. This will let you make sure you’re aligned with your current personal or project goals consistently so you can stay focused.
  2. Schedule your time – Organizing your time allows for real work to get done. Rather than having free hours in your day, block out time for the tasks you’d like to complete during those times. Test out different periods of time that work for you – for some you may only be able to focus for 10 minutes at a time, others, 45 minutes. When you start a task session, fully commit for those 10-45 minutes. You’ll start to sense a balance as to how long you can really pay attention to one task. Leave gaps between task sessions to handle items that require less focused attention.
  3. Prioritize to-dos – This is similar to planning ahead, but a little more granular. Not only is it important to have a broad picture of your personal and professional goals, but your daily to-do list should be prioritized by what is critical and what is important. Obviously, everything on your to-do list is important, but some items truly cannot wait past today. Distinguishing between the two will allow you to focus on what matters most today.
  4. Break out – As much as focus is important, so is lack of focus. Give yourself time before, during and after the work day to truly unwind. That may be a few minutes of looking at puppies, taking up a quick meditation or shutting off your phone after work hours so you can really step away from the office and rejuvenate.

Hope these help you get more done, faster, so you can have more time for fun things!


So if last week that description of burnout felt all too familiar, we’ll focus on some action steps you can take to steer yourself on a healthier path. Here are three tips to try out to reduce burnout.

  1. Slow down – a lot of burnout stems from working long hours on too many things and not giving yourself a moment to breath. Find some ways to pace yourself. It could be as simple as finding time to work out, eating healthy, stepping away from your desk for a few moments or take up meditation and mindfulness techniques. Rather than shooting off emails immediately, take a moment between each one to have a sip of water, and think about how you’d like to respond. Taking that extra moment let’s you avoid being reactionary and you may catch some spelling mistakes.
  2. Switch it up – sometimes what you need is a change of pace. Try asking for a different responsibility at work, and it could be one that doesn’t even relate to your daily role. Learn a new skill outside of work that’s totally different than what you do each day. It could be something that would further your career or help open doors into exciting opportunities. Even in your daily routine you could try to break up the monotony by doing things a little differently. If you always start with emails and finish with reports, switch the order to give your brain a little jump.
  3. Cut the fat – keep track of the items in your role that really frustrate or dull you. Review them, and think about ways you could slice them out a bit. Even better? Review the things that really get you going at work and see if you can tip the scale towards more of that. Consider talking to your superior about some responsibilities you’d like to take on and try to craft the role that you’d like to be playing at your company. It may not happen immediately, but just having something as a goal in the long run can give your brain a happy boost.

Overall, burnout is really scary, and if you’re feeling really low, consider talking to a professional about it. Either a career counselor or a regular counselor can help you analyze what’s going on and give you a safe space to talk through exactly how you’re feeling now, and what changes you could make for the future – all while staying involved weekly on your progress. Good luck!


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