becoming more visual

I’ve kept journals ๐Ÿ““ since I was in high school, mainly for note taking ๐Ÿ“ and the ocassional emotional processing.

๐Ÿค”๐Ÿ–Š ๐Ÿ˜ขโœ’๏ธ ๐Ÿ˜ก๐Ÿ– ๐Ÿ˜† ๐Ÿ“ ย ๐Ÿ“š ๐Ÿ“š๐Ÿ“š ย ๐Ÿ”

Words have always been my medium of choice when expressing myself on paper, and it’s felt increasingly limited the past few years. ๐Ÿšง

So last year I set a goal for myself: become a more visual person. I started with a simple first step. Bring more symbolic thinking into my writing through the use of emoji! ๐Ÿ•บ

I realized it was working when I started incorporating emoji into project documentation. (Which, btw, I highly recommend! ๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿผ)

So I moved onto incorporating gifs!

it’s pronounced yif

I’m finding that gifs can add a dimension of physicality and empathy to online communications. They offer a much wider palette for conveying complex emotions. I’m still trying to wrap my head around how to bring my own cultural literacies (stories, fandoms, etc) into how I search for gifs, but so far so good.

(As a side note, how on earth do people cultivate and manage gif libraries? What’s the work flow? Is it even worth it?)

More recently, I noticed that I sometimes doodle on the blank 3×5 notecards I carry around. And sometimes the doodles look really cool. It occurred to me that I could start doodling in my notebooks. So I decided to do just that at the beginning of this year!

I’m only a few weeks in, and I can already see that I’m changing as a person. At first it was something I had to remember and force myself to do. That lasted maybe three days.

I started doodling during meetings, and found that being in that zone changes the way I listen.

You know that addictive behavior where you keep checking your phone for notifications and somehow keepย opening facebook and twitter up in the middle of doing something else? I decided that whenever I’m in productivity mode ๐Ÿ‘ฉ๐Ÿปโ€๐Ÿ’ป, I’d stop what I’m doing and start doodling every single time I have the urge to open up social media without any kind of intention other than to cope with or avoid anxiety.

This is a new experiment. I’ll let you know how it goes, but so far it’s helped me short circuit the urge a few times and regain a sense of self control. ๐Ÿ™Œ๐Ÿผ

So what have I been drawing? Mainly vines.


Lotsย of vines.


They’re even starting to take over my room.

Yes, that is a Terminator 2 reference.

Also, hexagons and bees.

I like hexagons. I don’t know what bees look like.

I don’t know where all this is going, but I can see a style is starting to develop. I’m finding out what I like and don’t like visually. I’m seeing opportunities to sketch out new ideas, and the instant gratification from this goes a much much longer way thanย other forms of addictive behavior.

Most notably, I feel a sense of possibility and growth I haven’t felt since I was a teenager.

What happens when I’ve filled notebooks full of sketches? Walls? What happens when I start to take my designs digital and back? What will this practice yield, and in what ways will it manifest in other parts of my life?

Surprisingly I’ve never had this feeling, this particular experience of personal possibility while playing music ๐ŸŽป. It’s new and unexplored territory!

personal development in 2015

2010 was something of a digital and spiritual reboot of my life. I created a new online/public identity and along with it made a commitment to personal growth made possible the the realization that doing things for myself first wasn’t counter to making the world a better place. As 2015 approached, I began to sense that it would be a similar year of renewal for me. Not one in which I throw everything out again to start from scratch but a time to grow on top of the experiences and relationships I’ve cultivated in the past five years.

Last year I realized that I’ve plateau’d in how far my current abilities will take me. I lack skills I need to accomplish the big picture goals I’ve set for myself. It’s time to level up.

My priority in 2015 will be on the personal development necessary to set the stage for the next 5-15 years of my life. Professionally, I’m aiming for a product management trajectory. Practically, this means cultivating greater facilitative and technical capabilities.

I want to become a better facilitator. I’ve spent much of the past decade being a community organizer and in that time I’ve come to realize that going from being a community to an intentional community of practice that other communities can rely upon is hard! I want to be more effective at helping the people around me work together toward common goals. So far, I’ve gotten by learning through trial and error but it’s time for me to find guidance in this area.

It’s also time for me to finally gain some web design+development skills. I’m not interested in becoming a full-blown application developer, but I do want to know enough Javascript andย  HTML5 to create rapid prototypes that use real data. I need these skills in order to move conversations forward and be more persuasive when arguing for any particular path forward.

The overall learning path for me this year may go something like this: web design -> UX design -> API design -> service design. I’m not seeing these as sequential, but as technical and interpersonal skill layers that build on top each other. My big goal for 2015 is to become more impactful by deepening my technical autonomy while broadening my collaborative capacities.

Although personal development is my priority this year, this doesn’t mean I’m stepping away from my work at Code for Boston, Mozilla, or in advising creatives and young organizations around Boston. My activities within these communities have put me in the perfect position to learn and practice these new skills I seek to cultivate. My roles within these organizations and across my networks will be evolving this year and I’m really looking forward to see what that looks like!

I plan to document my activities more consistently (for once in my life) this year. As much as possible, I’d like to follow a connected, project based learning approach to everything I accomplish. I want to share everything I’m learning, and invite others to join me as peers and mentors. Stay tuned for more!