We creatives can’t sidestep the importance of “knowing our stuff.” I’ll include some info related to the fundamentals of certain fields – whether it’s writing, design, entrepreneurship, blogging, or whatever field might be of interest to you.

13 Books for Thought(ful) Leaders

16793367681_e748a37419_hThe most effective, influential leaders of their pack read. They read a lot. But in my own experience and in reviewing the reading habits of key leaders in different fields, something surprising surfaced:

Maybe it matters less how much you read and matters more how diversely you read.

If you’re a business owner or a thought leader or thoughtful leader constantly reading business and economics books, guess what? You could be impoverishing your mind’s capacity to imagine, empathize, and think boldly through problems.

Below I share with you a few examples of well-known CEO’s favorite books and then give you 13 books to put on your list this year to do business as unusual. Read more

Who is Your Brand Story About?

Courtesy of Creative Commons

Courtesy of Creative Commons

Who is your Story about?

Several months ago, I felt a wee bit disoriented, having shaped part of a book proposal.

What’s it worth? I wondered. What if my agent rejects it? What if this is all a fool’s errand? What have I done with my life? Okay, I didn’t go quite that far.

Then, my five-year-old peeked in my study. She wanted to show me her outfit – a summer skirt and a short-sleever atop a long-sleever.

“I just couldn’t wait any longer to wear summer clothes,” she said as she twirled around the study. And at that moment, I remembered again why I’m writing this book, why I’m building Tracking Wonder, why I utterly adore engaging you.

After years of research and my own share of unbidden surprises, I vowed five years ago to keep tracking wonder so I could help create a world where that little girl could not wait to become a grown up (because the prospect would look so appealing!) and where grown ups could and must wonder again and again.

That’s my vow. That’s my mission. That’s part of the Story of Tracking Wonder. Read more

Buzzing stories versus your Brave Story

“It would be no exaggeration to call it a state of disorientation.” – Carl Jung


“What is your myth – the myth in which you live?”

That’s the question that rattled inside the renowned psychologist Carl Jung at age 37, months after breaking away from his mentor, Freud. He writes that when he examined the hero stories and myths he had amassed, he held them up like mirrors and wondered about his own life. He wasn’t, as far as he could see, the hero of his own story.

When that voice calls and says, “Look at how you’re living your life. How are you walking the talk?,” most of us reply with, “You’ve got the wrong number,” hang up, and turn up the volume on Downton Abby.

But when Jung got challenged on his own soul stuff, he didn’t hang up. He kept the line open.

Listening to that profound doubt prompted Jung to muster the courage to create the Story he knew he must write into and live out.

So let’s consider this: A consultant has an idea book to write. A father has a memoir to write. A journalist has her first young adult novel to write.

Behind every book is a Story. A Story burns inside a writer. And that Story is not the stories that buzz inside her head.

How does she listen to the true voice of doubt beyond the buzz, and how does she muster the courage to create because of that voice?

Those are questions I invite you to live with me.

Read more

No easy promises to write a brave new story


“Write your novel in 60 days.” “Write from your passion, and the money will follow.” “Get a blueprint for your best-seller.”

Do those promises make you cringe? Their simplistic nature is actually destructive. Easy promises are destructive in two key ways. Read more

Warning: You Cannot Plug in Your Potential


Let’s face it, this fellow cannot write.”
– Bob Manning about a young Tracey Kidder

“The life in us is like the water in the river. It may rise this year higher than man has ever known it, and flood the parched uplands; even this may be the eventful year, which will drown out all our muskrats.”
– Thoreau, conclusion, Walden

1. The potential for defeat abounds.

Tracey Kidder was twenty-seven years old when he walked into the hallowed Boston offices of The Atlantic Monthly, one of the United States’ most respected and longest running magazines, and asked for a freelance assignment. He found encouragement from an editor, Richard Todd, thirty-two.

Kidder starting submitting several freelance pieces to Todd. Some of them  were workable enough that Todd could help Kidder shape them into something publishable. Many were not.

Atlantic’s chief editor, the notorious and tenacious Bob Manning, once scrawled on one of Kidder’s pieces a note:

“Let’s face it, this fellow cannot write.”

But Kidder did write. He had to write. And eventually he learned how to write like a captivating author.

Had Kidder ever heard or listened to the publisher’s voice, Dr. Paul Farmer’s story of wanting to cure the world would never have been told in Mountains Beyonds Mountains, readers would never have experienced the inspiring story of fifth-grade teacher Ms. Zajac in Among School Children, or had their minds cracked wide open to a whole new computer wave that not every one could see coming in 1981 as Kidder (and Todd) saw in The Soul of a New Machine.

And Kidder might never have won the Pulitzer.  Read more

From Trauma to True Story: Owning Your Brave Medicine

Mike Boehning Photography. Limited use. Creative Commons.

Mike Boehning Photography. Limited use. Creative Commons.

Note: Many business artists come to us in deep transition. They know that writing & publishing their books and shaping their brand stories are part of a larger Story they cannot quite articulate. Working with Tracking Wonder Consultancy is different than working with a coach on one hand or a creative agency on the other. This guest post by Tracking Wonder’s Lead Consultant Cathy Shap gives you an idea of what it is like. It also gives us the opportunity to highlight one of our extraordinary heroes, Ginny Taylor – Chief Creative Officer of Women of Wonder. As Ginny notes in our “Here’s to the Heroes” film below, her quest has “given me the courage to own my story and not be owned by it.”


Guest Post by Cathy Shap, Lead Consultant at Tracking Wonder

Ginny Taylor didn’t wake up one day, early in 2014, and say to herself, or anyone else for that matter, “It’s time for a Quest, by golly.” She said what I imagine any normal person feeling the pull of change would say: “Do you think I’m ready for it?”

Such was her query in an email to me dated January 8, 2014. She was about to join our first Tracking Wonder ArtMark™ program, which helps business artists shape their larger business Story and expand their presence with integrity.  The program seemed an ideal incubator for Ginny as she was initiating a transition out of her day job into creating her own business. 

Ginny had initially come to us for help with her memoir – a book that deals with the trauma of sexual abuse. She was very much in her head about it all until yoga and journaling helped her get in touch with her fuller self.

In our early months of working together, she shifted from over-thinking her ideas into deeply feeling them. Where she’d felt blocked, things were beginning to move. And sometimes even the slightest movement can start to crack open much deeper shifts. Soon, Ginny wanted to share the power of journaling and yoga with other women, to teach them how journaling and mind-body practices could be empowering, could help them step more fully into their lives, even if she was still in the process of doing so herself. She was now hearing a call. 

“Do you think I’m ready for it?” 

Most of us live in a similar question at certain stages in our life and trajectory as business artists. We wonder if we’re ready to shift careers, write a book, invest in what matters. But underlying those tangible goals is a deeper yearning and curiosity. A calling.  Read more

8 Books for Your Best Work (+ Publishing Insights)

Image: openculture.com

Image: openculture.com


To be a business artist, you’re called to shape your hours and days in ways that support your taking regular action on the work that matters.  Whether you work from a corporate office, a living room table, a home studio, or a small business – your patch of the planet awaits. Stand up for them. That’s your quest in the coming year.

This coming year, thousands of us are taking a quest to do business as unusual.

I never venture on a quest without a book, and this coming year I am keeping several books in my questing back pack.  8 of them I share with you here in this first of a 2-part series.

More than book recs, I also give you perspective on the myriad publishing and marketing paths to help you foresee where publishing fits into your best year.  Read more

Prioritize your get-better-at projects

William Copperthwaite in his handmade yurt.

William Copperthwaite in his handmade yurt.

“When love and skill work together, expect a masterpiece.” – allegedly said by John Ruskin

A golden boy novelist wants to rewrite his novel so it intrigues readers from beginning to end, but he can’t figure out the point of view.

An executive wants to become a dynamic speaker as part of her next-act venture in the field of leadership, but the stage daunts her. 

A husband-wife team of consultants wants to move from the stage to the screen and scale their programs online, but the translation confounds them. 

An engineer wants to build a more meaningful business that still provides for his growing family, but he doesn’t know where to start.

You likely know the scenario. You have great passion for a project, but beyond passion lies considerable uncertainty. Left unchecked, uncertainty eventually overrides passion, and you’re paralyzed.

Those projects get pushed to the back burner if they even make it to the stove. Or else you dawdle and wander with unclear goals for a few months or years.

But what if behind that uncertainty is in part a skills gap? What if behind your lack of confidence is simply a lack of skills – which you can change while having fun? Read more

Own how the world sees your creative genius. 

Shop window gerryfoto.de“It is not generally acknowledged or discussed, but the personality we project to the world plays a substantial role in our success and in our ascension to mastery.” – Robert Greene, Mastery

A young Sally Hogshead’s genius wanted to stand out. Her brother’s intellectual genius got him into Harvard. Her older sister’s athletic genius sent her to the Olympics to earn swimming medals. 

And Sally’s creative genius? It didn’t emerge in dance. In her WSJ and NYT best-seller How the World Sees You, she tells aSallyHogshead story of freezing on stage during her solo performance. 

Her teacher had told her, “Sally, you’re not a great dancer, but you do have a certain spark.”

Her genius didn’t emerge in pre-algebra. She shows us her seventh-grade report card in which the pre-algebra teacher comments, “There is a fine line in math between being creative and being erratic. I will continue to support Sally in using her creativity but becoming more consistent in her work.”

Spark. Creativity. Erratic. Her creative genius wasn’t getting a fair shake doing pirouettes in a taffeta dress or using the 4-quadrant Cartesian coordinate plane.

Unlike many people defeated by failures and feedback, Hogshead didn’t give up trying to find the right forms for her genius to emerge, and she didn’t discount the world’s teachers. Quite the contrary.

Held in check, the world, it turns out, holds up a mirror to our genius. 

Whether you’re a speaker or spiritual seeker, a painter or business artist, there’s an oft-overlooked level of knowledge essential to hone on the path to mastery.  

It’s a knowledge that involves the world mirroring your genius. And it involves your genius in turn lifting up the world. Read more

Business not as usual but as art

Into the light by mamnanaimie, flickr

Into the light by mamnanaimie, flickr

A growing band of people want to change the way we do business.

I have been taking stock of them for a few years. They’re not held together by profession or trade. They are painters and contractors, designers and teachers, insurance agents and literary agents.

They own retail shops and resale shops. They operate health care centers and spiritual centers. They produce events and manufacture products. They are lawyers and writers, filmmakers and trouble-makers.

They are clients of Tracking Wonder Consultancy, people who journey through our Live the Quest Learning Expeditions, subscribers to my weekly letter and to this blog. They are the entrepreneurs & artists I have been interviewing for seven years, the social entrepreneurs and NPO executive groups I have spoken to. They are people I’ve not met yet.

A common hunger bonds them.

Read more