Why Even the Most Experienced Professionals Can Benefit From A Beginner’s Mindset

“Yikes. I have no idea what I’m doing.” That’s often the first thought when we embark on something new — whether it’s a location, place of employment, or skill. The anxiety of unknown challenges and experiences often impedes our career success. This anxiety often leads to avoiding the situation altogether and to behavioral inertia that can stunt both career and personal development. 

What to do? There’s a counter-intuitive advantage true to almost all fulfilled innovators that my team and I have both researched and worked with: Open up to what you don’t know instead of pretending to know it all. 

That advantage?  Think like a beginner and get curious.

The beginner’s mindset and a curious demeanor are powerful tools when it comes to combating situational anxiety and avoidance. It involves looking at events without preconceptions and judgements, focusing on the prospect of learning and growth instead of negative emotion. Even for those who reach a high level of success in their field, there’s lots of benefit to adopting a beginner’s mindset when facing unprecedented challenges.

Personality traits like neuroticism (the tendency to overanalyze things) and openness to new experiences can play a big part in determining avoidance. People high in the former and low in the latter view these opportunities as dangerous, discounting positives like growth and learning experience. 

Some people are, for whatever reason, more prone to these traits than others, but nearly everyone experiences them at some point or other — especially when it comes to the professional arena.  

We’ve noticed that as people progress throughout their careers, they naturally want to appear more competent, not less. And this is especially true for people wanting to get promotions. Unfortunately, the Peter Principle, which states that employees rise to their level of incompetence, is turning out to be more than just a joke. 

Data demonstrates that people are often promoted despite lacking the skills necessary for their new position. But, by adjusting how we relate to growth and development,  it’s possible to overcome both the Peter Principle and the more general aversion to learning on the job. 

Leaders and managers, like their workers, need to keep in mind that aversion to growth is a natural feeling, but workers and leaders alike can learn to train their minds to foster a more productive emotional response. 

In the same way that learned optimism is important to success across many of life’s most challenging domains, embracing the curiosity of a beginner’s mindset is essential to becoming more productive, agile, and engaged in the era of constant disruption. 


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Our Current Culture is Choking Out Creativity

With how much innovation and development occur in 21st-century society, it’s easy to assume that creativity follows a similarly meteoric rise. Virtual reality video games. Fusion Cuisine, combining the practices of disparate cultures. Barrier-breaking performance art. All of these experiences take a high level of creativity to conceptualize and see through from the design process to the finished product. But a study from the early 2010s shows that people’s creativity in the United States is not rising, at least not by established psychological measures. 

Creativity measures have declined since 1990, at least according to studies that build off the work of the infamous E. Paul Torrance’s Tests of Creative Thinking (TTCT). The TTCT, initially designed as a tool for determining how to best teach children of any ability level, is often used to measure changes in creativity over time through its dual approach of language and imagery. 

The assessment of massive TTCT data stores shows some troubling trends: Successive generations scoring lower on creativity during their formative years seems to carry through into the rest of adulthood. This decline in divergent thinking manifests itself in multiple ways, including an inability to expand upon ideas, less motivation for creative endeavors, and an overall reduction in creative expression within our major cultural institutions. 

It’s not hard to imagine why a world without creativity should be avoided. Influential artwork, innovative technology, workplace performance, and, of course, human happiness are all inexorably tied to this trait. So, to encourage and incentivize more divergent thinking in our culture, we first need to isolate and stem the bleeding that is happening in the first place. 


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The Pervasiveness of Burnout and Languishing —And What You Can Do About It

Do you finish work feeling mentally exhausted, and struggle to find the motivation to do the things you enjoy? Left to fester, these feelings can rob you of creativity and good health. Something needs to be done. But first, you need to figure out what’s wrong. Chances are, you’re suffering from burnout. And you’re not alone. 

A recent survey found that 75% of workers have suffered from burnout. The COVID-19 crisis accounted for about 40% of those numbers as people working from home found it difficult to draw the line between their work and non-work life, all of which were happening in the same space. 

So how does burnout happen? 


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Become the Author of Your Own Story with Learned Optimism

We often talk about the power of positive thinking: simply envision yourself acing the job interview and the position is yours, or imagine driving the car of your dreams and soon enough, it will materialize before you. But as you have probably experienced firsthand, life isn’t quite that simple.

In Strangers to Ourselves: Discovering the Adaptive Unconscious, cognitive psychologist Timothy Wilson notes how positive self-affirmations alone can actually make people feel worse about themselves and their abilities to achieve their goals. Similarly, studies have found that couples who claimed optimism about their future were more likely to experience marital strife. Dieters who focused on visualizing their fit future selves shed fewer pounds. University graduates who fantasized about their success transferring into the real world earned less, received fewer job offers, and sent fewer job applications out in the first place.

Why might this be?

To illustrate, take for example, this tale of two college freshmen. 


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Counter-intuitive ways to set and achieve goals amidst rampant uncertainty

I never make New Year’s resolutions. In fact, I used to never set goals – no matter the time of year – because I would inevitably forget about them within a day or two. Then I read Daniel Pink’s Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us

The gist of the book is simple: Creative people – in the arts, business, and in life – are motivated from within, not from without. Autonomy, mastery of something, and purpose drive us more than authority or rewards. To illustrate this point, Pink cites the research of psychology professor Carol Dweck (also author of the book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success). 

Dweck set out to study how college students work with goals, and she discovered that most students are motivated either by performance goals or by learning/mastery goals. Students driven by performance goals (‘to make all As’ ‘to ace this test,’ or ‘to get an MBA and get a high-paying job’) seek to look smart and to avoid looking dumb, more than to learn. They believe that intelligence is a fixed state determined at birth.

Students driven by learning/mastery goals (‘to come up with a new way to use an algorithm’ or ‘to refine my mastery of engineering’) want to increase their competence. They enjoy learning for learning’s sake and they believe that talent can be cultivated over a lifetime.

Mastery-oriented students are less concerned with intelligence and more concerned with the tasks at hand. Consequently, they are more likely than performance-motivated students to succeed during difficult times. Over the long term, they’re also generally happier with their lives.

Now, this time any other year you might be devising your workout regimen and setting revenue targets for the next 12 months. But it is hard to imagine meeting even the most “attainable” of goals with our future shrouded in so much uncertainty.

Fortunately research has shown that we can train ourselves to respond to crises – and the uncertainty they produce – with greater openness, flexibility, and fluency. With a little curiosity and creativity, we can advance our goals and find innovative solutions to the unprecedented challenges we face – even amidst rampant uncertainty.


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10 Lessons I’ve Learned in 10 Years of Tracking Wonder

Jeffrey Davis

When I became a father, one October morning I looked into my first infant girl’s sky-wide blue eyes and made a silent two-fold vow: I would learn from her the art of not-knowing, and I would live a life so rich with creativity and wonder that she would want to become a “grown up.”

That was in 2009. The next October we launched the first iteration of Tracking Wonder and of TrackingWonder.com, five years after I had begun my quest to understand the psychology of wonder

All of these years later, I’m still on that quest to learn, un-learn, and learn again all of the things I thought I knew and the truths I need to remember. Everything I do – from building a thriving business to writing books to serving as a strategist in branding, creativity at work, and leadership to guiding my two girls’ through childhood – are part and parcel of the same quest for integrity, meaning, and making.

But like most quests, mine has been neither easy nor straightforward. There was never a time in these ten years when I wanted to “throw in the towel.” There certainly were times – especially in the early years – when I thought this all must be folly. There were times when I way overspent our resources on other people, promotions, and events. 

Yet all of it has been worthwhile.

This decade has been such a rich ride of enlightenment that it was hard to choose, but I want to share 10 of the most important lessons I’ve learned in my quest to Track Wonder. First, I’d like to extend an invitation.

An Invitation to You

I extend a deep, genuine thank you to every one of you who has engaged Tracking Wonder during this past ten years. You are what drives me and the entire Tracking Wonder team to do what we do. Every time that you open an email, comment on a post, engage us on social media, or share an article, you inspire us to continue spreading the medicine of wonder among leaders, in workplaces or Work From Home studios, and in the hearts and minds of many. You show us that, together, we can make a real impact on the world.

So in the Comments below I invite you to share a favorite memory of or your own lesson from Tracking Wonder. Deep bow of gratitude.


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3 Books to Assume Leadership and Agency in Your Life

In times of crisis, it’s easy to play the blame game. Overwhelmed by uncertainty, we can fall prey to a helpless mindset that can quickly turn to anger and accusations – even if we never express those feelings to others. Blaming others or our circumstances is an attempt to regain control of our lives. Even blaming ourselves offers some comfort because we are, in a way, telling ourselves and the world that we know where we went wrong and are capable of whatever it is that we failed to achieve. 

While the blame game might restore some superficial sense of control, it often creates more problems than it solves. Telling yourself that someone or something else is the cause of your misfortune often disempowers you further because – as this “Great Pause of 2020” has made abundantly clear – you control very little outside of your own actions. Blaming yourself, on the other hand, leads to a kind of self-labeling that leaves you feeling powerless to change your circumstances.

Though it may feel uncomfortable at first, one method to working with your uncertainty lies in assuming more agency and leadership in your life. In a chaotic world that makes learned helplessness an easy default choice, taking this kind of radical responsibility can be a creative, deliberate choice to show up for this one life every day.

But how does one assume agency?


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The Art of Pausing

When the church bells toll 1 pm throughout Italy, you’ll find workers and school children scuttling home while small businesses and banks alike close up shop. Within an hour, the cobblestone streets are empty. It makes no difference whether you’re in Rome or some remote village, everyone heads home for la pausa: “the pause.”

This daily pause isn’t a chance to race home and finish a project, or even to attend to chores. It’s time for a leisurely lunch with family, for a long nap, for idle daydreaming. It’s a time to embrace what the Italians call la dolce far niente, or, “the sweetness of doing nothing.”

The concept of a three-hour break in the afternoon seems anathema to those of us born and raised in a culture of hyper-productivity. Since the 17th century, Western culture has equated idleness with evil, and hard work with a ticket to grace. It’s no surprise that, to many of us, “doing nothing” sounds about just as sweet as battery acid. Yet as I discussed with Tom Hodgkinson on the Tracking Wonder Podcast, there remains a tension between our compulsion to work hard and our desire to enjoy life.

The problem is that we live in an era of unprecedented information, immediacy, and access. And we confuse that information with importance to the point that we crave the dopamine rush of email notifications and Facebook “likes” as much as we covet that morning cup of coffee.

But ever since the pandemic took root in March, I’ve noticed a gradual cultural shift. Whether by choice or out of necessity, we’ve all been decelerating. Maybe you feel as if you’re moving more slowly, as if your mind seems to be processing a bit more slowly, too.

Part of my work at Tracking Wonder is to help high-performing professionals, leaders, and entrepreneurs excel without burning out, to live a life of meaning and mastery. In my years of working with artists, writers, city planners, start-up founders, and solo-preneurs of all stripes, I’ve found that when you can redirect your distracted attention toward what matters, you set up yourself and your brand or business for growing with integrity.

So rather than fight these signals from our bodies and brains, why not honor them and fashion pausing into an art? Instead of seeing idleness as a vice, why not transform it into a virtue, a habit to nurture and a practice to master?


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Ease Overwhelm & Uncertainty with 3 Simple Systems

Burnout hits nearly every entrepreneur and creative at some point. 

Your neck and shoulders ache. Your temper is irrationally short. You are more reactive than creative. You worry more than wonder. It feels like there is no time for envisioning the near-future because everything feels immediate and urgent. But if you keep pushing forward this way, you might just self-combust.

I found myself at the brink of burnout not too long ago. Between hosting online masterclasses and webinars and delivering client work, responding to global crises and social upheaval, not to mention tending to my home and family, my creative energy was sapped.  

I returned to a question I’ve lived for a while: 

How do we motivate ourselves to stay on track with our meaningful endeavors and enterprises when life is turned upside down and when our mind buzzes every which way except where we need it to?

Over the past 25 years, I’ve immersed myself in studying the nature of concentration and creativity. I’ve found that if you juggle multiple projects, you can get anxious and burn out for one of at least three reasons:

  1. You feel overwhelmed by having too much to do with too little time.
  2. You fear you will forget to do something or that you’ve already forgotten something.
  3. You in fact forgot to do something.

One response to this overwhelm and uncertainty is deceptively simple – and it seemingly has nothing to do and yet everything to do with any deep work or big endeavor. You develop business systems. Business systems involve sets of processes, tools, people, partnerships, and strategies that synchronize to help you work smarter. Establishing clear workflows can ease your anxiety, streamline your efforts, and improve your productivity. But of course, implementing these systems is easier said than done. 

In my work, I speak to highly accomplished professionals, thought leaders, creative entrepreneurs, and service providers who still seem to fly by the seat of their pants. They expend finite time, focus, and emotional energy by not taking advantage of these simple systems.

The ever-curious among them get distracted by shiny object syndrome, always chasing the next idea rather than laying a foundation for their ideas to flourish. Others bemoan the idea of spending hours organizing instead of doing or creating or delivering. It’s a good point. You could obsess over color-coding files and learning tools that you then forget about.

But taking a little time up front to develop fundamental business systems will actually help you feel more rested, focused, and fulfilled so you can advance your deep work rather than fret over minor details. 

Here are three simple systems to help you free up your focus, override anxiety, and find your flow.


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Designing Brand Communities of Difference & Friction

Human beings – no matter their race, ethnicity, or religion – are united by a deep seated desire to be a part of a community, to belong. Yet for decades now, loneliness has been on the rise in the United States as Americans of all ages feel increasingly alienated from one another.

Researchers have pointed to the decline of public institutions where people gather and social clubs where people come together as well as our increasingly nomadic lifestyles and excessive screen time as the culprits. Yet, whatever the causes, one thing seems abundantly clear: We are in the midst of a belonging gap.

While you would think that social distancing and stay-at-home orders would add to this pervasive sense of isolation, a recent study published by the American Psychological Association called “The Trajectory of Loneliness in Response to COVID-19” showed that COVID-19 didn’t have much of an impact on survey respondents’ sense of loneliness. Instead, this pandemic may have suggested a salve for our solitude, and it doesn’t rely on institutions or the abolition of social media.

Rather, this might be a time for creative entrepreneurs, business owners, and genuine brands to step up – and to do so genuinely and not as a marketing ploy. 


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Why Now Is Time for Business Artistry and Business as UNusual

From mom and pop shops to major corporations, business leaders are reevaluating their operations and realizing the rules – real or imagined – that held them back from advancing their values- and beliefs-based businesses aren’t as rigid as they thought. In fact, they’re recognizing that resilient businesses are driven by deep purpose and a commitment to serve their communities, not just their bottom line. 

They are doing business as unusual. 

Although I have been tracking the rise of mission-driven brands and businesses for the past several years, our collective monumental challenges have forced many of us to do business as unusual. Beneath the surface of recent social, economic, and political upheaval, there is a deeper cultural shift occurring among brands and businesses. 

Whether by choice or out of necessity, many of us have been doing business as unusual these past few months. Businesses, brands, entrepreneurs, and leaders around the world have been faced with monumental COVID-related challenges. But 

In the face of crisis and uncertainty, some of us are called to create solutions that are novel, useful, and healing in this time of great suffering. Now more than ever, consumers are looking to businesses and brands for solutions to the social, environmental, and moral problems we face. In response, a new kind of creative entrepreneur is emerging to challenge the status quo by putting purpose ahead of profit.

Enter Business Artistry. 


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How You Can Support Black Business Artists Now

The ongoing protests and mounting movement for racial justice have challenged individuals, businesses, and brands from around the globe to reflect, analyze, take a stance, and act. 

While there has been a recent spike in support for black-owned businesses, dollars alone cannot drive real change. It will take a deeper cognitive and cultural shift in order to see black creatives and entrepreneurs as equals and experts.

As I mentioned in my last post, brands and businesses can use their voice and influence to advance positive social change for the communities they serve. But how? Many brands are tentative about entering the conversations, issues, and movement at hand. That’s why we looked to black business artists and creative entrepreneurs for their insights on how people can meaningfully support black businesses now, and in the long-term.

Here are 5 ways that brands can build inclusive habits that help shift the status quo for the better:


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Neutral is not an option with black lives.

Photo Credit: Lucas Benjamin IG: @Aznbokchoy

To feel wonder is to experience a decentering of the self.”

– Kelly Bulkeley, psychologist and author, The Wondering Brain

Our Work at Hand

These are de-centering times. These are profoundly hopeful times. De-centering times can call us back into integrity – us, meaning you and me.

For the past several years, our work here at Tracking Wonder has supported you as a thought leader or team leader, professional or brand artist or entrepreneur to

stand in your authority,
lead with your ideals,
design mission-centered business models,
advance your best work for a better world, and
face inevitable challenges with integrity and with the psychology of wonder.

Whether you lead a team, own a business, work for a company, or work for your best self, that has been our work at Tracking Wonder in a nutshell.

But now you like me might feel called out in an unprecedented way to respond to profound social injustices. You might feel unmoored in how to do so with integrity. You might be wondering who your allies are. You might be wondering how you take a stance, do deep work, and still advance your work in the world. Wherever you are on the globe, you might still be pivoting from the pandemic, lockdown, and economic strain.

This message is not a statement nor a performance. I do not have the answers. I do have a point of view-in-progress.

Neutral is not an option but neither is driving by.

Feelings of guilt and despair are only useful to dwell in if they catalyze reckoning and productive change.

Let me be clear: I and everyone at Tracking Wonder stand against racism and the injustices specifically that black people have incurred for centuries. The grotesque visual display of George Floyd’s murder in daylight – coming after Breonna Taylor’s killing in Louisville and the video release of Ahmaud Arbery being hunted down and murdered in Georgia – has re-awakened millions of people to the systemic racism and anti-blackness engrained in the sciences, arts, business, technology, education, spirituality, health & wellness, and daily life – especially in but not limited to the United States. Black lives matter. The long arc of humanity asks for courage and continuous action.

But let me be clear on something else: As a white man who has been at an advantage in this world because of my skin color, I have blindsides. I have defenses that get in the way of progress and unconsciously protect my comfort and privilege. I have become aware of blocks about how to create meaningful, brave space in community. To be in ongoing integrity requires ongoing questioning, unlearning and re-educating as a human being, a friend, an ally, a teacher, a brand artist. It is disorienting.

If you’re not uncomfortable, you’re not paying attention.

We are a learning community at Tracking Wonder.
What do we stand for at Tracking Wonder that is informing our response? We value curiosity, courage, creative resilience, integrity, excellence in craft as well as in character. We also value a genuine spirit of Do It Together – the fact that we make an exponential difference in this world when we work together.

As a result, I am in a learning-and-analyzing phase. Something I sensed got confirmed recently. Desireé Adaway and her team at The Adaway Group addressed a matter head on in their informative webinar Whiteness at Work. When we’re faced with a complex situation such as this rising movement, we might leap from awareness to action. Yet when we do so, we miss a vital step: Analysis. This phase has two complementary aims for me as founder of Tracking Wonder Consultancy & Community: to help me understand more how my cognitive patterns and behaviors can be part of the problems and ultimately to point toward how our business, brand, and community can act in ways that align better with our principles and become pro-active allies for the long haul. I have blindsides and biases that often serve to protect my privilege. I am unskilled at leading conversations about race, systemic racism, privilege, and anti-black behavior. These facts are de-centering, necessary, wondrous.

This learning phase includes ongoing specific reading, training, and conversations with team members, clients, and community members.

This list of scaffolded anti-racist resources gives you an idea of what this work can entail. (Thank you, TW Team Member Britt Bravo.)


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5 Tips to Make Your Virtual Meetings More Engaging

It’s true that ample evidence points to the fact that virtual meetings can no more replace the full experience of an in-person experience than Apple graphics or The Discovery Channel can replace the full-on experience of spending time in nature. Virtual meetings do have their own unique challenges, the greatest of which is that digital devices encourage distraction.

When you meet in person, you can more easily command attention by gathering people in the same physical space, directing focus to a whiteboard or some other prop, or asking people to silence their phones – and being present to make sure they do. When you meet remotely however, you can’t rely on your presence and physical cues to coerce attention and people feel less social pressure to give theirs. Instead, you have to encourage participation. 

Yet, you can enhance the experience of virtual meetings.

I have been virtually meeting with clients and teams using video conference apps since 2012, and I have not found remote conferencing to be a hindrance to deep work and collaboration. On the contrary, with the right approach I have found virtual meetings to be profoundly engaging. I have conducted international client VIP days and steered multi-hour team strategy sessions on Zoom. I have led multiple online branding academy and author courses, virtual MasterClasses and webinars, for hundreds – even thousands! – of people at a time. Modern technology collapses time and space to allow us to connect and create instantaneously, even allowing me to build a remote team of creative minds here at Tracking Wonder that spans the United States. 

Last week, I shared a few tips to make your online meetings more productive and impactful. This week, I share five tips to keep your remote team engaged and inspired. And don’t forget to download Tracking Wonder’s Virtual Meeting Checklist if you haven’t already. Share it with your team.


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How to Carry on with Business as Unusual & Avoid the Ick Factor

In the few minutes I allow myself to scroll through the news headlines each day, I came across a story about a pandemic poem that an English teacher posted to Twitter. The poem is entirely composed of opening lines to marketing emails that the teacher, Jessica Safia, has received since the nationwide COVID-19 quarantine began. Between pushing content – “Here are 25 Distance Learning Tips!” – and selling tacos – “Calories don’t count during a pandemic.” – the poem shows how companies are trying to shoehorn their messages into the increasingly noisy, panicked digital sphere. 

While many businesses are struggling to figure out how to move forward amidst this pandemic, this poem highlights how these brands’ attempts to carry on with business as usual evoke the “ick factor” – that uncomfortable feeling when something feels less than genuine. It can be challenging to distill the essence of your work or business into a cohesive branded message without sounding slick and corporate because you must walk a fine line between engaging in the cultural conversation and co-opting it. But it is in times of great challenge and change like these that consumers look to brands for integrity and leadership. 


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9 Books to Read in Times of Uncertainty

Between curfews and quarantines, you’ll probably have a lot more time on your hands than you’re used to. Rather than fritter that time away by stressing over the unknown or scrolling through ominous news headlines all day, why not take this time to enrich yourself and inspire your work in these times of uncertainty?

While you might think that you’ll get more done with this time – maybe get back into the workout routine you’ve been neglecting, or finally have the chance to repaint the living room – our minds like to play tricks on us in times of crisis. Some of us might default to self-sabotaging, negative storytelling, or fretting about the future. To escape this cognitive pit, it helps to get out of your own head and gain some perspective.

To help me get out of my head and get perspective, I’ve been taking wonder walks through the woods by my house, talking to my daughters and trying to see the world through their eyes, and doing lots of reading.

Below are 9 books I recommend, each for different reasons, to gain perspective in these times of uncertainty. They range from nonfiction books geared toward entrepreneurs to more philosophical books critiquing our culture, from politically charged personal essays to poetry collections. I invite you to watch the video for my interpretation of how these books apply to our current state of crisis, but I’ve summarized my takeaways in the text below as well.

Happy reading, and please comment with your thoughts on these texts, our times, or other literary suggestions!


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Concentration in Times of Crisis

5 tips to sustain focus and drive while working from home

Businesswoman with a lot of work to do meditating in office

If you don’t normally – or ever – work from home, the “shelter-in-place” mandate can pose a serious disruption to your daily or weekly workflow. With all this extra time on your hands, you might have thought you were going to get more done, yet you likely feel even more distracted and busier than before. 

That’s understandable: Your daily rhythms and rituals have been upended, your work and home life have collided, and we’re all waiting with bated breath to see what the news holds each morning. You may feel adrift, anxious, or paralyzed. But rather than letting ourselves become disillusioned or enraged, we have the opportunity to be more open and engaged: in our work, our relationships, and our daily rhythms.

Both high-bandwidth work (that requires deep thought, analysis, strategy, multiple steps, imagination) and personal reflection often get pushed aside during crises. Instead of focusing on our professional and personal growth when we need our inner strength most, it’s easy to immerse ourselves in other peoples’ emergencies – imagined or real – and reward ourselves with the ephemeral dopamine rush of easily accomplished tasks. Emails checked, yes! Client questions answered, yes! Big projects? A shift in priorities? A new virtual service? No.


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How We Can Do It Together in a Digital World

Group of people on peak mountain climbing helping team work , travel trekking success business concept

The abundance of food, toilet paper, and other essentials that we take for granted has seemingly evaporated overnight. Our carefully laid plans for spring vacations and second-quarter growth have been thrown out the window. Our futures are uncertain. We’re in an age of not-knowing. 

You may be asking yourselves, as I am:

How is my business going to survive a shutdown let alone a recession?

Should schools close?

Should I buy provisions before your panicking neighbors beat you to the punch?

When should I get my child tested?

In the words of Socrates, “Not-knowing is the beginning of true knowledge.” Before we rush to offer opinions and advice based on unchecked prejudices, preformed assumptions, and dubious information, maybe we could raise more questions, investigate different sources and points of view, and share ideas, resources, and possibilities. 

Let us fertilize our collective confusion to generate novel ideas and creative solutions. Together. But how can we do so under self-quarantine?


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Wonder: Your Mental Skill for Surprising Innovation

Every day our brains process billions of data points, from the temperature of the room to the tone of someone’s voice. To make our lives easier – and avoid complete information overload – our brains find patterns in the chaos and establish routines or habits in order to make room in our busy brains. We build cognitive walls to categorize our thoughts and sensations into Mind Rooms that help us shape our mental space and interpret the world around us. 

While these walls help us navigate our daily lives more fluidly, they can also lock us into unconscious patterns that prevent us from leading a creative life of meaning and mastery over the long-term. Fortunately, new research shows that the brain is more like a muscle than we think. By flexing cognitive skills like a muscle, you can occasionally break through your cognitive walls or biases to innovate novel, useful solutions in your life and in your work.

In my decades of consulting and teaching – based in part on assimilating research in positive psychology, neuropsychology, creativity, Zen Buddhism, and Yogic skillful means -the single most effective cognitive skill to break down these mental walls is wonder.

Yes, wonder- what one anthropologist calls “the hallmark of the human species.”

How can you foster wonder to dissolve these cognitive walls?


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The Dark Side of Curiosity for the Creative Mind (and How Wonder Can Help)

The other day I was onboarding a new client. Her client load is full, her team is growing, but she has ambitions to grow and expand her platform and ultimately scale her intellectual property. She has boundless ideas for new projects and strategies to do so, but none of them are gaining traction. This impasse leads her to believe that she lacks the smarts, business savvy, or leadership skills to succeed, but that’s hardly the case. 

No, one real problem is that she – like so many of us– suffers from the dark side of curiosity. We become infatuated with the glimmer of potential in one idea, then another, and yet another, until our limited focus and capacity to execute ideas are spread so thin that we don’t have the energy to forward any one of them. We create in order to sate our inquisitive minds and in so doing, we often lose touch with the audience our work is meant to serve. 

Our curiosity running rampant, we can lose track of the sense of wonder that inspired our work in the first place.

Whereas curiosity is an essential quality for any leader, entrepreneur, or creative-minded worker to foster, it can still lead us astray if left unchecked. That’s where wonder comes in.

Wonder is the wire tripper that can get us back on track. But first, what’s the difference between curiosity and wonder anyway?


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4 Threads of Deep Purpose

To inspire your work and enrich your life

Closeup of hands making cat’s cradle

People who feel a sense of purpose, according to recent studies, are more productive and happier in their work. According to a recent Deloitte survey, 90% of Millennials want their work to contribute to social good while 50% said they would take a paycut to work with a company that aligned with their values. They want their work to serve some social good, build a sense of community, and encourage their personal growth. They want to do work that matters with companies and brands that make a difference. 

That;’s noble, but there’s a problem some journalists have identified in our current pursuit of purpose in work. Many Millennials – and they are not the only ones – over-value their work as their sole source of purpose. Why? In some ways, the workplace has become many people’s last outpost for community connection. With the crisis of faith in American institutions and declining membership in community organizations, work has become the only outlet for meaning-making. But you are not your work.

Deep purpose is more than the title we hold, or the work we produce. Deep purpose is the unifying force that infuses our work, life, and creative activity with meaning. Without it, we can drift. A job or a business or a personal brand is a chore. Few moments stick in our memory. Days blur. We wake up to realize we’ve been sleeping through our work, relationships, and lives for months.

In this Age of Distraction, it can be difficult to find the time to do the deep work of self-reflection required to find your purpose and pursue your ideas. I’ve studied the ways in which people who feel fulfilled over several years and decades pursue purpose. These people are both exemplary innovators and everyday geniuses. What they hold in common is that they do not place purpose solely in one category – such as work, family, relationships, or creative projects alone. Instead, they consistently seek meaning through four threads of deep purpose. You also can strengthen these threads to deepen your work and enrich your life.


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3 Tips to Make the Most Out of Your Retreat

A colleague I recently had dinner with heads up leadership development at a major corporation while testing the waters with her own private consulting. She admitted that it had just dawned on her that there are only 168 hours in a week.

No wonder she felt exhausted.

Between work responsibilities, deadlines, family obligations, and screens vying for our attention, it seems that there aren’t enough hours in the day. There is no more free time, only unscheduled time that we wind up filling with the white noise of social media scrolling or Netflix binging to decompress from our frenetic lives. Our precious time is eaten up and our focus diffused before we even realize it. 

Our attention is perhaps our greatest asset and one of the determining factors of truly fulfilling work. Yet, in what some experts call the “attention economy,” attention is a rapidly dwindling resource. 

The danger here is that, without consciously shaping our days and focusing our attention, we can quickly slip into a reactionary mindset that leads to overwork, underperformance, and burnout. Despite your best efforts or grit, your productivity or multitasking mentality, you may find yourself lacking the time, energy, or focus to pursue meaningful and nurture truly innovative ideas. 

So, what does it take to redirect our focus to the projects that really matter and feel fulfilled?


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Wonder Interventions at Work

In his decades of research on the psychology of flow, Mihaly Cskiszentmihalyi has studied people who like to do things that they enjoy. He has studied athletes, artists, religious mystics, scientists, chess players, rock climbers, and ordinary working people. What keeps these creatives jazzed about what they do is not money, fame, or fancy titles but rather, how they feel while doing what they enjoy. 

We often hear the message that we work hard so we can play hard, but what if hard work can (and should) be playful? According to Cskiszentmihalyi, in order to find our flow and engage in deep work, we should seek out “risky and difficult activities” that stretch our imaginations, challenge our perceptions, and involve an element of novelty to breathe fresh life into our labors. In other words, discovery, delight, and wonder are key elements of meaningful and fulfilling work.

So, how can you increase your fulfillment at work and lead an excellent life?

Practice these three Wonder Interventions to bring more delight and emotional reward into your work and inspire creative action:


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Wondrous Insights from Quest2020

Hello Questers and Wonder Trackers!

December has flown by and we find ourselves in the last week of Quest2020. For those of you who aren’t participating in our annual reflective journey called Quest, our community of change-makers from around the globe have been examining how they can shed old habits that no longer serve them so they can design a year with more purpose, openness, and curiosity in four areas: LIFE | WORK | MAKE | LOVE.

We have been impressed by the insightful and inspiring posts from the Quest community this year. To celebrate all we’ve accomplished so far, I wanted to highlight some of the ideas and reflections from this year’s Questers.


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What kind of Wonder Tracker are you?

The holiday season is upon us. That means the New Year (and the resolutions that come with it) are right around the corner.

While we make our resolutions with the best of intentions, too often December arrives and we find ourselves no closer to our goals than one year ago. We can feel confused, uninspired, or directionless. So how can we reignite our passions and reinvigorate our commitment to pursuing them? You guessed it: wonder.

A sense of true wonder is the one human experience that dissolves our habitual ways of perceiving problems—in work, relationships, and life—so we can conceive radically new solutions. Beyond grit, focus, and 10,000 hours of deliberate practice, wonder is the surprising advantage of the people who describe themselves as fulfilled and living with purpose.

Find out how much curiosity, openness, and wonder you have in your life.

Take the Wonder Quiz here:

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If you’re looking for a collaborative pack to share ideas with, a community to lift you up, offer feedback and help you step into doing your best work, I invite you to join our Tracking Wonder Quest2020 Experience.

Quest2020 is a free, month-long online experience designed to help you plan for a year of delight, wonder, curiosity, and creativity. 

As a Quester, you’ll gain access to exclusive conversations between Jeffrey and top influential Quest Visionaries on how to design your life, work, creative projects, and contributions to our culture at large for a year of purpose, wonder, and radical openness. Plus, you’ll be part of a smart-hearted community where you will receive the perspective, encouragement, and accountability to help you create more positive habits and reach your goals.

Ready to join the Quest? Take the pledge and we’ll follow up with more information shortly.

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5 Ways to Rebrand with Integrity

Businesses can get off-track. They can make a bad marketing move, have a product backfire, lose customers, form clunky partnerships. If you’re a small business or personal brand, getting off-track might be similar yet on a smaller scale. You’ll feel it if your business is losing customers, clients, community members. If that’s the case, it might be time for a rebrand. 

Rebranding is tricky, and the process can look different for everyone. Yet over the years, I’ve developed a few strategies that hold true no matter the approach. I’ve gathered tips to guide you, but first I recommend you assess whether it is the right time for you to rebrand. If it is, then I suggest you sit in a quiet place, find a pen and a notebook, and outline your rebranding roadmap with these practices and questions:


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10 Tips to Shape an Excellent, Authentic Life

Photo by Swapnil Dwivedi. Unsplash.

In his foreword for Lead Yourself First: Inspiring Leadership Through Solitude, best-selling author and business advisor Jim Collins writes, “If leadership begins not with what you do but who you are, then when and how do you escape the noise [of our times] to find your purpose and summon the strength to pursue it?”

In today’s tech-fueled culture, this question is perhaps more poignant than ever. Each day digital distractions, 60-plus-hour work weeks (many of those in front of screens), and a barrage of daily news subtly warp our own point of view. It can be profoundly challenging to hear ourselves think, let alone carve out our own distinct identity. Self-knowledge can give you the courage to forge ahead with your most impactful work, the confidence to persist, the discipline to master your self and the skills to shape your days with intention. 

The hardest part of this work seems to be finding the time to get to know your self. Yet to excel at our work and to foster an excellent life, we must develop and learn to listen to – to trust – our own voice of authority. 


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Introducing Season 3 of the Tracking Wonder Podcast: The Beauty of an Excellent Life

What drives us to excel – to wake up wanting to get just a little better at our work, at our art, at the way we shape our daily as fluidly as an artist shaping clay?

Almost all of us want to get better at something, whether it is being a better business owner or painter, prototyper or parent. Inherent in this desire to improve ourselves is the drive to excel. Too often, we think excellence requires nothing more than nose to the grindstone, grueling work and we wind up missing the beautiful moments in front of us. 


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How Brands Build Trust Through Transparency and Cynical Optimism

Between recent corporate scandals, media fragmentation, and massive data breaches, it comes as no surprise that Americans have little faith in our institutions. According to this 2018 Gallup poll, only 40% of the population has confidence in the US government. That’s less than our degree of trust in Amazon. The figure is even lower when it comes to faith in religion (36%), banks (30%), and media (23%). 

I put these four – government, religion, finance, and media – together because these are the cultural institutions that have the most influence on how people make meaning of their everyday lives. The increased cynicism of recent years tempts us to detach: to disengage further from a society we don’t believe operates in our best interest. But with our trust in institutions at an all-time low, businesses have an opportunity not only to increase earnings, but to create genuine purpose as well. In fact, there are interesting trends in whom Americans invest their trust these days that should get your attention – if not your conscience – as a brand.


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Unlocking Impactful Creative Ideas Through Radical Openness

The act of making an idea into an impactful endeavor lights up every “cylinder” in us.  As psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (who coined the term “flow”) said in his 2008 TED talk, “When we are involved in [creativity], we feel that we are living more fully than during the rest of life.” You seek this sense of fullness through imagination, artistic expression, and even subconsciously through the quirky ideas pop into your head unbidden every once in a while. Yet you don’t pursue them, or you complete your project only to stow it away in the attic of your mind thinking “maybe someday.” You hide what could be your most potent ideas, not only from yourself, but from others that could benefit from them. Why?

When we surveyed our global community of readers on this topic, we were surprised by the answer. I had thought that lack of time or resources or support might have topped the list. Instead, what held back these accomplished professionals, published authors, smart consultants and coaches and knowledge workers and leaders was this:

Fear. Fear of judgment, rejection, backlash, failure. 

The fear of revealing our unique ideas to the world holds us back from growth and discovery. Many of us have potentially brilliant ideas. Many of us have the potential to make a rippling difference in this world with our endeavors. Yet what separates the people whose ideas ripple from others is this: they work with their fear and reveal the innermost workings of their minds. They practice radical openness.


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Read Chapter One of Tracking Wonder

Discover the inspiration behind Tracking Wonder. When life (literally) goes up in flames, learn to use the transformative power of wonder to find hope and even thrive in challenging times.

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