2017 in retrospect

Sharing is good

2017 in Retrospect

I can only describe my 2017 as a year of opening doors, climbing stairs, and closing doors. Every time I got tired on the stairs, discouraged, fearful, overconfident, the right person was there on the staircase next to me, giving me the encouragement I needed to take the next step or to simply hang on and rest for a minutes.

The year started with my becoming fully engaged in journeys into in four global communities – sketchnoting, Agile, Torah study, and education. It ended with my departure from corporate employment and with my beginning to find my way in each of these four wonderful and exciting communities. It’s been a year of learning, failing, trying, testing, and personal growth.

To my influencers, thank You for Being You

As is my annual habit, I’d like to recognize people who have had the greatest influence in my journey through 2017. This is by no means an exhaustive list, but the short list of people who caused me to make key choices, turn away from some things while embracing others, change goals,…

If you’re reading this, you almost certainly has some impact on me and helped form who I am and in who I want to become. For that I am truly grateful.

Debbie Silbert – Two feet among two million

In a turbulent year fraught with stress and anxiety, I choose to acknowledge those who have inspired my reactions to it. So first and foremost, I would like to publicly thank my wife, partner, friend, and ass-kicker, Debbie Silbert.

The year started with Debbie bussing to Washington DC to participate in the Million woman March while crocheting pink pussy hats to give away. She met Cory Booker (and patted him on the head). She is a woman of action, a woman of valor and strength. Fiery in rhetoric, she refuses to stand on the sidelines. With her I met mayors and governors, engaged with several social justice platforms and we added  our voices as a counterweight to the overwhelming chaos around us.

Thank you Debbie for keeping me off the sidelines. I could not ask for a better partner to joust the windmills of chaos around us.

Marianne Rady – You can do this!

Marianne and I became friendly through Twitter and have established a co-coaching relationship through Twitter and Skype.

When in the United States for the NIST Sketchnoting Symposium in February, Marianne spent a week at our house in Richmond, Virginia. She showed me what excellence looked like when she came to my workplace and facilitated an “Introduction to Sketchnoting” workshop. This proved to be the blueprint for a series of 20+ workshops that I facilitated in partnership with Kelly Jacobs throughout the year.

The other major impact that Marianne made on me was literally around drawing but had impacts way beyond pen and paper. I was leaving for the NIST Sketchnoting Symposium and bought my first Moleskine notebook. I was hesitant to use it for fear of making a mistake. Marianne told me to open to the first page and make an errant pen mark on it. “You can do this!” she said. “Once you make that first mistake, anything is possible.” That mark is one of my most treasured drawings in the notebook.

Thank you Marianne, for encouraging me to fail fast and for telling me that I’m good enough at what I do to sit at the adult table.

Rob Dimeo – Be kind, gracious and give away your secrets

Rob Dimeo was the main organizer of the NIST Sketchnoting Symposium. To me he is much more than that. He is an amazing sketchnoter, and observing his maturation of drawing style taught me that it’s ok to try new things. I’ve always had in Rob a cheerleader pushing me into spaces neither of us knew existed. Were it not for Rob I would never have started my journey creating sketchnotes for Torah portions.

Rob’s willingness to give feedback, suggestions, and encouragement has been a morale booster whenever my inner voice shouted “You can’t draw!”. I remember early in the year Rob shared a set of digital brushes he made for Procreate. It may sound trivial, but his openness to sharing his secrets to help others has been a model I have attempted to emulate all year.

Thank you Rob for teaching me the art in lifting up and showing kindness to others.

Michael Clayton – Tell your story in everything you do

So I’m at the NIST Sketchnoting Symposium and this funny guy whom I’ve only known through Twitter gets up to walk us through drawing people. He draws a stick person and says “Any six year old can draw this, but we’re no longer six.” So he draws a person with a box body and sticks for arms and legs and labels that “Simple” then fills in the appendages and labels it “Good ‘Nuff”. He then walks us through people in yoga poses, ice skating, doing head stands, walking in the rain, levitating, walking the dog, and falling down. BOOM!

Twenty minutes into this draw-along exercise I was completely out of my comfort zone yet completely in it. As soon as he drew the person falling down I realized that Michael was telling us a story of his family and that each person we drew together was part of that story.

It was a pivotal moment for me. Teach by storytelling. Brilliant! Tell stories with humor and love. Outstanding! My life has been enriched by infusing verbal storytelling, visual storytelling and even collaborative storytelling into every workshop, presentation, or exercise I lead or facilitate.

Thank you Michael for teaching me that the best way to share ideas is share your story in an authentic way.

Joshua Kerievsky – Value-driven framework to live and teach

Joshua Kerievsky is the creator of what’s called “Modern Agile.” As an Agile scrum master and coach I’ve always been an advocate of the Agile Manifesto but found it too hard-edged and rooted in software development to the exclusion of every other industry.

Joshua scrubbed away the software development and polished the hard edged to leave four shiny values to live by

  • Make people awesome
  • Experiment and learn rapidly
  • Make safety a prerequisite
  • Deliver Value Continuously

They sounds overly vague but they aren’t . Let’s look at “Make safety a prerequisite.” In software development terms it could simply mean that you set up processes to make sure that bad code doesn’t get into production. However, looked at in terms of how we work with each other, it means that we should find ways to improve how we work together by creating a safe and trusting work environment.

Much of my year was invested in helping people live by better values, establishing trust in each other, learning to try and fail in a safe way, helping each other become better people, and delivering knowledge to each other.

Thank you Joshua for gifting me with a framework where I can articulate the values that are in my heart to those around me.

Schuyler VanValkenberg – Change starts with you

It’s the summer of election season in Virginia and a record number of people have entered Virginia state politics as a result of the last presidential election. I hear a knock at my door and open it to see Schuyler VanValkenberg, sweating with sleeves rolled up.

He was canvassing our neighborhood as a Democratic candidate for the Virginia State Legislature. It must have been 95 degrees out and he was visibly hot, but was working his way down the street. We sat on my step for about twenty minutes and talked about the world, the country, the state, and my neighborhood. He is a government teacher at a local high school and decided that the only way to affect change was to take it personally and get in the race. At a time of the year where my faith in humanity was shaken and my personal resolve was flagging, the sincerity of this young man restored me.

Thank you Schuyler restoring my faith that we can affect positive change if only we care enough to get our hands dirty.

Alana Silbert – Be prepared for what life throws your way

Alana is my youngest daughter (the beauty on the left). She had been wandering through her first year and change of university, not sure what she wanted to do and visible nervous about making a commitment to any specific degree. Then, like so many moments this year, the election happened. She ended up declaring as a political science major because she wants to be part of the change needed to re-establish balance. While she’s not sure what that will entail, I am convinced that she had a lightbulb moment where she decided to learn as much as she can to be prepared for whatever important cause calls to her.

Given the amount of personal and professional change for me this year, I’ve taken Alana’s example to heart and recommitted myself to learning as much as possible in many areas to prepare myself for whatever comes next in my journey.

Thank you Alana for leading me by example to the wellspring of knowledge.

Megan Silbert – Pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and start all over again

Megan is my oldest daughter (the beauty on the right). She’s spent the past few years struggling. This year she made it back home, worked hard to find a good job, and has lit a fire under herself to to go back to school. In my heart, she is the embodiment of resilience and perseverance. When I think of Megan I am reminded of the lyrics to the 1936 song “Pick Yourself Up” by Jerome Kern and Dorothy Fields..

Nothing’s impossible, I have found
For when my chin is on the ground
I pick myself up, dust myself off, start all over again

Don’t lose your confidence if you slip
Be grateful for a pleasant trip
And pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and start all over again

Work like a soul inspired till the battle of the day is won
You may be sick and tired but you’ll be a man, my son
Don’t you remember the famous men who had to fall to rise again?
They picked themselves up, dust themselves off and started all over again

Work like a soul inspired till the battle of the day is won
You may be sick and tired but you’ll be a man, my son
Don’t you remember the famous men who had to fall to rise again?
They picked themselves up, dust themselves off and started all over again.

Thank you Megan for inspiring me with your desire and strength in picking yourself up, dusting yourself off, and starting all over again.

Rabbi Rachel Barenblat – Find new ways to share Judaic wisdom and values

I’ve followed Rabbi Rachel Barenblat’s blog – The Velveteen Rabbi – for years. She is an inspired poetess and rabbi. One of her dear Torahs was among the first that I sketchnoted. She immediately understood what I was doing and has been a constant source of encouragement, suggestions, and wisdom for me as I’ve turned my Torah parish sketchnoting into a habit. She has directly or indirectly connected people in my global Jewish community to my Torah sketchnotes and has supported me yearlong in this effort.

Thank you Rachel, for your encouragement and wisdom as I continue building a collection of Torah sketchnotes.

Mike Rohde – Walk humbly with your G-d

Michael has been at the intersection of all of my 2017 communities. He is the author of The Sketchnote Handbook and father of the sketchnoting movement. He’s a user experience designer and is very familiar with agile development. He’s a natural teacher and is interested in helping others learn. And as this weren’t enough, Michael is active in the Sermon Sketchnoting community.

Michael and I have become good friends this year. He has been a great source of questions and answers and an avid supported in my Torah sketchnoting journey. His humble and gentle nature has talked me off the proverbial ledge when I was ready to jump, and his excitement at what I’m attempting has been amazing encouragement. Michael’s ultimate encouragement came when he interviewed me for The Sketchnote Army Podcast. Our conversation was half about agile and sketchnoting and half about Torah and sketchnoting.

Michael, you embody the “walk humbly with your G-d” portion of Micah 8:8, and for that I thank you.

Debbie Silbert – Try something new, fail, have fun

I must end with whom I started, with my wife, my love, my partner, and my cheerleader Debbie.

As my year can near an end I was faced with the choice of remaining with the company I’d been with for eight years by becoming something other than who I am, or staying true to my self and venturing out into the unknown. Debbie’s comment to me was “It’s your turn. Go try something new. Fail. Have fun.” Having a life partner who gives you permission to fail as long as it’s part of the journey of discovery is what I wish for every sojourner.

Debbie – I love you.

So 2017 is a closed book and the journey into 2018 has just begun. I don’t know where the year will take me, but I am certain that I am a better person for having these people, and you the reader, in my life.