Dive Deep then Step Back: Tell the Story of Your Life to Understand it

Create Your Path Word CloudTo create your own unique path in life, you must first take a look at the larger story of your life. Zoom out on those experiences you’ve had already in order to make meaning, understand, and move forward with your path. It is important to view the key themes of your life, where you’ve been, and where you’d like to go.

Earlier in the Create Your Path program and articles, we helped you to identify your own key path experiences. You can envision these experiences as building blocks that are just scattered on the ground right now. What is the story amongst some of these blocks? Is there an order, a sequence, or themes that tie these blocks together? Is there a metaphor to describe them in the context of your life as a whole? Once you’ve reflected on these experiences, you can put the pieces together and take an eagle-eye view of them. It is time to reconstruct. These are some important ways of thinking for this next stage of creating your path:

  • Go deeper.
  • Elaborate.
  • Communicate.
  • Find the story.
  • Share it. Tell it. Show it.
  • Connect the pieces.
  • Step back. Way back.
  • Zoom out.
  • See the trees. Now get up high, and see the forest.
  • See the pattern.
  • Synthesize. Make meaning.
  • Deconstruct. Reconstruct.

As humans, we love a good story. We’ve been telling them and listening to them for generations. You too can be a part of the collective – the historic, the epic. Find your story and tell it. You can do in the modern era what our ancestors have done around fires for generations. From your experiences, and stepping back to see the forest from the trees, you are connecting the stories to tell your big story….the story of who you are and the path you have created for yourself. Diving deep and stepping back helps you to learn about yourself. Who you have become and who you are…and where you can go. It helps you to teach others. Teach, learn, and story-tell so that others may understand or even be a part of your future path creating story.

This article is taken from the online video-based program Create Your Path. Sign up for a free sample workshop from the program here, see details on the full program at InnovateYourself.com, and see other programs, speeches, and more at DarinEich.com.

Learn & Create on the Go: A Mobile Leadership Development Program

Create Your Path Mobile Leadership Program

Create Your Path in a mobile browser.

The Mobile Leadership Program

The other night, my flight was delayed. I had time in the terminal and found myself in the mood to learn, develop, and work on strategizing to create my own path in life. Yes, I am a leadership geek. Thanks to my smartphone I could. I watched a Create Your Path video, scrolled through the visual slides to see the activities, and created a mindmap of my 10 key life experiences from the past 4 months so that I could brainstorm more of them to go after for the future. I could do all of this because Create Your Path was designed to work on a mobile device. When you have that rare moment of time and are in the mood to strategize, you want to be able to do it from wherever you are at during that moment.

Since starting work on the Create Your Path program (we are now on our third version of the program at Dartmouth), I’ve been hearing more and more from students, educators and professionals that they have less time for new programs.  They still want to participate, but aren’t sure how they can fit it into their schedule.  Well, we’ve come up with a solution for you!  With a few updates, we have integrated existing mobile technology and made Create Your Path into the first MOBILE Leadership Program of its kind. It is simple to use, too, and allows you to learn and develop your life path on the go.

With Create Your Path, we’ve made it easy to take advantage of those moments of downtime you have when waiting in line, riding the bus, etc.  You can do Create Your Path whenever you have time – no need to move around your busy schedule. Also, we know the real learning comes from conversations you have with other people. Your mobile device will allow you to have the program activities and visuals on hand to have these conversations when the opportunity arises. You can also meet with your program team anywhere…even while walking.

Create Your Path Video Modules on your Mobile Device

Watching a Create Your Path video module on a smartphone.

Create Your Path Slides in PDF Format For Mobile Devices

The mobile experience of Create Your Path works perfectly on smartphones, tablets, and almost any other kind of mobile device you can think of.  The program is presented through a series of videos on one page that are easily viewed on your device.  Additionally, we’ve made all of the slides and activity sheets available for download, making it incredibly easy to scroll through as you work on the the program.

Perhaps one of the best features of this mobile program is that you can now more easily than ever share your progress with friends, family, and other participants.  Go through the slides and activity sheets with those around you.  Show them the visuals, have conversations about the insights you gain, and share with them what you journaled about, what resources you listed, etc.


Helpful Apps

The program is designed to leverage excellent free mobile apps to help you create your own path in an innovative way. Google’s Play Store, The Apple App Store, and other digital marketplaces provide great free apps that can help you successfully complete the many activities of the Create Your Path program on your smartphone.  Below, I’ll list a few of the ones I’ve been using for the program.  Do you know of any others that could help?  Share them in the comments below.

Mindjet [Android] [iOS]
This excellent visual thinking app lets you capture and organize your thoughts, which is perfect for Create Your Path’s mind mapping activities. It is a different and more visual way to list and show how things connect.

Mindjet App Collecting Ideas for Create Your Path

Evernote [Android] [iOS]
This popular app “turns your device into an extension of your brain.”  Use it with Create Your Path to quickly capture ideas whenever they may come to you, further expanding the flexibility of the mobile program. You can even record and transcribe audio notes. This is an innovative way to journal as well.

Skitch [Android] [iOS]
Take screenshots of things you find on the web that relate to your program.  Skitch also integrates into Evernote, allowing you to make notes and draw on the images you capture, creating unique artifacts as you work your way through Create Your Path. This app will help you to “show and tell” your story.

Skitch And Evernote Working Together to Create Artifacts for Create Your Path

When we design programs, we want to root down in what has worked in the past (interaction, activities, real projects, reflection, feedback, etc.). We also want to branch out into what will work for the future. Smartphones, tablets, and our mobile devices can be used to make learning, development, and leadership happen whenever, wherever, and with whomever. It is a true innovation for education and professional development. We’ve built Create Your Path – and Program Innovation as well – to seize this opportunity, so that there will be minimal time and location barriers getting in the way of people learning, developing, leading, path creating, and innovating!

This article is taken from the online video-based program Create Your Path. Sign up for a free sample workshop from the program here, see details on the full program at InnovateYourself.com, and see other programs, speeches, and more at DarinEich.com.

Eradicate Sunday Night Illness by Creating Your Own Path

Eradicate Sunday Night Illness by Creating Your Own PathAfter I graduated from college, I came down with a case of “Sunday night illness.” It was that sick-to-the-stomach kind of feeling you get when the fear of Monday morning makes you sick the night before, because you are not at the right place in your career. You feel it when are not living within your strengths, passionate interests, and values – you are doing something unnatural to you. You are on a path moving in the wrong direction, or you are on somebody else’s career path when you really want to be creating your own unique path in life. We want to prevent that “Sunday night illness,” or treat it if we already have it. It was after feeling this that I decided to create my own path in life. I developed my own vaccine for the “illness,” and now Sunday evenings and Monday mornings are my favorite time of the week. After all, we spend most our time in life working, so that work should feel good and be meaningful to us, others, and society. We should feel like we are in a state of flow and be happy doing it. This is possible if we can be innovative, thoughtful, strategic and approach life much like Apple would approach developing their next amazing product.

Along our path toward personal and professional growth, we find ourselves needing different things at different times to help us move forward happily, successfully, and in a meaningful way. When I asked students at Dartmouth College what they needed in their life now to create their own path, I heard three themes: Discover, Integrate, and Focus. Depending on the state we are at in preparing for our future, some of us want to discover, some want to integrate, others want to focus. I have found that it is best to do all three. A career is so important that we should devote a great deal of thought, strategy, and action to it. Discover, Integrate, and Focus is a good way to approach preparing for our future.

Discover. Many of us have not yet discovered precise things about ourselves (like our strengths, passionate interests, and values), or where we would like our paths to take us. For these people, we must discover that direction and create our path. Based on the insight we unearth about ourselves, it could be discovering a major, choosing a school, figuring out if grad school is the right choice, deciding to build a business, or picking meaningful challenges to tackle.

Integrate. People have a lot of versatility, and it can be exceedingly difficult to make a choice between two of our skills or passionate interests. For these people, it may be important to find clever ways to integrate their skills and passionate interests to create a path that is the unique intersection of the two. These are the opportunities to innovate in our own life by combining things together – mashing them up.

Focus. Lastly, we need to learn to focus in on the areas in which we have already worked toward creating a path. How can you hone your skills and find the best niche for your unique set of skills? We all have the potential to be experts in an area if we focus our path of learning and experience accordingly.

Regardless of where you are in the quest to create your own path, it is important to build upon the key meaningful experiences and resources you already have under your belt. To do this, we will focus on integrating the academic, the professional, and the personal to make the most of what those worlds have to offer. If you are a student, think about the ways in which you can take advantage of campus resources, programs, courses, student organizations, professors, and fellow students. In your career, think about the ways in which you can learn from leaders in the field, projects, online communities, assessments, professional development programs, associations, and co-workers. In your personal life, think about the ways you can network with mentors, friends, family, and people whose skills fill a gap in your knowledge. Utilize free tools like Google, YouTube, and social media to connect to new forms of learning and experience.

One of the first people to go through the Create Your Path experience was a young woman named Sarah-Marie. After the program, she came to me to ask if I knew anyone who could help her enact some of her ideas for experiences that would help her realize an intersection of her academic, professional, and personal vision. I connected her with some people, and within weeks, she had arranged an internship in Nepal. This goes to show that creating your own path by finding the cross section of your unique strengths, passionate interests, and values can bring rapid results if you take action on your vision. You don’t have to see the end of the path, but you do have to take a first step. The journey is more fun than the destination anyway.

This article is taken from the online video-based program Create Your Path. Sign up for a free sample of the video here, see details on the full program at InnovateYourself.com, and see other programs, speeches, and more at DarinEich.com.

How to Reflect to Improve and Learn from Life Experiences

Experiential Learning: Reflect & Make Meaning of your Experiences to Grow
Make meaning with the power of reflection. Get better at what you do and how you do it through experiential or active learning.

There is so much we can learn about ourselves through our past, and namely, through our specific, unique life experiences. Many of us, though, are just letting this past be buried, and our experiences go by without gleaning any meaning from them. Reflection is the process we take to make meaning and learn from our experiences. If we can deconstruct those key experiences, there is so much to learn about who we are and the path we can create for ourselves in life and work. Meaning is there for the making. Journaling is a great ongoing activity that we can do to reflect on our life experiences.

On the journey to create your path, it is important to build, grow, and adapt continuously. To do this, we need to innovate ourselves and experience things that will help us to grow, learn, develop, and create! Growth is gaining experiences and learning from them – both experiences that are targeted and aligned to the essence of who you are, and new experiences that may tell you something about yourself. Create more key meaningful experiences in your life that are the unique intersection of your skills and passionate interests, and also branch out into the infinite possibilities presented by the new and emerging experiences you can live. Maybe there is something about you you haven’t discovered yet, but a new experience will show you. Discovering the importance of what you bring to the world that no else does is a necessity. A reflected-upon experience can do this for you! It isn’t enough to just have an experience; you need to also reflect on it to make the meaning, learn, and accelerate your improvement.

Kolb’s Experiential Learning Cycle is a wonderful tool to do exactly that! Following the model below, you can learn by doing and turn an event into an active, learning experience.

  1. Concrete Experience. We have an experience. It could be a visit with a campus adviser, a meeting with your boss, an interaction with a friend or family member, etc.
  2. Reflective Observation. Here, we reflect upon the experience and observe exactly how it made us feel. Did the experience feel so-so? Perhaps some parts were good and some parts were not.
  3. Abstract Conceptualization. We come to a conclusion based on our observations. Why was that experience important, and why did it make you feel the way it did? What does it mean now?
  4. Active Experimentation. If we were to do it again, what would we do differently? You can run a new experiment. Perhaps next time, you’d ask more questions. The key is to do something different or new with the information you have gained from the experience. Let the experience inform your choices to do things differently the next time.
  5. Repeat. Use the Experiential Learning Cycle again and again. Meet with an adviser, mentor, or coach to discuss the things you realize you should have asked, but didn’t. Check up with your boss or mentor to see what has or hasn’t been working. Try something new again and again as you create your path.

Keep a journal and use Kolb’s experiential cycle to experience, reflect, and get better as a result. Now that we know how powerful reflection can be, we need to remember to keep having more and more diverse experiences to reflect upon, and let the learning and development happen for us.

This article is taken from the online video-based program Create Your Path. Sign up for a free sample of the video here, see details on the full program at InnovateYourself.com, and see other programs, speeches, and more at DarinEich.com.

Identifying Key Tools and Resources for Personal and Professional Development

It is really difficult to do things on our own. It is even more difficult to do things on our own without any tools or resources. If you’ve ever tried to build or repair something, you know that tools can make all the difference. The same goes for our life. Tools and resources help us to understand ourselves and to create our own unique path. Sometimes, it may feel like you could accomplish your goals if only the right resources were there for you. The good news is path creating tools and resources are widely available. You’ve already used some to great effect, and so have your friends. You just need to look back and see what the tools and resources were that have already helped, and gain more! We hope that our articles and Create Your Path video workshops can be one of the many tools and resources that will help you to take your life to the next level.

My Key Tools and Resources

I like to look at activities as tools or resources. The right activity can help get us into action and set a positive direction. This activity is geared toward identifying the key resources and tools that have already helped you on your journey to create your path. There are more people and institutions available to help you reach your goals than you may realize, so it is important to step back and build an inventory.

How have you gone about finding your path in college, professionally, personally? How have you figured that out? What resources have helped you determine the experiences you have already gone after? Maybe it was a mentor, an advisor, a book, a website, a workshop, a program, an assessment, etc. What are the key resources or tools that you have used?

What has already helped you to create the path that you have journeyed so far? Take a moment to think about and list ten to twelve resources that you already have available to you. Think about your possible resources as broadly as possible. This will help you find how to best utilize those resources, as well as identify other potential resources. If you think of more than ten, list them all! Save this list in your journal to use as you create your path.

This article is taken from the online video-based program Create Your Path. Sign up for a free sample of a video workshop here, see details on the full program at InnovateYourself.com, and see other programs, speeches, and more at DarinEich.com.

Identifying Meaningful Life Experiences that Give You Insight into Who You Are at Your Best

Creating your path is all about experiences. Experiences help us to understand ourselves and learn. We create our path for the journey ahead by experiencing. We can take a look back at the path we’ve already traveled and see that it is paved by experiences. An important step on the journey to create your path is to list those key experiences that have most affected your life so far. These could be projects, jobs, classes, relationships, victories, defeats, decisions, awards, serendipitous events, or anything.

My Most Meaningful Life ExperiencesIn this activity, I would like you to reflect and identify at least ten key experiences you’ve had. These can be academic, professional or personal. They can be as small as individual moments in time or as big as entire courses. The key is that they had an impact on your learning and development – they were meaningful and memorable moments. These experiences have given you insight into who you are, they have helped you to learn and develop, or they have given you direction on your path.

Try to think about and list at least ten key experiences in your journal. If you come up with more, list them, too! These experiences will help us recognize the types of experiences we value and learn from most. Remember to unleash the power of your experiences by reflecting on them and making meaning. It is not enough to just list, though. Dive deeper into them!

What life experiences stood out to you? Why did they come into your mind? Why did you select them for this activity? What was it about those experiences? If we can understand what makes a key life experience we can be better at creating more of them in the future!

This article is taken from the online video-based program Create Your Path. Sign up for a free sample workshop from the program here, see details on the full program at InnovateYourself.com, and see other programs, speeches, and more at DarinEich.com.

The Year of Innovation at the University of Wisconsin-Madison

It is the Year of Innovation at the University of Wisconsin and I’m honored and excited to help my alma mater kick off the year at their Innovation U launch event. Hear from Chancellor David Ward first and then I’ll take it from there with a highly interactive program held at the Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery. Here is more about my workshop on “Innovation Thinking.”

Create, Collaborate, Communicate, & Innovate

In this fast paced, interactive, and engaging program you will get to experience simple innovation activities and skills firsthand. We will collaborate to demystify innovation so that you can be ignited, take action, and make a deeper impact.

+ Learn about the key research based leadership skills for innovation and how to put them to use in your life and work

+ Network to communicate your innovation so people understand, buy-in, and co-create with you

+ Hear stories of best practice techniques for developing ideas that innovative groups use

+ Access simple visual metaphors, processes, systems, tools, and techniques to swiftly innovate

+ Gain motivation through innovation by addressing emerging problems and opportunities with applied creativity and collaboration

+ Move from thinking to action in this catalyzing program

Visit Showcase and MANIAC to see examples of how I’ve been collaborating to help the University innovate by learning and doing.

Association Conference Keynote Opening

Academic Setting Innovation Award Winner: UW-MANIAC

I have been involved with “MANIAC” at the University of Wisconsin-Madison for a number of years now. UW-MANIAC is the Madison Area Network for Innovation and Collaboration – a dynamic partnership of University and community people who are creatively exploring the possibilities of a network focused on sparking creative, innovative practices in the workplace. I was invited to speak to the group a handful of years ago and found it to be just the kind of thing I needed in my work and life. The people are fun, creative, supportive, and encouraging. They have become my colleagues and “non-traditional” co-workers.

This year, UW-MANIAC was presented an award for innovation in an academic setting at the National Summit on Innovation for Associations!  My friend Harry and I traveled to Milwaukee, accepted the award, showcased MANIAC, and presented a fun and interactive 18 minute TED-style talk that allowed participants the chance to “test-drive” some UW-MANIAC style activities.

As someone who develops and facilitates innovation programs for a living, UW-MANIAC is my test kitchen where I can both develop and take action on ideas for new programs that I have. I’ve incubated a number of my classic programs like “Jammin,” “Bounce,” and “the 3Cs of Innovation” within UW-MANIAC. Best of all, the Maniacs are willing to be a part of innovation experiments, and we can often go from idea to launch in less than an hour – like we did with our Facebook page the other day. To illustrate, at our recent retreat, I wanted to show people Google Hangouts and how we could integrate that with YouTube to do a live on-air broadcast. I also wanted to get some testimonial videos, so we mashed those two things up and created an experiment during the retreat.

My hope is that every college, university, and organization could have something like UW-MANIAC – an invigorating “test-kitchen” space where people can come out of their individual offices to learn and practice collaborative creativity. Along the way, they work toward the innovations that matter the most for their work.

Innovation is currently at the center of the radar for many universities and they are bringing it to life through programs and initiatives. For instance, 2012 is the Year of Innovation at the University of Wisconsin. and I’m excited for the Innovation U launch event. Another major Educational Innovation initiative is also in progress at UW. These are notable endeavors because they represent campus wide approaches to cultivating innovation that bring everyone together to develop and launch new ideas that can have an impact.

I’m happy and excited to help others who are interested in cultivating innovation in higher education, most specifically through new initiatives, programs, and even the University innovation test-kitchen idea! Just get in touch with me at Darin@DarinEich.com if you would like to learn more about how you can create something like UW-MANIAC that is uniquely tailored for your institution, as well as launch and seed it with engaging programs.

The Innovation Learner: Why Big Ideas DON’T Need Big Money

Today, I’d like to point out two articles in The Innovation Learner that exemplify some of the concepts in the Lean Startup approach to innovation.  The first piece, from BusinessInsider.com, reminds us that it’s okay to work with ideas that are rough around the edges.  That means you can start with an idea and adapt to its weaknesses, rather than fall into the trap of attempting to make a perfect idea.

The second piece, from 15inno.com, teaches some great tips on how to innovate better and for less money.

Check out the entire Innovation Learner here.

The Innovation Learner 9-4-2012 - Top Innovation Tips, News & More

The Leadership Learner: Innovating in Your Professional Life

Today, I’d like to highlight a couple of articles featured in The Leadership Learner that talk about professional leadership, how to become a leader, and how to innovate once you get there.  The first comes from the Center for Organizational Learning, which focuses on “creating individual leaders who are architects and builders of significant innovations.”  The second is a blog post by the Harvard Business Review, which discusses how people learn to become managers.

Find both of these posts at The Leadership Learner.