Monday, September 24, 2012

Art, Baltimore, and a LeaderShape Graduate

In the summer of 2007, I was lucky enough to attend one of the national sessions of LeaderShape in Illinois.  While I was there, I made incredible connections, grew more confident in my own abilities, and, maybe most importantly, outlined a plan that is still serving me to this day.  I wanted to find a way to use art to connect people, build relationships, and strengthen communities.  The staff and my peers at Leadershape helped me to ground an idea that had previously been a jumble of thoughts and words in my head, and made me realize that this is a thing that could actually happen.

Right after college I decided to serve with the Community Arts Collaborative, an Americorps Program in Baltimore, Maryland.   It was through this program that I was placed with my current site, 901 Arts, and I’m just about to start my third year as their Program Coordinator.

901 Arts is a community based after-school art center in the Better Waverly neighborhood of Baltimore.  We offer art and music classes to kids in the neighborhood totally free of cost, which is frequently a deterrent for kids to attend afterschool programs.  We also serve as a general hub of community activity, a place to learn about what’s going on in the neighborhood, who to talk to if you want to get things done, and we frequently put on our own events to connect neighbors.   Last year, we served 77 kids through our weekly classes and many more kids and adults through our neighborhood events.

In the past two years I’ve made amazing connections with the neighborhood, especially our youth.  It was through collective art making that we were able to establish these relationships, which we can now build upon to create even more amazing things.  In the last two years, teenagers in the neighborhood partnered with our director, Sarah Tooley, to create thirteen Sea Creature Storm Drain murals, drawing attention to the connection between storm water and the environment. 

This past summer, through a Baltimore City program, we were able to employ nine Better Waverly youths at 901 Arts.  For six weeks, the teens worked to fix up the art center, created one of a kind artwork that would be sold as a fundraiser, discussed social justice topics, visited cultural landmarks around the city, and learned new skills and trades.  After the program ended, one teen told me that originally he didn’t really care about art, but now he is genuinely interested and would like to learn more.

My time serving with Americorps and 901 Arts has been an incredible experience.  It has shown me time after time that art can be a tool for creating connections, as well as expressing ones thoughts and ideas.  I’m excited to be able to expand upon this work in the upcoming year, to see just how far we can push this concept. 

To learn more about 901 Arts, check out our website at, and like us on Facebook! 

Cait Byrnes

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Joe, Student Launcher, and The LeaderShape Institute

When I first heard about LeaderShape, I thought it would be like all the other leadership conferences I’ve been to: Meeting new people, sharing ideas, networking, and then go back home and keep working on our goals. But when I arrived in Champaign, IL on Sunday afternoon, the welcome by the LeaderShape staff blew my mind because it was engaging and fast paced, which kept us on our two feet the whole time. As soon as we settled in, our Lead Facilitators had us hitting the ground running. After all of our exercises, I had noticed that time was flying by so fast that I felt we needed more time to continue working. In the past, conferences and workshops I’ve attended have been more on a calmer pace and not as packed, but I felt that this new transition was good because I was learning new concepts and meeting new people! The whole week was just an amazing experience because it helped me learn new things about myself and also pushed me into fifth gear in my vision to create a non-profit that provides first generation latino/a student’s the resources they need to attend college. One thing that has kept with me since LeaderShape has been Day 7.
Flying Penguins

Day 7 is every day since my last day in LeaderShape and I have put things into motion to keep my vision alive. The week was so amazing that I still communicate with my family cluster and our cluster facilitator. We have been in touch with one another allowing us to be ahead of the game by continuing to carry our Vision.

Something else I learned during my time at LeaderShape is that other people do want you to be successful, and are willing to help you in any way they can. The reason I say that is because when I was finalizing my paper work, my advisor/mentor on campus told me that we would have to raise about $500 in order for me to be able to attend LeaderShape. She proposed that I use Student Launcher (formerly known as AlumniChoose) and spread the word. After getting set up with them, I started to follow them on twitter and then that lead me to communicate with Tom Krieglstein, founder of Student Launcher. I felt confident because I had the support system in place and now it was time to execute. So after talking to Julie (my advisor and mentor on campus) and Mr. Krieglstein, I began to tap into my network to spread the word about my goal and ask for people to either donate to my project or help me spread my goal. The way AlumniChoose works is that I’m able to create a profile and a project, and within that project, I’m able to describe what I want to do, how I’m going to do it and its outcome. It also allows me to show how much funding I’ll need and also the perks people will get after the pledge. It’s so easy to use and I can say that thanks to Student Launcher, Julie, Tom, and the 12 donors, I made it to LeaderShape! My over all experience with Student Launcher and LeaderShape has taught me that if you set your mind to it, you can accomplish anything, and if you carry out your vision and work every day as Day 7, you can make a change in the world. It also reiterated my thoughts of never forgetting where we came from or who we are because that will guide us to where we’re going and who we’re going to be! 

Thanks to Joe Posado for sharing his story with us!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Life's a Journey...Live in Wonder!

Eric Saperston, friend of LeaderShape, speaker, author, and film director, is this week's contributor. Currently, Eric lives on an organic farm in Maui and travels the globe inspiring the world to Live in Wonder. You can see clips from Eric's project and film, "The Journey", in our one-day Catalyst program. 

When I graduated from college, instead of getting a job or going to graduate school, I decided to take a year off, follow the Grateful Dead and work a ski season in Aspen.  Prompted by my mentor to make the trip more meaningful, I decided when I wasn’t following the Grateful Dead and working a ski season, I’d call up the most powerful people in the world and take them out for a cup of coffee.  

The reason: To find out what values they’ve lived by, the struggles they’ve endured and what advice and counsel they’d give to me and my generation to better prepare ourselves for the road ahead.  

Fueled with optimism and driven by curiosity, my Golden Retriever Jack and I jumped into my bright, yellow Volkswagen camper bus and we hit the road. 

One thing that prevents people from going on great adventures is that nobody wants to appear foolish.  But for me, too late!  

Being willing to appear foolish and having the courage to speak my commitment into the world  a portal of possibility opened up and I jumped right through. 

The great American writer, John Steinbeck, said, “Sometimes you take a trip and sometimes the trip takes you.”  Well, this trip took me well beyond anything I could have imagined possible.

How I funded my adventure? I would pull into rest stops and sell "Sexy, kind, grilled cheese sandwiches, made with love, for one dollar!" 

Guess what? People actually bought my sandwiches and after they discovered what I was I up to, they’d not only give me a dollar for my grilled cheese, they’d give me two dollars, five dollars, twenty dollars... One time I even got a fifty dollar bill once for two pieces of bread and some cheese! Now that’s what a college education is all about: learning how to market fifty dollar grilled cheese sandwiches!!

Not only did people give me more money than my sandwiches were worth, they also told me where I could go, in a good way.  Places to visit, monuments to see... But here’s the most serendipitous thing that happened: random people I just met on the side of the road over grilled cheese sandwiches, began giving me the names and numbers of some of the most amazing people in the world and encouraged me to go interview them.   I was given names of presidents, poets, artists, CEO’s,  community activists, farmers, Olympic athletes, astronauts, teachers and rock stars.   

Needless to say, a wonderous and life-altering door opened up and I soon realized I wasn’t just meeting amazing people; I was capturing the living oral history of some of the most phenomenal people on the planet.  

On my travels, at first, all I had with me was a still camera and a journal.   As the journey unfolded, I began sharing with others the quality of my conversations with these amazing people, and I was soon encouraged to buy a video camera and begin documenting my adventures.   

Another thing I had learned while out on the road is what separates those who achieve greatness from those who do not. Some people believe its communication skills, or having a clear vision, or being tenacious, finishing what you start.  All those are essential qualities and characteristics to be successful for sure.  In addition, one super important quality which is often times overlooked is ones ability to ask others for help.  

It's unfortunate that we’ve become such a culture addicted to looking good, believing you need to "fake it until you make it", "never let them see you sweat" and "only raise your hand when you’re sure".  Most people believe asking others for help is a sign of weakness.  It’s not.  It’s a sign of strength.  

Joseph Campbell, author of The Power of Myth, said, "How do you know when you are following your bliss?  The invisible hands kick in and begin to guide and maneuver you in helpful ways."   

I’m happy to report that my summer vacation became my vocation.   My dog and I lived in my VW bus and spent close to four years traveling around the country.  Along the way we picked up three other travelers.  The four of us  bought a video camera and a book on how to use the camera.  

We also discovered we needed a boom pole to capture sound.  They were way too expensive and since we couldn’t afford one, we headed the wise words of Eleanore Roosevelt who said, “Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.”  So we went to Home Depot, bought a $12.95 light-bulb-changer, a $50 microphone and a roll of Duct-Tape.  Voila! Boompole!!!

Our team traveled from coast-to-coast, shot over 500 hundred hours footage, interviewed over 200 of the most extraordinary people on the planet.  Got a development deal from Walt Disney Studios which helped turn our road-tripping adventure into an award winning feature film.  We made a short film first and sold that at the Sundance Film Festival.  Our feature film won South By Southwest (SXSW)  and several other film festivals, played in theaters to sold out shows and standing ovations, led to appearances on the Today Show, CNN and we have been written up in the New York Times and The Wall Street Journal.  We just finished our first book Live In Wonder: Quests, Quotes and Questions to Jumpstart Your Journey, created an inspirational clothing line and now have the privilege of writing this note to you.  

After taking this odyssey, people  alway ask me, "What did you learn?"  

I learned that extraordinary people Live In Wonder. 

That means to live in the awe, the marvel, the astonishment and to say "yes" to the great mystery of life unfolding... This is to Live In Wonder!

When you Live In Wonder – you’re open, curious and grateful for everything, no exceptions. All your senses are awake. Your life is an adventure.  You are completely paying attention and present, like a warrior, you’re keenly aware of your surroundings. Your smell, taste, touch and sound – all your senses  –  are heightened.  

That way when the portal of possibility opens up in your life, you’ll know it and jump right through.  

When you live in wonder, the world is refreshing, exciting and new.  Anybody know what’s going to happen next?  I sure don’t and that’s what makes life so fascinating.  

So let's do our part to enhance the world. If more people live in wonder, then more people are getting up excited and going to bed fulfilled. And if more people are fulfilled, then the world is a better place. 

I believe there are no ordinary people out there unless they themselves agree to be that.  All of us have direct access to being extraordinary right now by simply being in the wonder of the moment, of what's right in front of them. There is no where to get to, no one to become 'someday'. We are all extraordinary human beings, right now in this moment being exactly who we are.

In fact Oscar Wilde said it best, “Be yourself. Everyone else is already taken.”

Life’s a journey... Live In Wonder!  

Friday, September 7, 2012

Make Ripples

Earlier this summer we invited the members of our community to be a part of the Pebble Club. The pebble holds significant meaning for folks who have participated in The LeaderShape Institute. It is a physical reminder of the far-reaching - and sometimes unknown - impact each of us can make, just like the many ripples a pebble creates when it is tossed into the water.

But sometimes we forget. We forget that our words and actions have the power to make a difference far beyond our own understanding. We get distracted from doing the work we are passionate about.

Let’s remember today. Let’s focus today.

Take time right now to think, to plan, to act. Where do you want to make a difference? What do you need to do to create the time and space to do so? Who shares your passion and how can you move forward together?

What can you do today?

Remember. Focus.
Make ripples.