Four Other Valentine’s Day Gifts

Not everyone goes in for the unaffordable expectation version of Valentine’s Day.  Love is worth celebrating.   You don’t need a romantic partner or Scrooge McDuck’s money bin to spread Valentine’s Day love.

1. Give the gift of  your attention.

There’s a freedom that comes from conscious, wholehearted listening.  By deeply listening, we free ourselves from the constant chatter in our minds and allow another person to feel the experience of being truly seen and heard. I have been submitting a listening self-assessment each day for the past few weeks as part of my ULab homework.  Evaluators say, “What gets measured gets done”.  In this case, “What gets measured gets noticed”. Paying attention to listening has been a gift to myself and those around me.  Try it.

2. Start a conversation on the topic of love, compassion, and forgiveness.

The Fetzer Institute created a set of 52 Love, Compassion and Forgiveness Cards.  You can download them for free.     Each card has a quote on one side and a conversation point and an idea for action on the other.

A Love card quote says:

There is an old South African proverb that says the reason two antelope walk together is so that one can blow the dust from the other’s eyes. This sort of friendship enables joy.  Mark Nepo

A Forgiveness card poses the questions:

What role does empathy play in forgiveness? When have you been able to put yourself in anther’s shoes.

The associated action suggests, “Bring to mind a person who has hurt or offended you. Ask yourself: What qualities does this person possess that I would like to eliminate in myself”?

3. Consider sharing a crowd-sourced mindfulness-based Valentine.

Parallax Press engaged their readers to create 13 Zen inspired Valentine’s.  My favorites are #7 and #12.

 4. Tweet some love to your favorite non-profit organization or charity using the hashtag #npValentine.

The Chronicle of Philanthropy has images available on their Facebook page you can tweet or email.   The Twitter feed will make you smile.   As a bonus, the Chronicle has an opinion piece by Jennifer and Peter Buffett about the place of love and compassion in philanthropy.  The Buffets say:

In a world in which everything is a commodity, we’re going to try to turn money into love. Jennifer and Peter Buffett

I sincerely hope they do. Every day people can do this too.  My friend Jennifer Iacovelli is on a mission to turn all of us into philanthropists. You can also visit ServiceSpace and explore the gift economy in action.

How are you going to spread love in the world this Valentine’s Day?

Chocolate is a totally acceptable answer. 🙂



Happy Puttyfest!








What’s Puttyfest?

Puttyfest is a few days dedicated to celebrating people who boldly choose to follow many passions in life. Emilie Wapnick, founder of, is the pied piper of multipotentialites and anyone who’s ever wanted to be more than one thing.

I found Emilie’s blog a couple of years ago and instantly felt at home. Emilie’s message is that we can and should fully express our own fabulous combination of talents and interests.

The dominant message is: choose one.

Putty people say: select all that apply.

If you don’t believe me, believe Itzhak Perlman.  On the Great Performances special,  “Rejoice”,  he observed, “We are all a combination”.   Multipotentialites live the combination.

Would you tell a prism to only reflect green light? No. That would be silly and against the prism’s natural properties. It’s the same for people, we just forget.

I agree with Itzhak Perlman. Everyone is a combination. Some of us have recognized and embraced our prism-like (err, puttylike) qualities more completely than others.

I had a Twitter exchange with Emilie a few weeks ago and learned she’d designated September 23-25 “Puttyfest”. As part of the celebration she asked her followers to spread the word about what it means to be a multipotentialite and how this quality has been a positive force in our lives. This post is me fulfilling my Twitter promise to Emilie and the puttypeeps.

Multipotentiality is a big part of why I have a day job I’ve loved for the last 8 years. One of the reasons I was hired  was because I ditched the standard cover letter I’d written and wrote  how my eclectic experience matched each one of the program’s goals.

I work with and for people who would fall under the multipotentialite umbrella: interdisciplinary researchers. Interdisciplinary researchers are researcher/teacher/scholars following their curiosities and questions wherever they lead without much regard for where one discipline ends and another begins. Structures in academia and funding agencies aren’t well-equipped for this sort of thing. Interdisciplinary researchers find a way. And our program helps. It’s great fun.

I still have that cover letter.

It reminds me that letting the multipotentialite in me shine pays off even when (especially when), it feels daring.

It’s common among multipotentialites to feel baffled about this whole personal legend/life purpose/niche/ mission, etc. thing. We simply don’t get what that is about. It’s not how we roll.

The movie Rise of the Guardians has another approach- one that make sense to me. It may make sense to you. Guardians introduces the idea that each person has a Center. In this clip, North (a.k.a Santa Claus) explains his Center to Jack Frost, who is trying to understand why the Man in the Moon chose him to be a Guardian of the children of the world. Using a metaphor of the matryoshka dolls, North goes through various facets of who he is: big/intimidating, jolly, mysterious, fearless, caring, and at his Center: WONDER. North explains that wonder is his Center because,

“It is what I was born with….This wonder is what I put into the world, and what I protect in children. It is what makes me a Guardian.”

matryoshka dolls

matryoshka dolls

As a multipotentialite, the idea of having a Center that can be expressed many ways feels orders of magnitude lighter than searching for some life path in the woods of the world. I’ve watched this movie over and over with my daughter and never get tired of that scene.

One day I heard the phrase “…what I protect in children” differently. I remembered a conversation I had where I said one of my most important jobs as a parent was to keep my child’s curiosity intact.

And I understood myself differently.

My “Center” is curiosity.

It’s what I was born with, it’s what I protect in my child, and it’s what I bring to others through any work I’ve ever loved.

I’m not sure if curiosity “counts” as my multipotentialite theme, nor do I have the slightest clue how to turn curiosity into a renaissance business for myself.  Yet.

And that’s OK. I’m fortunate that I get to live curiosity every day.

It rings true and I’ll claim it.

That’s what multipotentialites do. We follow what rings true and claim it.


Entering the Evalusphere

I promised to share some of what brought me to this blog and have since realized completely fulfilling that pledge is a process that will emerge over time rather than an item I can address in a single post.

I’m still really slow with this whole blog post writing thing.  My internal editor is far too critical for my own good thanks to years of academic training and professional writing.  While I was writing this post my colleague and evaluation blogging trailblazer, Chris Lysy posted “4 reasons to have a blog, even if you don’t blog”.  With the humor and insight I appreciate so much from Chris, he elucidated some of my reasons for this blog better than I was going to.   Truthfully, my original post was going to pay homage to Ann, Susan, Chris, and Sheila who shared their blogging experience at the American Evaluation Association conference in October 2013 (slides here).   I’m going to do that in a different way by including them in my take the “4 reasons to have a blog post”.

The reasons to blog are compelling and I like the four Chris gives.  However, with every motivational reason, there can be an associated fear factor and it’s worth addressing those, too.  I love quotes, I’ll prescribe some “Quote Medicine” that might combat some of the resistance that is part of learning and opening oneself to evaluation.

(Digression: I first heard about “quote medicine” when learning SAS programming in the late 90s.  The instructor gave us a command comprised solely of punctuation that would get the program to run if we had unbalanced quotes in our program.  Part of the deal with Quote Medicine is you must vow to find and address the underlying problem once you get running.)

Motivational Reason 1: You have stage control

Fear-based Question: What if I screw this up?

I have the power, “MUAHAHAHAHAH!!!”  OK, maybe maniacal laughter is taking it bit too far. It is fun to have a platform that is mine, all mine (my own, my precious).  There’s a freedom in exploring ideas and putting things out there that are not polished and perfectly reasoned.    The associated fear factor is that I am solely responsible for this and the internet can be a harsh place. Peer review has nothing on the “interwebs” for the potential to crush a person’s creative spirit.   My dad would say, “The Lord hates a coward, He’s not too keen on stupid, either”.   Somewhere between brave coward and wise fool seems about right.

Quote Medicine:

 You can either fit in or stand out. Not both. Seth Godin (Linchpin)

Motivational Reason 2: Show your humanity

Fear-based Question 2:  Is my humanity showing?  How embarrassing!

My favorite blogs are authentic.  Sheila B. Robinson has an authentic, evaluation-focused blog called Evaluspheric Perspectives.  She’s professional, personable, and always real.  I have immense respect for that and am pleased to share the “evalushphere” with Sheila (who coined that very cool term).  The ability to put more of who I am out there in the world is compelling.  So often our work cuts us off from expressing the people we are the rest of the time.  That’s a tragedy.  The scary part is that revealing our humanity means beings vulnerable and, yes, judged.  The fear factor is compounded for people in professions connected to the scientific method like evaluation. The implicit message is that your humanity counts for a lot less than the letters after your name and the awards on your wall.

Quote Medicine

“If humanity is to survive – and not only that, to flourish- we must be brave enough to find our wisdom and let it shine”. Sakyong Mipham, The Shambhala Principle  (p. 21)

Motivational Reason 3:  Build a following and keep in touch

Fear-based Question 3:  Who would follow ME?  and What if no one follows?

I wholeheartedly agree with the keeping in touch part. The AEA365 blog, started by Susan Kistler and now curated by Sheila Robinson is great connecter.   I am an internal evaluator and a “virtual employee”.  My work team is located in California and our organization is headquartered in Washington, DC.  I don’t live within 500 miles of either of those places.  The internet allows me to keep in touch with everything and everyone I can imagine.   In his take on Reason 3, Chris says, “You have great things to offer, let me follow you.”  Time will tell whether what I have to offer is “great” (my metric for “great” is yet to be determined) and, to be honest, I’m still figuring out what the “things” are that I’ll offer.  As I’ve said, I don’t yet have a destination in mind for this journey. The possibility of Chris and other evaluators I respect as “followers” is a humbling and daunting thought. And that doesn’t even take into account the people I haven’t met yet.  How exciting!

Quote Medicine

“When we stop caring about what other people think, we lose our capacity for connection”. Brene Brown, Daring Greatly (p. 169)

Motivational Reason 4: Support your offline presentations

Fear-Based Question 4: What happens when people connect blogging me with working me?

This is not one of my reasons for blogging, but I appreciate that others do this.  The videos on Ann Emery’s blog are an example of how to do this well.  Every time I watch one of her videos, I learn something.   When I first read this reason, I solidly decided, “Not for me.” I’m rethinking that.   Truthfully, I’m a bit skittish about linking my “day job” with this blog too closely.  Next time I give a presentation, I’ll figure out how to share some of the concepts in a blog post and see what happens.

Just for the record, I wasn’t at all planning on revealing my blog to other blogging evaluators today. I still don’t feel like I know what I’m doing and don’t have everything set up properly.  However,  Chris’s post inspired me.  Telling someone that what they do matters is important.  Showing someone that they matter in a way that means something to them is even better.  Isn’t that what we all want- to know what we do matters?

For anyone keeping track, add one to your tally of evaluation bloggers. I guess I’m here now.