Investing in Yourself

Do you find that many of your friends are either looking for work or looking for a change? The only thing that seems certain at the moment is more uncertainty. 

What can you do?

“Simply astonished”

I found one answer in a student’s thesis that she shared online. Her topic was “Why is WOL accepted by employees?” and she interviewed dozens of people from 38 different companies. Two quotes stood out.

"Many are simply astonished by the number of opportunities that they were offered while applying their WOL practices." 

"The employees indicated that WOL has changed the way they approach and value others as well as the way they treat and value themselves." 

What Nadine discovered in her interviews is exactly what many people today are looking for today. Opportunity, Perspective. Connection.

“To connect on a human level”

This isn’t just an academic issue, of course, but something much more practical than that, something more personal. Andreas summed up his experience this way:

“Not only has it helped each of us to make a massive step towards reaching our growth goals, it also helped in times of remote work to connect on a human level.”

It isn’t selfish to develop yourself. Annette, for example, describes the benefits for her and her company, SAP. She calls it “the magic.”

Practicing WOL had not just an influence on how I approach goals, but how I approach people and challenges in life. It fosters cultural change and makes SAP’s values truly experienceable: tell it like it is, stay curious, embrace differences, keep the promise, & build bridges, not silos."

New Year. New You. 

The new WOL Membership Network makes it easy for you to take a step and realize benefits like these. Daniela described her experience in a Circle this way:

A profound program, the insights and tasks were an inspiring framework to our journey on which we worked, dreamt, and developed all together.

In your annual membership, you get three chances to join different kinds of Circles. Each time, we’ll match you with others, help you with your goal, and offer you coaching & support throughout the entire year. All for less than the cost of a conference or course. 

When will it be the right time to invest in yourself? When will you deserve it? The answer, especially as we come to the end of 2020, is obvious:

“Now.”

When will it be the right time to invest in yourself? When will you deserve it?

When will it be the right time to invest in yourself? When will you deserve it?

Doing the best with what we have

It is extremely quiet in New York City. No restaurants or bars. No shops or gyms. No tourists. The parks department even removed the basketball hoops from the local court so people won’t play there. And yet, amidst all of this, we find new ways to connect.

Last week, for example, my son’s teacher created a “virtual recess” for her 4th-grade class in addition to the new distance learning they’re trying. My daughter’s piano teacher gave her a virtual lesson. This Thursday, instead of a big event in K?ln for the WOL Community & the new book, we will have a virtual celebration with almost 500 people registered. (You can sign up here.)

And then, there was the virtual yoga class.

With all the yoga studios closed, my friend Mindy Bacharach tried to come up with a new way to help people practice (and a new way to make a living). She figured out how to use Zoom, put up a web page, and decided to offer live classes by video. When she told me, it seemed like a nice idea, but would anyone show up? Would anyone pay?

Early Sunday morning, my wife rolled out two yoga mats and made it clear we would both be going to class. “We need to support Mindy,” she said. We joined the call early and noticed a few people already there, then more joined, and still more. We caught glimpses of apartments in New York and New Jersey, and also in Michigan and Florida. Even one in Berlin. More than sixty people were in the class, triple the number that normally attends in person.

Mindy calls the online class, “It’s not pretty but it’s yoga.” For sure, it wasn’t the same as what we were used to. But it wasn’t ugly, it was just a different kind of beautiful. 

Kids and dogs came in and out of view while Mindy called out adjustments and instructions. Some people used towels instead of yoga mats. “If you don’t have blocks, use soups cans,” Mindy encouraged us. “Do the best with what you have.”

And that, really, is all we can do. And it’s all we can ask of others. “Do the best with what you have.”

My friend turned a desperate situation into an opportunity to create something new, and she wound up reaching more people than she ever could before. Seeing sixty strangers come together, for themselves and for their friend and teacher, filled me with inspiration and hope. Even when a pandemic forces us to keep our distance, we are hungrier than ever to connect and belong.

I can’t wait till next Sunday.

Virtual Yoga: “A different kind of beautiful”

Especially in these times

There is no manual for this. For when you’re suddenly in a world where a well-intentioned handshake can feel like a threat. When you’re aware that every door handle is a connection to hundreds of other people. When you start to wonder, both for yourself and your company, “How will we ever get anything done?”

At this point, we’re all making it up as we go along.

There are already many excellent posts on remote work, on staying healthy, and slowing the spread of the virus. What I hope to contribute is to make it a bit easier for you to feel connected and also productive, whether that’s learning about a topic, developing a skill, or accomplishing something with others. 

For you

Yesterday, I noticed posts on LinkedIn that mentioned that WOL could strengthen our sense of belonging “especially in times of forced home office” and how “the current global situation is what WOL was made for.”:

A lovely “Monday Morning Inspiration” by Victor Mahler. (We worked together at Deutsche Bank.)

A lovely “Monday Morning Inspiration” by Victor Mahler. (We worked together at Deutsche Bank.)

To make it easier for individuals to practice Working Out Loud, I’m accelerating the rollout of some new resources:

  • FAQ videos to answer the most common questions. You can see the first ones on youtube.com/workingoutloud today, and I’ll be publishing 30+ videos in the next few weeks.

  • Version 6 of the Circle Guides: I’m in the final stages of getting this improved version ready, and should be able to make them available in English & German next month, along with a new means of distributing the Guides that allows me to provide helpful tips throughout the 12 weeks. (More details in a future post.)

For your organization

In the past few days I’ve also spoken to HR managers looking for virtual training. All the workshops are canceled, they say, and there’s a limit to what you can learn with online videos. These HR managers want to help their colleagues thrive in the “new work environment” that has been thrust upon them, while also giving newly-isolated employees a feeling that they’re not alone.

My friend Alexander Kluge summed it up nicely.

In response to a tweet by Winfried Felser asking, “How can we use WOL to fight Corona?”

In response to a tweet by Winfried Felser asking, “How can we use WOL to fight Corona?”

To help organizations, I’ve created two resources to make it easier for HR to use WOL Circles as a virtual training method.

  • Version 2 of the Corporate Starter Kit: These are free resources to help you form WOL Circles in your organization. The first version came out in November. This new version includes use cases, case studies, and much more. (If you already registered, you’ll be receiving these updates via a new email series.)

To help you register for the free Corporate Starter Kit or to arrange a call about a WOL program, there is a new chatbot on the website. We’ll expand the use of this tool when I introduce the new version of the Circle Guides.

The new WOL chatbot. Try it!

The new WOL chatbot. Try it!

The important things

A member of my WOL Circle said that now is the time for doing important things, the kind that you might normally put off because you’re usually too busy. 

Maybe for you that means playing with your children or helping your neighbors. Maybe it means contributing to members of your community whose businesses are hit hard by the pandemic. If you’re lucky, maybe it means you have time to invest in yourself and your colleagues, and work on new ways of getting things done.

Whatever your situation, the most important thing is to take good care of yourself and those around you. Especially in these times. 

***

Note: As part of a virtual celebration of the WOL Community on Thursday, March 26th at 2pm EST/ 7pm CET., we will hear stories from community members who are featured in the new edition of Working Out Loud. 

Over 350+ people have registered so far. Here is a registration link for the event. I hope you will join us.

“A great way to strengthen the feeling of belonging together.” (PHOTO CREDIT: KATHARINA KRENTZ & BOSCH EMPLOYEES)

“I Work Out Loud”

When I see “WOL” in a person’s online profile (and now, increasingly, in job descriptions) I wonder “Why do they do that? What does Working Out Loud mean for them?”

It’s somehow more than just another skill or method. You can feel it when you’re at a WOL event or one of the 20+ meetups, or when you see the way WOL practitioners relate to others online. There’s a sense of curiosity, generosity, and kindness that pervade the community. 

Here’s what it means for me to say, “I Work Out Loud.” What does it mean for you?

I WOL

I listen.

I care.

I empathize.

I help.

I contribute.

I experiment.

I make mistakes.

I learn.

I reflect.

I ask questions.

I improve.

I keep going.

 

I matter.

Together, we make a difference.

***

Note: You can experience some of this feeling at the next WOL event on March 26th, a virtual community conference with hundreds of participants around the world. Community members who are in the all-new edition of Working Out Loud will share their story live followed by a Q&A. You can register here.

“I WOL”: What does it mean for you?

March 26th! A special celebration & an all-new Working Out Loud

There may be over 1000 of us participating in this event, spread across as many of the 20 WOL meetups as we can organize and synchronize. I’ll be in K?ln, Germany, and my wife and two youngest children will be there with me. It will be unlike anything I’ve ever been a part of before.

We will be celebrating the community that turned WOL into a movement, and they will be the first ones to get the all-new edition of Working Out Loud.

The all-new  Working Out Loud . (Available in May. Click on the cover for pre-order information.) I’m grateful to Seth Godin for the nice words on the cover.

The all-new Working Out Loud. (Available in May. Click on the cover for pre-order information.) I’m grateful to Seth Godin for the nice words on the cover.

A special event

The idea for the multi-city event began with an email, asking if I could join a meetup in K?ln someday. After a few exchanges with Sebastian Kolberg, Holger Gelhausen, and Guido Perl, we thought to combine it with a kind of launch party for the new book. 

But how could we make the event more inclusive? Not just for people in one city but for the entire WOL community? That’s when we decided to use video to connect and interact with all the meetups for the first time ever.

The event on March 26th is made possible by the HRS Group, who have a beautiful space in K?ln. As a leading company in the hospitality industry that supports individual travelers as well as companies like Google, Siemens, and Toyota, they are the perfect host and sponsor. (Herzlichen Dank, Karina Leute!)

So far, there are 200+ people attending the event in person, and we’re working with the 20 WOL meetups to include as many people and cities as possible.

The all-new Working Out Loud

When I wrote the first version of Working Out Loud there were only a handful of Circles and the method consisted of only fours guides for the 12-week program. Since then, WOL Circles changed dramatically (v6 is out in a few months) and have spread to over 60 countries and hundreds of companies.

In addition to the updated method and exercises in Part III of the new book, there are new chapters on leadership and changing the culture of your company. There are also many, many more stories of the people and companies using WOL to make a difference for themselves and others, and a number of them will be a part of the event. 

The new edition is available for pre-order now, and will be available online and in bookstores on May 12th. (It’s so early now that the cover and interior on Amazon won’t be updated for a week or so, but I couldn’t wait to share it!) On March 26th, I will be privileged and happy to see the first pre-release copies in the hands of the community that made Working Out Loud much more than just a book.

Celebrating 19 WOL meetups

If you are ever looking for a group of kind, generous, curious people, you can find them at a Working Out Loud meetup. There are now 19 of them in 3 countries with new ones being formed. (You can find a complete list at www.africanmango-slim.com/local-communities.)

Some groups are more than 500 people and some are a few dozen. The meetings are in venues ranging from restaurants to bank branches to corporate innovation centers. Yet as different as they are, they all have a wonderful positive energy about them.

It takes work by dedicated volunteers to organize, promote, and facilitate the events. Why would anyone go through all the trouble? Barbara Hilgert from Hamburg said it was about a feeling. Frustrated at the way some companies worked, she said, “I had to learn quickly that sharing is not appreciated in many organizations…so I soon stopped sharing.” She knew she had more to offer but wasn’t sure how to contribute. 

That‘s why it was like a kind of revelation when I came across “Working Out Loud.“ Within this community and this framework knowledge sharing is appreciated, and it gives me and my work sense again.

I started the Meetup in order to give this outstanding feeling to many, many more people around me, give them the chance to get to know your method and start feeling as I do. 

It’s that feeling—of increased confidence, of empowerment, of being able to contribute—that motivates the meetup organizers. As Connie Wu in Shanghai said, “People are Working Out Loud not just because we’re fans of the method, but because we’re hungry for a taste of what work could be like.”

Work can be better. We deserve it, the world needs it, and the WOL meetups are helping many more people experience it. I am inspired by—and grateful for—all of them. 

A fantastric group at a WOL Meetup in Stuttgart, also known as #WOL0711 (for their local area code)

A fantastric group at a WOL Meetup in Stuttgart, also known as #WOL0711 (for their local area code)

“The Small Group is the Unit of Transformation”

I can feel it in a WOL workshop, in a WOL meetup, or when I’m in a Circle. Not every time, of course, but most times. It happened two weeks ago in Hamburg and Berlin. It even happened on a video call, a kickoff of a new pilot we did yesterday. There’s a sense of possibility, of something bigger going on than just a few people talking. 

I struggled to describe this feeling until I read Community: The Structure of Belonging by Peter Block, and a chapter titled “The Small Group is the Unit of Transformation”:

“We change the world one room at a time. This room, today, becomes an example of the future we want to inhabit. There is no need to wait for the future.”

“The small group is the structure that allows every voice to be heard…. It provides the structure that enables people to overcome isolation and experience a sense of belonging.”

“The small group is therefore the bridge between our own individual existence and the larger community. In the small group discussion, we discover that our own concerns are more universal than we imagined. This discovery that we are not alone, that others can at least understand what is in our mind, if not agree with us, is what creates the feeling of belonging.

When this occurs in the same place and time, in the presence of a larger community, the collective possibility begins to take form and have legs. The small group, three of us talking in a room full of other small groups talking is a close-at-hand example of the larger life and world we want to inhabit. It is evidence in the moment that change is possible. 

“The power of the small group cannot be overemphasized.”

Will one Circle or group of Circles change much? Probably not. But as Peter Block writes, it’s a bridge, an opening of a kind. It gives people a chance to experience a different way - “an example of the future we want to inhabit.” That step makes other steps possible until, gradually, a path to something new emerges.

WOL Camp 2019 in Berlin

Where do you put priceless art?

My 11 year old social media adviser was pretty clear about what I needed to do. 

“Dad, you need an Instagram account.”

I was skeptical. I didn’t think of Working Out Loud as particularly visual, but then I remembered the wonderful photos people take of their circles. 

A circle selfie! I included this photo in the TEDx talk.

Displaying their books.

I believe this is Joyce Sullivan's garden. (She's featured in the book.)

The beautiful original artwork. 

This is in the book right after the introduction. It was drawn by Kazumi Koyama during one of my Early talks.

Even my own pictures of people, events, and working around the world.

In the Poets House in NYC, where I often write.

And thus was born the Working Out Loud account on Instagram (or “Insta” as my daughter refers to it). 

If you have an image you’d like to share with the community, send it to me via Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, or email. I’ll post an image to my Insta each day.

Being part of a community that cares enough to create and share such images is priceless. 

Thank you.