A driving rhythm

This morning, on my routine walk before work, I popped in my ear buds (popped not because it’s a jaunty word for placing them in my ears, but because these particular ones, my favorites, have small circles made of dark pink rubber that literally pop into place, an experience I find in and of itself motivating), and what should delight my ears but “Delirious,” by Prince. I enthusiastically dig in to my strides, feeling how fortuitous this song should come on to compliment the energy and spirit of this morning, my excitement about what’s ahead, to kick me into high gear, so to speak. I’m optimistic that whatever spirit guides that “random” selecting of songs for shuffle play on my iPhone is on my wavelength, holding out her own intention for my workout and my day.

So I’m a bit surprised when what follows is an old Ian and Sylvia song, “Down by the Willow Garden”. Ian and Sylvia are a folk duo from the 60s with earnest and resounding voices, whom I’ve listened to since I was young and played my parents’ even-then-old record albums. “Down by the Willow Garden” is a song in the voice of a young man who’s just murdered his date. He’s sad, but seems to offer no explanation or repentance; more a kind of bewildered observer’s account. “Spirit, where hast thou gone?” This morning, this tale feels to me like a metaphor for the self-destructiveness we all face.

But then, up again! “Sebastious” by Forro in the Dark—pulsing, playful, growly Brazilian dance music. It’s everything I can do not to stop walking and start dancing.

Soon, though, the risk of breaking out dance moves is gone because, oh my heart: Patty Griffin. “Faithful Son” is one that I don’t know as well, but I'm always moved by her soaring voice, her eloquent struggle with the contradictions life presents all of us. These words powered my steps with deep momentum:

I went to work, I worked all day
When I wanted to run, I stayed
I kept the promises I made
I kept the promises I made

As Johnny Cash’s “I Still Love Someone” came on, I started to wonder, what’s the algorithm here? What does the iTunes spirit (or really the software analyzing the elements of these songs that make them into a good listening stream) find as a commonality between these widly diverse songs? And it struck me: they all have a driving rhythm.

Like the daily rhythm of the life of the self-directed worker.

At Purpl, we believe in and foster the connection between creativity and productivity. And truly, as this fleeting playlist offered to me, art can both mirror and motivate life: the ups and downs we face; the diversity of our challenges and environments; the reflection it takes to experience, understand and persist; the inspiration and new perspective to learn and grow; and today, the drive we need to keep moving.

Coming around again

So here we are. Another summer ending. Another rotation of the globe, another turn around the “merry-go-round of time,” as Joni Mitchell puts it in her classic, “The Circle Game.”

This lyric has always struck me in its suggested limitation, in its apparent indication of a lack of progress; suggesting that we’re following the same path over and over again. Perhaps we gain new perspective in “looking behind from where we came,” and have age-appropriately different experiences, but fundamentally we’re always making the same trip.

In some ways this is effectively true. No matter how much we change, how much times change, how much “progress” we make, we are still just individual humans moving through the world and nature and time, which marches on.

But how do we square this version of the progression of time with the essential need for personal growth and progress that we necessarily must embody in order to be Self Led, to internalize the growth mindset, lifelong learning, the desire for growth and advancement inherently necessary in a current and future world of work with fewer jobs and more personal investment?

In David Yaffe’s biography of Joni Mitchell, he quotes that Joni as saying that she wrote “The Circle Game” for her friend Neil Young, who was depressed about the things he had left behind in youth and feeling bleak about the future, to offer some positive vision toward which to look forward.

Maybe we don’t leave the circle and forge a new path, but rather, our circle gets bigger, wider, deeper with perspective, more colorful with experience, more dug in with time.  And maybe, as the new movement toward regenerative culture sets forth, the goal is not simply to create something new or to simply sustain but to enhance, improve, strive for better and more positive with time.

What can you do to make year’s trip around the seasons more substantial, more meaningful, more satisfying and generative—whether for yourself, your family, your company, your community—than the one before?

Blurred Lines

What if our expectations about the proportion of our lives we spend on work are actually totally irrelevant to living a productive life? What if we are our work, blurred lines and all, and doing the dishes is part of meeting that deadline, quality time with family is integral to strategic planning, our personal goals part and parcel of our professional decisions, and vice versa? If this were true, how would you be living differently?


2017 was many things, many of them troubling or difficult. But it was also the year of #squad goals, defined by the Urban Dictionary as: an inspirational term for what you’d like your group of friends to be or accomplish.

Regardless of how you feel about social media or youth culture at the moment, I think we can all get behind this idea of community aspirations.

Here are Purpl, our aim has always been to be an incubator for people to build lives they’re passionate about. Much of this work happens through our facilitated shared workspace, where we work to not just provide a group office space, but to help grow connections between and among members, and foster persistence and resilience around our members’ chosen paths.

This year we conducted a survey to make sure we are achieving some of these goals. We’ll be publishing the results in a report in the coming months, but here are some quick insights:

o  90% of members who participated increased their social interaction by working at Purpl

o  75% of participants have made meaningful connections through their membership at Purpl

o  83% of respondents feel they have a support system in the Purpl staff

o  82% of respondents feel they have a support system in other members

o  67% of participants report having made progress on their professional goals since joining Purpl

o  92% of respondents would recommend Purpl to a friend or professional contact

More on that soon, but long story short, something’s working! In 2018, we will continue to strive for outcomes and impact for our members, program participants, and in our advocacy work beyond the local community. And we hope you’ll bring your goals and hopes for 2018 to our doors, and we can help make them a reality.

Meanwhile, our thanks for your engagement and support through the years, and here’s hoping for a beautiful holiday season—and that we each find the perfect song to rock the mic on New Year’s! #PurplSquadGoals :-)

Where are you heading?

"If you don't change direction, you may end up where you're heading."

This quote recently appeared on a calendar I was flipping through as I harriedly went about my daily business, feeling particularly under the gun and frenzied about preparing for a conversation later in the day. It stopped me in my tracks. Where was I headed? If I kept on going this way I would end up frantic, with a less than considered response and with an ultimate interaction void of intention and fueled by reaction. How could I change direction in this moment to improve my outcomes and end up someplace I actually wanted to be as opposed to the frustrated and underperforming spot I’d be in if I kept on this unconsidered path?

Our days are filled with interruptions, distractions, and other people's urgency. If we're not careful, we could spend all of our time only in reaction to those external demands, but where will that lead us—in the short-term and in the long-term?

Where are you heading? If it’s not where you want to be, maybe take a few minutes to think how you might change direction.

(If you need help, stop by for an inspiration session.)


This month, I thought I'd share some reflections from a recent learning experience. I'm always aware of our tendency to receive in the moment but lose of hold of our inspiration when the moment for action is ripe. This is about making sense of inspiration and motivation, reflecting on one's personal "swells" and using them to energize our work. Maybe it can prompt you to think about what you've been stirred by lately, and how you can act on that stirring today.

Today I felt the swell
It comes and it goes
Sometimes I manage it well
The heart-swell of passions stirred
The mind-swell of voices heard
The throat-swell of the unspoken word

Am I doing the best that I can?
Am I creating some wind with this fan?
Am I sticking it to the man?

I reach and I give
I trust and I live
But is it enough
Am I the right kind of tough?
What is the stuff
   of my power?
Each passing hour
Is a chance and a test
I strive and I rest
But is it enough?

Morning will break
Today in its wake
The earth will not quake
But still I will shake
With the movement of today

I’ll make my way
Thanks to you,
and you,
and you.

There's work to do.

What you can do in August

Allow your mind to wander to the big vision
Review the successes of the past year
Mine recent failures for their hidden gifts and lessons and take note
Read that book, article, or research you’ve been meaning to but didn’t have time for
Take long leisurely surfs through the internet looking for people, positions, or projects that inspire you
Plan your professional development for the coming year
Take field trips
Build relationships over coffee and walks in the park
Set budgets, goals, metrics, next steps
Send emails to people you’ve always wanted to connect with
This month can be slow for many of us, and a time of a forced—if not chosen—break from the grind. But it doesn’t have to be unproductive. Let your personal adventures fuel your professional reserve. Let the lines blur; look for connections, metaphors, possibilities, jumping off points in your lulls and free time.

Work doesn’t always have to be work.

What's on your horizon?

The other morning, as I was racing to get the kids out of the house for school and myself dressed, ready, and to my desk in order to tackle the long list of to-dos that awaited, I was feeling frenzied. My competent self was suppressed by a multi-layered haze—the fog of the urgent needs of the people in front of me, the cloud of concern about the tasks of the day, and finally a deep, floating ache for a horizon that wasn’t yet clear.I set off fora walk to clear my head for the day and make some plans, but I couldn’t shake the daze. So I gave myself a mantra: “taking care of business.” I thought that I could power through these feelings by setting an intention of practicality, and, for a bit, it worked. 

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What are you managing?

I’ve begun watching 13 Reasons Why, because I have middle school-aged kids, because I work with teens, and because I wanted to learn what the discussions center around and why it has taken such center stage. Besides the frightening and risky elements that have been widely discussed, I see something else I think we need to notice and react to as a society: the culture of secrecy and isolation that the teenagers in this show inhabit. And which, I venture to say, many of us, in fact, inhabit as well.

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To Design and Advocate

Those of you who frequent our website might have noticed that recently we made a shift to our mission. This is not a change that will alter what you see or experience in the space, but a shift that recognizes that these issues Purpl is working to address—of how we lead in the world of independent work, how we teach and facilitate for the competencies of self-direction and ownership, how we create social capital through shared learning journeys and dialogue—are fundamental to some of the biggest crises and issues our community is facing: a huge and growing population of free agents needing to grow and sustain their livelihoods; college retention rates nearing 50%; widespread employee disengagement; rapid job and career changes; rising anxiety and depression rates; the pandemic of loneliness, now the chief preventable health issue in the country. 

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