At the end of 2019 I began to watch my life fall apart. Some of it was my fault, but I’m not sure how I could have made different decisions at the time they were necessary. If I had known I was simply at the forefront of the world falling apart for everyone I might have been less dramatic about the changes at the start of it. In the span of a year I watched my design practice meet more successive obstacles than I could surmount, some societal, some political, some economic, some my own energy levels. Then covid happened shutting down my ability to invest in forward momentum. In the midst of covid, my studio flooded and I lost a decade of work. Our house was being gentrified and my partner of over 20 years and I had to decide what our next step was anyway and we decided it was in a different directions. I was experiencing the stresses of our society from every angle, while holding space for the challenges of the interpersonal, and watching my creative light dim. The best advice I received was in knowing that if there was ever a time to push pause and disappear it was during 2020-2021, so I did. I let everything go in order to hold on to myself, and if was meant for me, it would hold on tight. I may not have faith in the world, but my process has shown me a bulletproof faith in myself.
We’re currently living in a society that’s struggling with its ability to get it together post-pandemic. I get it, we’ve been living in progressively dystopian conditions. Collectively, we’re coming off four years of a chronic panic-attack from a disaster of a presidential term with a blatant attack on our democracy, to immediately getting thrown into the void of covid-isolation for over two years. If that wasn’t hard enough on the human psyche, we top all of that with the looming threats of nuclear war, climate change without corporate accountability, and a constant attack on human rights from as high as the Supreme Court. That's not enough though, so throw in massive layoffs, and a looming recession amidst inflation, because why not!? It’s easy to see where movements like BLM, cancel culture, the great resignation, and quiet quitting have taken hold on our society after all the abuses that’ve happened. The system as we know it isn’t broken, it’s doing what it was designed to do, make a few people at the top profit at the expense of the people who have no choice but to participate in propping it up. More people are aware now of how capitalism works than ever before and are experiencing it with their lives. I’ve always been contrarian to much of our societal constructs so watching it fall to its knees doesn’t scare me as much as it inspires me to create something new.
I spent a decade of my career defining and strategizing within spaces that understand the systemic issues associated with our society. I became known as someone who would take a knife to the fragile underbelly of male ego and gut it in public. I even climbed to the top of the design world with my rhetoric as a change-maker moving through spaces from community to corporate, running sessions discussing the practices and philosophies required to change our world for the better. I’ve had the good fortune to have facilitated workshops to some of the top creative talent in the world. I was being given the opportunity to wipe the slate clean and start over with everything I’d learned since I started this journey. A sudden free pass to tap out calmed my anxiety and centered my purpose.
Social impact is a field specializing in change. Changes of behavior. Changes of policy. Changes of language. Changes of infrastructure. Changes in energy usage. The whole field of practice is the study of what it means to inspire humans to change. So instead of fighting it, I practiced what I teach, and I let it all go to embrace the chaos. I let go of my expectations of myself, because I have repeatedly proven that I’m capable of anything I want to do, I just need to know what that is. I let go of the expectations others had of me, because I hold myself to a high enough of a standard. Covid allowed for relationships to fall where they may. If a connection was strong enough to begin with, I knew our hearts would find their way back to one another. I began imagining my new studio. I began writing the next chapter of my life. I spent three years taking everything that came before to envision it as something fresh and integrated. I used my process with design strategy and identity design to re-design my entire life. Confidence came from knowing I created my world once using these methods and I could do it again. The design process teaches us the next iteration should be even better. I’ve learned so much between the time founding my studio and the time I literally set it on fire to manage the flooding aftermath that I wasn’t the person or designer I was when I started. Taking this step was essential for growth.
I took the time to reconnect to the values that have been central to the Lenspeace identity; illuminating dark spaces with truth, centering communication from the heart, and investing in community. Lenspeace has always been a brand of vulnerability and resilience — two human qualities that come from the best of us in the worst of times. I know what it means to come from nothing, with no self-worth because of abuse and poverty, and to build confidence brick by brick. I have found in my years of doing this work that self-development fields are riddled with supremacy philosophies and gaslighting. They offer privileged platitudes and prescriptive methods rooted in bias as life practices, but often fail to offer practical tools to be independently empowered over your mindset shift and your own daily grind.
I keep getting pushed to continue to use my talents to deconstruct the world as it is, especially for large organizations that don’t have their finger on the pulse of sociocultural reality anymore. However, I don’t want to continue to spend my career speaking about what I’m fighting against instead of focusing my energy on what I am standing for. There’s a difference in tone that comes with this reframing. I’ve spent a lot of time trying to find a need that I can uniquely fill, and I’ve come to learn it’s in helping people understand how to change. So many people and organizations discuss the core what and why of change, what about HOW to do, “the work of change.” Framing the problem is only the first step of awareness. Being accountable for our impact and changing our personal and professional practice is the point.
Even when we can’t change the whole world, we can change our world, and all change starts with us anyway. How do you get your brain to see your life differently? How do you get that same mind to speak to itself kindly? How do you process the intensity of your heart and hold space for healing trauma? Considering collective trauma, how do we open to new levels of vulnerability so we can truly experience the human connection we crave? How do we stop hating ourselves to root ourselves in self-love? How do we stop self-sabotage and become masters over our choices and accountable to our actions? How do we find our alignment with the world so that we can pursue things we love and make a living at them if we choose to? How do we transition ourselves from a system designed to oppress and exploit in order to embrace our own autonomy and collective creative potential? HOW is the question I most want to answer. How do we get from where we are now to where we could be if we tried.
Lots of practices approach the subject of the human condition, but few address the complexity of a life rooted in a soulless capitalism with rampant socioeconomic disparity, and the psychological disenfranchisement that comes with being a “marginalized identity.” I’ve found in my practice of social impact that so much emphasis is put on burning down the status quo that we often don’t put enough emphasis on what it means to be someone rising from the ashes.
As I come out of a three-year hiatus with my own work and personal burnout churning against the world, I’m putting my attention here first. I've proven to myself over and over again that the process works and anyone can do it. I've gone from losing everything to having it all. I'm healthy according to my doctor, in a loving and joyful relationship with my new partner and lifelong friend, and my studio is being rebuilt to be even better than before. My series of work, Strategies To Get Your Shit Together, is my process for going from burnout to brilliant. I like to think of it as a masterclass in taking your power back from bullshit and chaos. It’s a collection of strategic exercises stemming from a range of professional practices that I’ve been collecting over the last 20 years and have morphed into my own practical magic. They’ve repeatedly proven themselves in getting me from zero to hero. If this process can help anyone else reclaim their power from life, I’m simply excited to get to share some of it with you. I plan to keep developing this body of work to expand on the core ideas and practices that have brought health and well-being to my life and my community when the odds were against me.