Don’t Hoard Your Self-Awareness

Posted by on 12:25 pm in Collective, Finding Your Mission, Strategy | 0 comments

It’s become a month of visioning within our community, from our current Collective small group to our large group experiences, folks are ready to stop “just plowing ahead” and want to find an intentional and guided path forward on their career journey.

And we love it.

If you’ve been around these parts long enough, you know that Flank 5 Academy is all about starting with self-awareness as a way to get to a vision, an ideal future, a way of working that is aligned with who you are – the stuff that yields that juicy long-term happiness (hint: you’ve got to have a higher purpose) versus the pleasure-inducing short-lived happiness (quick hits of success, accolades or experiences)

Self-awareness being shared at October's (RE)CONNECT event.

Self-awareness being shared at October’s (RE)CONNECT event. (Photo credit: Maureen Kennedy, Collective alumna)

But it’s not enough to be self-aware – and while journaling is a great place to start – the real clarity comes from sharing what you learn about your core ideology and your ideal future with others.

Chade-Meng Tau, Google engineer, self-described Jolly Good Fellow and co-founder of Google’s Search Inside Yourself Leadership Institute agrees: “Values and higher purpose are fairly abstract topics and the act of verbalizing them forces us to make them clearer and more tangible to ourselves.”

Getting clear is critical. To get started on your own vision, we invite you to start with a method Tau offers in his (charming and incredibly accessible) book, Search Inside Yourself. Start with the question, “What do I stand for?” What are those core values that drive you – that motivate you – that are non-negotiable in your work? Make a list. Check it twice, and check it against your activities day to day. If you value justice, how are you exhibiting this value on an average Tuesday?

And if you’re not, would you like to? How could you take it upon yourself to introduce it into your orbit?

Stanford’s Graduate School of Business offers great worksheets to take this a step further too.  

Once you’ve done some cataloguing, why not ask others – then – “What do I stand for?” See if there’s alignment – see if there’s something you might be missing, or if you’ve got too much on your list (a list of six is easier than a list of three). Share what you’ve come up with – and what ideas may spark as a result of sharing.

Once you’ve done this, you’re on your way to your ideal future (disclaimer: one with a higher purpose, not one where you’re happy all the time).

What Have You Always Wanted? + Idea Potluck

Posted by on 5:27 pm in Events, Finding Your Mission, Psychology | 0 comments

Last night, CEO Emily Drake got the opportunity to be a “dish” at Chicago’s infamous Idea Potluck monthly series, curated and hosted by Mac & Cheese Productions.

From their web site: “Idea Potluck is about ideas rather than food, bringing together a diverse array of pre-selected people who each get six minutes to share whatever they’d like to share. As an audience member, you sit back, absorb, and enjoy! You DO NOT present. Relaxed, fun way to meet others, learn, and be entertained.”

Look at all these cool DIshes? Click on the photo to learn ALL about them. (Photo Credit: Mac & Cheese Productions)

Look at all these cool Dishes? Click on the photo to learn ALL about them. (Photo credit: Mac & Cheese Productions)

So many people in the Flank 5 Academy orbit are looking for community in the career, or as leaders – as high-achievers redefining success. We’re passionate about that pursuit and asking the tough questions.  Click above to hear Emily’s share, where she asks:

“What have you always wanted? Give yourself the gift – whatever it is. What are you waiting for?”

Emily’s answer looks something like this, and arrives in time for Halloween:

Cue the awe. Photo credit: Dutch Acres Labradors.

Cue the awe. Photo credit: Dutch Acres Labradors.

We often procrastinate that which does not have a deadline – and that which we want most. Because it’s big – on risk and possibility. So that you’ve always wanted something and don’t have it is OK, and it may be just there on the other side of fear.

If you want to get inspired and meet incredibly cool people, register here to attend the last Idea Potluck of the year on October 18!

Why We Need Permission

Posted by on 2:51 pm in Uncategorized | 0 comments


It’s been proven: People are happier after making a major change.

And yet, the list of “things you’ve always wanted to do” (i.e. the major changes) tends to be much longer than the “things you’ve done.” The NY Times’ Carl Richards calls this The Permission Gap.

In the context of career, we believe this correlates strongly with the things you choose to do (i.e. “I’m going to quit my job and use my time to get reconnected to who I am and find a great fit”) versus the things that happen to you (i.e. “The phone rang, and the job was more money and a better title, so I took it!”). The choices are MUCH scarier than having “permission granted” to make a change.

So what’s the hold up? Fear, you say? Absolutely! Terror even. But, according to Dr. Steven Levitt, co-author of Freakonomics, “People who aren’t sure about uprooting their lives probably should. As a basic rule of thumb, people are too cautious when it comes to making change.”

We talk a lot about this caution in The Collective. And last week we addressed the idea of how much easier it is to make a change when you get permission – from someone else and better still, from yourself. Everyone came to the room telling each other, “I need permission to focus on myself” or “I need permission to say no to a client.” Permission was granted freely by the group; we were delighted, in fact, to give it. . . but that may only be where it starts.”

As leaders and in our careers the stakes are even higher.

Richards says, “Seeking approval and external validation is part of the human experience, but when it comes to making a big life change, they can be hard to find. . . if you get bogged down looking for that affirmation to make a change, you may never make it.” Beth Comstock, Vice Chairwoman of G.E. recently shared the same sentiment.

So, the magic wands at Flank 5 Academy are happy to give you permission – to quit your job, ask for a promotion, step out into the world of freelancing – but really, we’re waiting on you. . . to give yourself the same gift. You deserve it, we and Richards say!

Yes, there’s fear – that won’t change – but consider, what else are you waiting on?

#CollectiveWisdom: Say Yes. Respond. Act. + Maureen Kennedy

Posted by on 9:59 pm in Uncategorized | 0 comments

Maureen Kennedy is a brand and interactive marketing leader and proud risk-taker. She is also a current member of The Collective. You can learn more about her via LinkedIn.Maureen Kennedy Headshot

Dateline: Chicago.  August 15.

Off the SidelinesThe Young Feminist Conference

@otschicago #YFC2016 #OTSCHICAGO

Last week I said YES! to the pursuit of an opportunity to attend a conference. The conference was aligned with my values. I knew one other person that would be attending. Others were attending that I had identified as people to connect with.

The conference was full: no matter! I found a way and got on the list.

Then. . . I started talking to myself.

UGH!  Another networking opportunity.”

I dread the prospect. We’ve all been there. You do the pre-work checking out the subject matter, who’s speaking, plenty of business cards, sincere smile in place, small-talk ready, blah blah blah.

I wanted a different approach.

So my critical question during the The Collective last week was: “What has worked best for you in networking situations?”

The answers: Have an agenda, but be open. . . align mission with a business goal. Look for inspirations. Be available. Others’ passion will guide you. Stay tuned in to your energy. Energy will feed you. When you make the connection: Follow-up – right away. Tweet. Retweet. Follow. Demonstrate passion, sincerity.

Armed with great advice I was ready to RESPOND!

With my mind open and authentic self at the ready I arrived at #YFC2016. Getting off the elevator, I immediately heard my name called out in greeting by the key organizer of the conference AND the main person I wanted to connect with. I’m convinced this would not have happened without a little pre-work. A little pre-work goes a long way.

Throughout the morning I met incredible women doing incredible work. I asked for and scheduled a meeting with Ce Cole Dillon the co-founder of Student Loan 411, LLC, a recent startup providing a unique solution to student loan debt. RESPOND.

I reconnected with a former colleague I hadn’t seen in more than 10 years. YES! Who knew?

The action is ongoing even days later. I’ve connected through emails, LinkedIn, following, liking, retweeting. I am creating opportunity and “networking” differently, with a focus on ACT.

The next big ACT is getting on the calendar of Cook County Commissioner, 10th District and Off the Sidelines Founder, Bridget Gainer, about her passion around re-booting our neighborhoods and mine for reclaiming used spaces connect.

I’m on a roll. My new mantra is:  Passion will guide you. Energy will feed you.

Repair Your Relationship with Time

Posted by on 6:18 am in Finding Your Mission, Psychology | 0 comments

One of our favorite podcasts is The Accidental Creative, hosted by author Todd Henry and billed as sharing how to “build practical, everyday practices that help you stay prolific, brilliant and healthy in life and work.”


(Prolific is a great word.)

One of Todd’s recent AC episodes offers a way to tell Your Time Story and starts with the question, “What’s your relationship to time?” We are willing to bet it’s one of three answers:

+ I don’t have enough of it.

+ I don’t have enough of it and I don’t use it wisely.

+ I don’t have enough of it, I don’t use it wisely, and I feel lousy about that.

Do you have another comma you would add?

Of course, other than money – the most popular “why I can’t” answer when we talk about hopes and dreams in our career and leadership programs – time is the asset we’re all tortured by and don’t have enough of.

But, as we think of our “body of work” versus the next job; our legacy versus our year-end numbers; are we running out of time as fast as we think? Part of what Todd posits is that we aren’t, and instead we are suffering from “being increasing efficient at doing decreasingly effective things.”

Let that sink in. We have plenty of time, but we are wasting it (see #2).

A TED Talk we fell in love with earlier this year, Inside the Mind of a Master Procrastinator, offered a similar lens: that humans put off that which isn’t deadline-driven and, in fact, those things are probably the most important: the skill you’ve been hoping (or needing) to build, the relationships you haven’t tended to, the stuff that creates excellence and expertise – and becomes what you are known for.

Instead, we fall victim to the “ping” as Todd calls it – the experience that we should be doing something other than we’re doing. We should be working, instead of taking time off to restore (and data proves why we need this – NEED not want). We should really check our Twitter feed or see if any email came in since we last checked five minutes ago.

We hear a lot of leaders praising themselves for being able to focus on a lot of things. And we hear a lot of leaders lamenting that they aren’t expert in anything.

The trade-off Todd states, and the urgency around paying attention to those long-term investments like skills and relationships, is we either:

+ Live out our career calling

+ Live out our career compromising

We choose calling.  Let’s all choose calling.

#CollectiveWisdom: Stop Thinking and Do + Rebecca Lakin

Posted by on 10:36 am in Collective, Psychology, Strategy | 0 comments

Becca LakinRebecca is an alumna of The Collective and the founder and principal of Rebecca Lakin Consulting. She helps help companies navigate their business and risk landscape through in-depth research, translating the data into actionable plans and solutions, and managing the resulting plans from start to finish. You can find more of her wisdom and aspirations on LinkedIn.

I’m more motivated to do something when that something impacts others. When it came to making a career change, it initially seemed like something that only impacted me – it’s my life, it’s my career. My motivation stayed pretty low in this mindset, even though the desire to change was high.

I knew I needed to do something different and thought about it all the time, but I struggled to motivate myself to act.

That’s where the Collective came into play. It turns out my career doesn’t just impact me – it impacts how I interact with friends, families and even the people I accidentally bump into on the sidewalk. I was consumed with my own thoughts about my job.  But it’s not all about me; I wasn’t alone in needing to make a change and needed others to help me get and stay motivated.

To make a career change, you have to get out of your own head and act.

With the support and encouragement of my fellow “Collectivists,” I did just that. After only one meeting with The Collective, I started making the change – in small steps.

I didn’t quit my job right away.  I did begin to change my mindset, first, and set aside time to discover what it is I wanted to be doing and in what environment I wanted to be doing that work in.

The small steps I took included:

  • Set a time for working on career “discovery.” Every work day from 5 – 6 a.m., I worked on defining my career; what I wanted to get from it and what I want others to get from my work.
  • . . like crazy. This started with coffee meetings with old connections and lunches with those in my current network. I then moved to meetings with connections of connections and cold emails to people with jobs that could be a good for me.
  • Read and listen to inspiring things. To get you started, here are two of my favorites: The Accidental Creative podcast or Adam Grant’s Give or Take.
  • Write down everything. By writing or tracking it, you can start to discover the trends that might point to a direction you could take your career. To get the things to write down, I took a tip from a fellow Collectivist and created a “pie chart” of my career skills and attributes. I also read the old favorite What Color Is Your Parachute to help guide me through the discovery phase of the career path journey.

With a three-month process of discovery, I took action and quit to focus on finding the job that fits what I discovered in my process.  Without The Collective, I wouldn’t have been able to take that action.

About The Collective

A career and leadership journey is not meant to be a solo endeavor. The most fulfilling careers are built in community, with a personal board of advisors involved – asking critical questions, providing affirmation and applying pressure where needed to help you be brave, bold and inch toward mastery. The Collective is a ready-made board of advisors, led by a trained facilitator, that delivers engaging and intelligent career development strategy in a small group coaching format. Become a member of The Collective.

So Long, Perfectionism + Better Leaders Better Schools

Posted by on 9:34 pm in Uncategorized | 0 comments

Screen Shot 2016-07-13 at 9.23.38 PM

CEO Emily Drake recently joined host Daniel Bauer for an episode of his Better Leaders Better Schools podcast. Daniel is an incredible entrepreneur, high school administrator, and social media guru. They had a blast talking about:

+ Community building

+ How to be a part of the solution

+ The power of possibility

+ Micro-movements and celebration in our career journeys

+ How to push through fear and take action

+ Ask yourself, “What could be?”

+ Get out of the perfectionist box

+ The power of failing fast

+ Learn some great interview questions AND how to facilitate a great interview

+ Why emotional intelligence matters

If you like what you hear, every episode of Daniel’s podcast offers insights into how leaders in all industries are making an impact. You can hear our co-founder Eric Connor on a previous episode of Better Leaders Better Schools all about putting yourself first.

#CollectiveWisdom: Mindset Matters + Carole Andrew

Posted by on 6:00 am in Uncategorized | 0 comments

Carole Andrew is an alumna of the Collective. You can find her on LinkedIn or plotting her next international travel adventure.


I thought I knew what mindset was and why it’s important for how we move in the world. In fact, I felt confident that I had the “right one” – so confident that it never occurred to me to stop and take a critical look at how I approach obstacles and effort, and how my mindset shapes my actions and outcomes as I evolve in my career journey.

When I joined The Collective, I wasn’t sure what to expect, let alone what I would contribute. However, I knew I would be surrounded by a group of goal-oriented professionals with a desire to achieve the “right more” in their personal and professional lives. Being in community and having an ability to network and learn from each other was what I craved while in the midst of a career relaunch.

After taking a career break for several years to raise my children, I knew that things had changed in the world of work. This awareness helped me to know that I needed to travel this next stage with “seekers” of career and personal fulfillment. In community, I would stay focused on my goals.

I also knew I wanted a challenge, something I missed about working, and the wisdom and experiences I gained access to as part of The Collective was powerful.

One of the books we explored during my membership experience was Mindset by Carol Dweck, one of the world’s leading researchers in the field of motivation and a professor of psychology at Stanford University. She discusses the difference between:

+ Fixed mindset (i.e. intelligence is static, leads to a desire to “look smart” and thus avoid challenges)

+ Growth mindset (i.e. intelligence can be developed, leads to a desire to learn and embrace challenges)

I quickly realized through our weekly group sessions that I’d developed a fixed mindset over the years –  one that was going to limit my pursuit of meaningful next steps on my career journey.

Involving others in my process, including the members of the Collective, got me reconnected with what I’ve always known to be true about myself: I thrive on learning new things and growing through different experiences.

Until this year, I hadn’t fully realized how much I gain when surrounded by trusted advisors who will support me, ask me tough questions, and hold me accountable.

My growth mindset really began to flourish in this setting and yielded a lot of new activity and ideas for my relaunch journey.

Seeking out challenge to think in new ways about issues, to seek input and listen intentionally, to take action and course correct as needed, and to “shock the system” when you’re stuck is something I plan to continue as I transition to the next chapter of my career. The stakes of staying in a fixed mindset are high, and it’s been empowering to realize that fixed mindset is no longer congruent for the story I want to tell.

About The Collective

A career and leadership journey is not meant to be a solo endeavor. The most fulfilling careers are built in community, with a personal board of advisors involved – asking critical questions, providing affirmation and applying pressure where needed to help you be brave, bold and inch toward mastery. The Collective is a ready-made board of advisors, led by a trained facilitator, that delivers engaging and intelligent career development strategy in a small group coaching format. Become a member of The Collective.

The Confusion of Calling

Posted by on 6:00 am in Psychology, Strategy | 0 comments

What makes work meaningful for us? What does it mean to “have a calling?”

This was the central question at this year’s National Career Development Association conference held in Chicago last week. Of course, the topic had our ears perk up: we’re obsessed with helping clients to find, and put action toward, meaning, fulfillment and purpose on their career journeys – not just the next job.

According to the latest research out of Purdue University, University of Florida and University of Bern, there’s a big difference between having a calling and living out your calling. If we pay attention to our own day-to-day experience, we can sometimes notice that we feel “called” to something – we can get connected to “what lights us up” – but to live it out is something entirely different.


Professor Andreas Hirschi noted that those of us who are privileged enough (and it’s important to note the privilege part!) to live out our calling are more likely to work in resource-rich environments, that include a fair dose of autonomy, significance and support.

It’s hard to say which comes first: working within our calling or getting warmer toward it? Or the environment in which we work being an incubator and encourager of our calling?

One thing that appears certain: if you have a calling and you don’t take action on it, it’s not necessarily benign. In fact, your satisfaction in life is directly correlated. This reminds us of Dr. Brené Brown’s assertion that unused creativity is not benign either.

Another thing, according to researcher Kelsey Autin at University of Florida?

Helping others as a source of meaning in work is most common, regardless of the type of work you’re doing.

And finally, a great quote from Professor Blake Allan at Purdue University:

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We invite you, always, to consider micro ways to get on a path toward your calling – and discovering it in community.

#CollectiveWisdom – I’m a “Quitter” + Kirsten Ramos

Posted by on 6:00 am in Uncategorized | 1 comment

#CollectiveWisdom: I’m a “Quitter”

Kirsten Ramos is an alumna of The Collective and is open to discussing future possibilities. You can follow her on Twitter at @KRamos25 or via LinkedIn for more wisdom.

haa_cnvr-9016Let me preface the title by saying that I have worked nearly nonstop since I was 16 years old. When I joined The Collective several months ago, I walked in announcing that I was resigning the following day.

On my last day of The Collective (a mere three months later), I announced I had already resigned from my new job.

Why, you may ask? It is simple. I made a mistake. It wasn’t what I thought it would be and I felt I had exhausted my own energies trying to make it work.

I am not advocating for everyone to read this and walk into their place of business tomorrow and quit. What I am doing may not work for everyone.

What I realized through my “Collective” journey is that it is okay to leave a role you just started – even if it is under three months. There is no written rule that says, “Hey, I know you are miserable and things are not getting better, but you need to stay for a year.”

I didn’t take my decision to quit lightly. I reached out to trusted advisors and utilized my fellow “Collectivists” to run things by the group during Critical Question sharing. Overwhelmingly, from family, my mentor and The Collective – the answer I already knew became the response I received from all facets of my network: it was time to leave.

Since the time of my decision, and as I sit here with the terror of being “unemployed”, there is also a calm, and an excitement as to what is next for me.

So what is next? I am not sure. I am taking some time for myself, for my health, to reconnect with my family, to write, to create, to evolve and to dream.

About The Collective

A career and leadership journey is not meant to be a solo endeavor. The most fulfilling careers are built in community, with a personal board of advisors involved – asking critical questions, providing affirmation and applying pressure where needed to help you be brave, bold and inch toward mastery. The Collective is a ready-made board of advisors, led by a trained facilitator, that delivers engaging and intelligent career development strategy in a small group coaching format. Become a member of The Collective.