After 11 years writing lengthy end-of-year missives, we are taking a break this year, which will save you several hours of reading, following links, watching videos, etc. But we love the tradition, and we haven’t disappeared!
2018 in a nutshell…
April here: I clocked far fewer miles, but took a far bigger and deeper journey internally. I completed my yoga teacher training (25 hours/week in the studio for 10 weeks; a life dream) which helped me crack open new ideas, gain new insights about my Self, and finally have time to breathe oxygen into longer-term goals. While my advisory work continues, I began to shift my focus more towards public speaking. The more keynotes I give, the more I want to deliver — and I truly love doing so. Still focused on the new (sharing, collaborative, on-demand, gig) economy and the future of work, with an emerging kicker of “citizenship” (an incomplete term; who do we tell ourselves that we are — as individuals, leaders, companies — and why?) Travel was enough to stay curious, at a more mellow pace: Mexico, Italy, Portugal, Mallorca, Malaysia and all four corners of the USA. Special trips and time for family, friends and reflection. Heading into 2019, I am focused on building my speaking portfolio and platform and — finally — writing my first book!
If you’d like to hear from me periodically, please sign up to my newsletter where I share top-of-mind ideas, inspirations and insights. (This year’s travels are there, if not here…)
Jerry here: For the first 10 months of 2018, my life was exponential — almost literally. I was the Chief Architect of the ExO (Exponential Organizations) Foundation and gave multiple “disrupt” speeches for ExO Sprints, which are 10-week corporate workshops that help them implement exponential initiatives. In the middle of all that, I gave the opening keynote at the Personal Democracy Forum about — what else? — trust. Then the exponential orgs restructured and I shifted to publishing the ideas that have spilled out of my quest into trust, and sparking a community of practice around it all.
Together: We continue to love the Pacific NW. Our quest to explore more of our backyard was partly met, as we spent time in Seattle, Olympic National Park, and Vancouver BC during the course of the year. These adventures left us yearning to explore what’s nearby even more… with passports always close at hand, too.
Wishing you a wonderful wrap to 2018, and as for 2019: bring it on!
TL;DR version: 2017 has been a whopper year, even without the politics, hurricanes and wildfires. Our love affair with Portland (and, trying to avoid sounding sappy, our love for each other) continue to deepen. April traveled about two-thirds as many miles as in 2016, but still managed two trips to Africa, six trips to Europe, two trips to Asia, two trips to Latin America, one trip to the Middle East, a smattering of domestic trips and her 100th+ country. Jerry didn’t travel as many miles, but he did find his way to three big projects that resonate wonderfully with the ideas he’s been generating for the last two decades. We enjoyed a family reunion in Arizona, the midnight sun in Finland, and our Pacific Northwest backyard. We expanded our portfolios, prototyped, worked a lot, played as much as we could, and are ready to lean into 2018.
2017 began quietly. We were mostly at home, suffering from typical winter colds and the like. In January we spent a week in Laguna Beach (which has become a sort of tradition every three years, when Jerry teaches a class there). April hopped up to Seattle and down to SF for a couple days each, kicked off a few advisory relationships, and gave a speech on the new economy, sustainability and the energy sector in Trondheim, Norway at the end of the month. The days were short but cozy.
February continued the trend, as April was home the entire month, a feat that would not be repeated the rest of the year. (Quiet time is treasured; it’s when we do the thinking, mindmelding and creating that power everything else.) We painted our loft: it is just one big room, so we had fun and chose four colors. In the first quarter of the year, Jerry had an engagement with the Institute for the Future to help design and facilitate a client workshop in Dallas three times, which also involved some prep travel to IFTF in Palo Alto. The workshop was so tech-futures focused that Jerry had to “reinstall” his brain from the 90s, when he covered things like neural networks and virtual reality.
In early March, we took a long weekend getaway to the nearby Willamette Valley. We explored the towns around Salem, a Benedictine abbey, took a magical hike at Silver Falls national park, and of course explored some of
the 500+ wineries. (Did you know that the Willamette Valley has more wineries than Napa? But without the commercial hype, as most remain small, family-owned and cooperative. Shhhh, don’t tell anyone!) The morning of our Silver Falls hike, Jerry awoke to find his right big toe red and swollen, but no signs of a bug bite. He ignored it for a few days until it interfered with walking; after a clinic visit, antibiotics took their full 72 hours to work their magic and the toe to resume its normal appearance, just in time for Jerry to board his flight for the second Dallas workshop. The next weekend, April ran her first half-marathon in more than 10 years. She didn’t train, didn’t have a pacing watch, just ran her heart out and clocked 1:42. This inspired her to run more — Portland is perfect for that.
Okay, that was the slow part of 2017. The rest of the year was a bit more intense, interesting, and thankfully had more direct and positive impact on the world. Buckle up, here we go!
Towards the end of March, April headed south to Argentina. The main purpose of the trip was the annual YGL summit, this year in Buenos Aires, though she joined a pre-trip to Salta (the northernmost province of the country) which was a huge highlight. She and 10 other YGLs explored the Quebrada de Cafayate, the town of Cafayate (think ramshackle Sonoma),
Purmamarca with its famous Seven Color Hills, and the enormous Salinas Grandes salt flats. The scenery was extraordinary — reminiscent of a combination of the Grand Canyon, Utah and Australia, yet entirely its own. Moreover, Jerry spent a summer working in Jujuy (another town in Salta) when he was in college, so it was a fun trip down memory lane by association.
Back in Buenos Aires, there were a couple of days to explore Palermo and its delightful, hipster boutiques as well as gems like El Ateneo Grand Splendid (a classical theater transformed into a bookstore). The summit was intense and inspiring, with lessons on leadership through tango, learning about Argentine education innovation with the education minister (and fellow YGL), and connecting with YGLs from around the world who constantly remind us of what is possible — if we are committed to try — and encourage us to stretch beyond ourselves.
Returning to the northern hemisphere, we quickly packed our bags and headed to Boulder, Colorado for the week-long Conference on World Affairs (CWA), to which we had both been invited as speakers. We loved it. CWA is basically a university-wide bonanza of panels and sessions on a range of international issues. Jerry spoke about infrastructure, innovation, technology and the politics of immigration; two of the panels were in Spanish and German (he’s fluent). April’s sessions focused on innovation and economic development, though she also joined a panel
on constitutional and criminal law reform. We stayed with family friends, and are grateful to have been able to combine personal and professional benefits for a truly memorable time. From Colorado, Jerry went to Dallas for the third and last workshop. Here’s a pic of the happy crew at the end of the series.
While Jerry was in Texas, April departed on her first round-the-world adventure of the year. It was 80% business, 20% personal retreat, and 100% wonderful. First stop: the tiny oasis of Haramara, on the Mexican coast. April has finally figured out that she likes yoga (better late than never!) and has found a perfect fit with YoYoYogi in Portland. YoYo is a family-run studio that focuses as much on yoga’s spiritual and community outreach aspects as on the physical practice. They host one retreat each year, and this year was Haramara. For eight days life was yoga, dharma talks, breathwork, healthy food and lots of sleep. She basically realized how yoga — holistically — is a missing, valuable piece of life. More on this later!
From Mexico it was a world (and two days’ travel) away to Bangkok, for a keynote on the future of work, travel and tourism. The summit was fantastic and confirmed how much April enjoys advising travel-related stakeholders. She had a day to catch up with longtime B&R guiding friends who live there now, get a taste of local neighborhood life, and learn about the Bangkok’s fascination with ghosts. Who would have guessed that ghosts’ preferred beverage is strawberry Fanta?!
While April was in Bangkok, Jerry flew to London to facilitate a different workshop, this time a one-day customer experience journey for a pharma company, courtesy of Ziba Design, the firm where Jerry is a Resident (six blocks from home, with the cool lobby below). It was a chance for Jerry to see consumer marketing from pretty deep inside the beast, which was as instructive as it was disheartening.
From Bangkok April had a relatively quick hop to South Africa (seriously, look at the map: 12 hours from SE Asia, or 30 hours from Portland!), where she spent the next two weeks. Her first stop was Durban, for the WEF regional summit on Africa, where she participated in several sessions on the new economy and future of work. From there it was off to Johannesburg and Cape Town, with the mandate of “landscaping” the country’s sharing economy: what does it look like? What do people think about it (if they have heard the term at all)? How might the sharing economy be harnessed most responsibly and to enable more inclusive growth? It was a fascinating engagement that also underscored how much she enjoys building bridges, finding common ground, and cross-pollinating ideas around the world. Bonus: on her final day, she was able to run the Cape Town half marathon and take in the city’s most famous sights en route!
While April was criss-crossing the south of Africa, Jerry headed to Phoenix for the first-ever reunion of people who used to host and attend PC Forum, which was the “it” conference for startups back in the 80s and 90s. It was like old times, only everyone a bit grayer: Esther Dyson (who owned the conference and the newsletter that Jerry wrote) interviewed Eric Schmidt (who just stepped down as Google/Alphabet’s chairman) in front of the group. We all reminisced about companies and trends long forgotten. What? We haven’t always had smartphones and the Web?
The same month, Jerry began an involvement that blossomed wonderfully through the rest of 2017 and is now a major project of his. It began when Salim Ismail, an old friend and entrepreneur, asked if Jerry would be interested in learning more about the consulting companies that he was forming out of the business success of his book, Exponential Organizations (watch this talk of Salim’s). That led to a trip to Madrid to learn the “sprint” process they had developed alongside 35 peers, and later to a five-week virtual sprint that led to a certification in the process. But Jerry’s role isn’t as a consultant in the “ExO” (Exponential Organization) network. To learn more, you’ll just have to read along :)
From Cape Town, April flew to New York City. From Phoenix, Jerry flew to… New York City! Hurray! We enjoyed a week together in the Big Apple, with Jerry attending events at the United Nations (with ExO) and April speaking at the Sharing Cities Summit (hosted by NYC, with some 20-ish cities from around the world). We were both pretty exhausted by then, but glad to be reunited. Four weeks is waaaay too long to be apart.
Finally, we left NYC and went home to Portland. A few days later, April’s Italian sister Jessica came to visit from Aspen for Memorial Day weekend. It was our first time playing Portland tour guides and it went well: bicycle riding along the Willamette River and up to the Japanese Garden, hiking to the Pittock Mansion, strolling around the Pearl, the Kennedy School, and more types of beer than we typically drink in a month.
No sooner than Jessica departed than April left again, this time for Spain. She spent three days at a futurist think tank in Madrid. It was fun to be in the audience for once, rather than leading the workshop! She caught a quick visit to the Museo Thyssen Bornemisza as well, which now ranks among her favorite small museums in the world (plus none of the Prado lines). We then enjoyed a brief respite at home, the onset of Portland’s rose garden season, and our 10th anniversary (of meeting, not marriage — yet). April hopped to San Francisco for the kickoff of a Future of Work series that she is advising. Meanwhile, Jerry began a big rethink of how he’s doing what he wants to do in life, inspired by a website called Patreon.
You likely know about Kickstarter, a wonderful way to crowdfund projects like albums, software, inventions and more. But Kickstarter is for one-time campaigns. Patreon is for patronage, for ongoing support. Patreon “creators” are out there publishing video explanations, investigative articles, podcasts and other creative things. Once Jerry realized this was a perfect way to back his quest, he had to articulate that quest, which then helped him realize that his work revolves around trust. It also led him to turn his REX group inside-out, making it much more public. See the results here. New backers warmly welcome!
Having caught our breath, albeit briefly, it was time for our biennial family reunion. The 2017 edition was held in Flagstaff, Arizona. We flew into Phoenix and headed north, only to be stranded for several hours by wildfire that jumped the interstate. With flames behind us, we made it north to celebrate with cousins, aunts, uncles and 13 grandchildren. It was hot, rambunctious, and fun.
From the desert, it was time for tundra… and a couple days after Flagstaff, we went to Finland. April had been invited to the European Business Leaders’ Convention as a new generation leader; Jerry was asked to join the summit too. We had a lovely time at the Kalastajatorppa retreat, in discussions with Nordic leaders while the sun shone 22 hours per day (notwithstanding quite a few clouds). We went jogging around Seurasaari Island — a treasure nearly frozen in time — and then had a half-day to stroll around Helsinki, including the Kammpi Chapel of Silence, harbor, Parliament Square, Kaivopuisto park and Ullanlinna neighborhood where we stayed.
We’re now halfway through the year. The second half was definitely more full than the first. Still with us?
We weren’t going to come all the way to Finland without going to Estonia too, so from Helsinki we boarded a ferry to Tallinn. April spent the next several days with the Jobbatical team, and was grateful to finally have some f2f time at HQ. Jerry’s stay was shorter, though long enough to explore the Kalamaja neighborhood (a fabulous combination of traditional Estonian architecture and renovated Soviet industrial buildings) and stumble upon the Mextonia mural series, which now ranks among our all-time urban art initiatives. Estonia turns 100 in 2018; talk about a unique birthday gift!
Back at home, Jerry attended the World Domination Summit in Portland (yes, there is such a thing), facilitated a two-day Open Space workshop for Trov (a wonderful startup we both advise — think insurance for the new economy) in SF, and got word out about his Patreon project.
Meanwhile, April finally launched her transformed website. After nearly four years, it was high time for an upgrade and to sharpen her areas of focus: the new economy, the future of work, and (a new and natural addition) global citizenship. Please check it out — this is also a shameless plug to subscribe to my periodic updates, too! :) (Huge thanks to Elan Morgan, website design maven extraordinaire.)
As independent advisors, we share the upsides of flexibility and crafting our own professional paths, and of course, the responsibility of figuring it all out. August is typically a slow month, especially for global work, and April’s wanderlust had kicked into higher gear. (We realize this might sound bizarre to some of you, given how much she travels already, but there is a big difference between having an itinerary — even if it’s business one loves — and truly footloose, off-the-beaten-path travel. Between enhanced connectivity and busier lives, the latter is increasingly difficult to pull off.)
So in early August, armed with a carry-on backpack, an outbound ticket to Tirana and a return ticket from Kiev, April set off on a sort of Balkans Grand Tour: Albania, Macedonia, Kosovo, Serbia, Moldova and the Ukraine. It was an excellent trip, and deserves its own travelogue (more on that later). For now, here is a summary.
As Winston Churchill quipped, “The Balkans produce more history than they can consume.” Indeed, there is more culture, complexity and intrigue per square kilometer than perhaps anywhere else in the world. From the Byzantine and Ottoman Empires to the Turks and Soviets, many powers have put their stamp on the region, and (for April at least) the more one learns, the more
questions one has. Her trip began during the “Lucifer” heat wave, and she spent the first week exploring Tirana, Berat (aka City of 1,000 Windows) and Lake Ohrid in 100+F/38+C degrees every day. She stayed almost entirely in Airbnbs, including a delightful stone home inside castle walls, and a concrete Soviet-era flat with retro decor.
From Lake Ohrid it was over to the quaint town of Bitola, then a long bus ride to Prizren, Kosovo. Kosovo is the youngest country in Europe (both in terms of age: 9 years, and average age of its citizens: 28 years) and this youthful energy is evident everywhere. She caught a few days of the Prizren Film Festival, climbed around castle walls and saw countless churches now surrounded by barbed wire due to past and present ethnic conflicts. From Prizren she headed to the outdoors hub of Peć/Pejë, and the heat wave finally broke. Visiting the Patriarchate of Pec was one of the most moving experiences of the trip, and a first-hand reminder of religious commitment and resilience. From Peć it was a quick hop to the gritty, lively capital of Pristina, where she met up with several friends and would have loved to stay longer.
Even without a fixed itinerary, April did have to be a few places on time… so from Kosovo it was back to Macedonia (because travel between Kosovo and Serbia is forbidden for foreigners) and Skopje, aka the new capital of kitsch. It was actually delightful, thanks to superb Airbnb hosts and local humor about how surreal the city is. Putting Disney World and Vegas aside, where can you find an Arc de Triomphe, Statue of Liberty and Capitol replica within walking distance of each other?
From kitschland it was another long bus ride up to Belgrade, Serbia, with superb (albeit largely crumbling) architecture, hidden cafes and a serious party culture. April then hopped on a plane to Copenhagen, worked in Denmark with wonderful colleagues for a week, and flew back to her final Balkans destination: Chisinau, Moldova. Moldova holds the titles of least-visited country in Europe and most unhappy country in the world, both of which are reasons to go there. It turned out to be one of her favorite places of all: Chisinau is a quiet, leafy city that the world seems to have forgotten (which is great if you’re a visitor, though admittedly not great if you’re a local). What it lacks in grand monuments, it makes up for in liveability. She liked it so much that she opted to change her itinerary and fly home from there, rather than testing her luck in Transnistria and flying home from Ukraine (which she’d been advised by many people to avoid with a U.S. passport). That was not the kind of adventure she needed!
While April was eating her weight in baklava and burek, Jerry met his SF buddy Charles to camp out and catch the full lunar eclipse near Salem, OR –
– right on the full occlusion path. He’d been through a couple partial eclipses before, so all was normal until the middle two minutes, when a magical corona appeared around the sun, larger and more beautiful than he was prepared for. Jerry also went to Woods Hole for a telecom geek get-together he attends almost every fall. While there, an NPR tech journalist friend interviewed him, which turned into 15 minutes of airtime on NPR! You can listen to it here.
As we rounded the corner into autumn, April was all too happy to stay put in Portland for a while. The fall colors were especially spectacular this year, and she dove deep into work. When they were in Helsinki earlier, a friend of Jerry’s also attending had mentioned he was organizing Techfestival in Copenhagen, and that there might be an interesting role or two for Jerry. So
he went. There he delivered a one-day workshop on trust, as well as the capstone speech of the conference, which you can watch here. In addition, he was among 150 abductees from Techfestival, who collaboratively wrote the Copenhagen Letter on Tech, an open letter asking the designers of tech to stop creating addictive offers and aim instead for human wellbeing. Rounding off a busy month, Jerry went to NYC and started a short-term project with betaworks, which was founded by an old Silicon Alley friend of his.
At the end of the month, April went to Chicago and Berlin for keynotes on the new economy and future of work. Public speaking continues to be an absolute joy; she loves connecting with new audiences and bringing fresh perspective on what’s happening around the world. Closer to home, we continued to enjoy learning about local innovation to tackle thorny social
issues. One of our favorite local innovators is Guerrilla Development, a wildly creative architecture firm that’s among the first to use crowdfunding for real estate, tackling homelessness and building community in the process. Here’s a great New York Times article about it. April invested in Guerrilla’s Fairhaired Dumbbell, which we got to see from the inside right as it was being finished.
Having been pleasantly surprised by her half-marathon performance in the spring, April decided to run the full Portland Marathon in early October. Unfortunately she didn’t do much better on the training front, but she did finish the marathon — and loved it! On a more somber note, we watched helplessly as wildfires tore through the Napa wine country; it touched too close to home for too many people we know.
Work-wise, the fall was a productive time. Jerry went to Bluffton, SC, to participate in a workshop with the executive committee of the Consortium for Service Innovation, a group he’s worked with every few years since 2003 (bit of a pattern here, eh?). He also flew to Connecticut to give a “disrupt” speech for a client of ExO’s (the Exponential Organization) and judge their internal startup ideas, which was great fun. Meanwhile, April returned to Cape Town to co-host the country’s first sharing economy think tank, a marvelous gathering of 100+ policy makers, entrepreneurs and other leaders focused on inclusive growth in the Western Cape. It’s incredible (and inspiring!) to see how many more places are leaning into new business models and approaches to local economic development.
Heading into November, as the golden leaves continued, a long-simmering issue was boiling over in Jerry’s life, an issue that’s hard to write about here. Jerry’s Mom had been hearing annoying noises from upstairs neighbors, a situation that escalated to the point where she would avidly describe an “illegal business” that the neighbors were busy running. Problem is, whenever Jerry was present, there were no noises, a state she ascribed to the neighbor’s cleverness. All Jerry’s efforts to prove his Mom’s case were fruitless, and he became convinced there was no “industry,” which of course caused strife with his Mom. To solve the immediate problem, Jerry moved her up a floor, so there would be nobody above her, and for a week there was peace. That peace has melted, and the situation is in crisis again as we type these words.
With a long and complicated year already behind us, we mustered our energy for the final sprints and travels of the year. Jerry created and
delivered two new webinars, one about the relationship between learning and play for PlayFutures (which is unfortunately buried inside a mediocre webinar platform) and one for the Disruptive Innovation Festival in the UK, which you can view here.
Jerry also gave a short talk about his use of TheBrain and how it relates to trust at the very interesting DazzleCon in Portland, which focused on Zebra companies (Zebras fix what Unicorns break; a Dazzle is a group of Zebras). We’re both part of the Zebras community, which has lots of overlaps with impact investing, social enterprise, and social venture capital. Learn more here!
April’s last trip was another interesting, multi-stop marathon. Her first stop was Bucharest, Romania for a keynote on the sharing economy. Bucharest retains its Baroque-Communist architectural allure, though it now also holds the title of most congested city in Europe (and #5 in the world, alongside Bangkok and Mexico City). Then it was a relatively quick hop to Dubai for the World Economic Forum’s Global Futures Council summit (April serves on the GFC for mobility). The schedule was intense, but she had just enough time to visit the emirate of Sharjah as well as the Louvre Abu Dhabi on opening weekend — with a handstand, of course!
From Dubai, we met up in San Francisco for the first YGL alumni summit, held at WEF’s new office in the Presidio. YGLs continue to be an extraordinarily important, inspiring part of our lives and community. However, San Francisco leaves us less and less inspired. Each time we return, we have less desire to live there. The inequalities are impossible to ignore, the city looks tired (as do many people who struggle to live there), and policy makers have not kept pace. We don’t wish to sound critical, but it’s heartbreaking to see this happening, especially in a place with so much wealth.
It would be reasonable to assume that we headed back to Portland together after all that. But not quite! Rather, Jerry headed to Miami and April headed to Malaysia. (At least we got the M part, right?) Miami is nothing like it was when Jerry lived there (in South Miami) at age 13; he hardly recognized a thing. One part of town, the part where Jerry’s meetings were held, blew him away. Starting around 2006, real-estate developer Tony Goldman and his two grown kids bought a bunch of warehouses in Wynwood, a neighborhood that had spiraled downhill in the 70s and 80s. They then commissioned 30 street artists to go crazy on the walls in the neighborhood, creating the Wynwood Walls Walk to coincide with the Art Basel Miami show. Many others had a hand creating what is now a stunning neighborhood. We’ve seen cities with great murals, like San Francisco, Berlin and the Mextonia murals in Tallinn, but Wynwood left Jerry’s mouth agape. Don’t pass through Miami without seeing it.
The murals were amazing, and so was the work. The Miami meeting involved Salim’s Exponential Organizations project, which has emerged this year alongside another ambitious project, both of which resonate strongly with Jerry’s ideas and will form the foundation of his work in 2018. The second project, started by a woman who used to run software teams for Steve Jobs at Apple, is her passion project to help people collect, connect and share the things they care about online. Think about the way Jerry uses TheBrain to connect and share what he sees and you’ll have an idea of the possibilities. More on this project in 2018.
April spent a week in Kuala Lumpur, advising the country’s economic development and innovation agency on the sharing economy and future of work. Malaysia is full of enthusiastic talent, and it was a delight to meet entrepreneurs and policy makers who are really leaning into new ways of doing business. What’s more, they are laser-focused on opportunities for lower-income populations. Needless to say, a refreshing engagement!
Finally, we landed in December, together. No sooner than we chopped down our own Christmas tree (a Turkish fir) than April got whacked by a bad virus for 10 days. The rest of the month was bumpy. April recovered, we went to
San Francisco (to do some stuff you’ll hear about in 2018), and Jerry got whacked by his own special bug. Our Christmas plans went sideways, we took a gorgeous road trip, and we opened gifts on New Year’s Eve instead (that’s why this letter is also belated). One nice side note along the way: Ev Williams, founder of Twitter and Blogger, answered a Twitter question this way:
We are really looking forward to 2018. We plan to keep leaning into what we love: trust, the new economy, global citizenship, and doing our part to help fix what’s broken in the world. For April that means more speaking, writing, advising, and developing a crisper point of view. For Jerry, it means diving into his two new projects, expanding his renewed REX group, and getting more of his ideas out of his head and into the world. We’ll collaborate on a trust-, education- and future of work-related fellowship in Portland and hope to strengthen our local communities and portfolios. We have no doubt we’ll continue to travel globally, though our top destination for 2018 is our Pacific Northwest backyard. April is enrolled in a 200-hour yoga teacher training course (not to teach; simply to learn), and Jerry has picked up his aikido practice again at a dojo two blocks from home. As usual at the end of our holiday letter, here is 2017 in review, in Jerry’s Brain (view on a laptop, not a phone).
We wish you all a new year full of peace, inspiration and courage — and if you’re in the Portland area, please let us know!
April & Jerry
PS: if you haven’t read enough already, here is a sampling of our favorite op-eds and (for Jerry) videos this year:
Konnichi-wa (Japanese) ~ Jambo (Kiswahili) ~ An yeong haseyo (Korean) ~ Bon bini (Papiamento!) ~ Hola (Spanish, from Spain to Cuba to Ecuador) ~ Tere (Estonia) ~ Ciao (Italian) ~ Grüß gott (Austrian German) ~ هتاف للترحيب (Arabic) ~ Halló (Icelandic) ~ Hej (Danish) ~ Hei (Finnish) ~ Hallo (Norwegian, Dutch, Flemish) ~ Bonjour (Quebec) ~ Hello (US, Canada, UK, Singapore) once again!
Ever since we’ve been together — 9½ years — each year has seemed epic and extraordinary in its own way. Like we couldn’t possibly outdo the last one. Yet, somehow, each circumnavigation of the globe goes deeper, stretches us further, and expands our horizons. 2016 was no exception. We’ll be quite pleased if 2017 is even a fraction as exciting.
(For those of you reading our annual holiday update for the first time, some standard caveats: no pressure to read this missive. We create it out of joy, love, and to keep family and friends updated. It comes from April’s mother’s tradition, which April inherited some 20+ years ago. Over the decades, it has also been an enormous source of connection with others. Think of it as part journal, part travelogue, and part love letter for Dear Ones… and the world.)
Okay, ready for this year? Here we go!
TL;DR version: We’ve continued to fall head over heels for Portland and have wholeheartedly, unabashedly shifted our center of gravity there. April worked in 21 countries on five continents — all wonderful, though probably a few too many miles logged (see map). Jerry continues with all things Relationship Economy and has a new, awesome role in Stumptown (one of Portland’s many nicknames) as well. We took our first family globetrotting trip to Ecuador, with nieces Ella and Amelia, Allison and Stefan (April’s sister and brother-in-law). Plus we had unique opportunities to explore Cuba (in the spring) and Japan (in the fall) together. We are grateful beyond words for what life has thrown our way — notwithstanding global tumult and occasional thorns in our sides — and are doing all we can to keep our health, perspective, adventure-seeking souls and love of new ideas and a brighter future intact.
Full version: 2016 got off to a relatively slow start. We battled winter colds and the like, though Portland’s rain never seemed as bad as people say. (We find that non-Portlanders worry, and locals don’t notice.) April went to New York to deliver a keynote on new business models and the energy sector — such a fun new audience — and then did a quick turn-around to Singapore, where she advised the Prime Minister’s Office, Centre for Strategic Futures (a futurist think tank in government!) and a dozen-ish other agencies on all things sharing economy. It was a whirlwind week, including some 15 presentations. She barely slept but loved it. “Singapore Inc.” definitely earns its reputation for efficiency and hard work!
As April was flying one way across the Pacific, Jerry was heading the other way, back to Sydney to continue his work with Suncorp. There he and his client team wallpapered more meeting rooms with Post-Its and diagrams, planning ways to implement the ideas they generated in previous visits. By this time, everyone was familiar with both “jazz hands” to indicate agreement in meetings (see caricature of that below) and the Nerdfighteria gang signs, which are basically double “live long and prosper” hands. This gang won’t mug anyone, but just might change the world.
Back in the States, April went to Palm Springs (for a keynote to city leaders) and Toronto (for a design-led policy innovation workshop), and then settled in for her longest stretch “at home” all year: four weeks! Portland coziness, endless coffee on drizzly afternoons, and lots of time doing yoga (plus working, of course, from the comfort of home). We took a delightful long weekend getaway to Astoria and the northern Oregon coast, with its spectacular and calming scenery, and decided (again) that we’ve landed in the most precious place on earth.
Heading into spring, Jerry flew to Colombia for the first time, to give a keynote speech at the Global Entrepreneurship Congress in Medellín, which you may remember had been the world’s murder capital a decade earlier. Once they’d dealt with the narcos, the city’s rebuilders were brilliant, including the poorest barrios in their development plans, creating a city its citizens can be proud of again. Jerry also discovered that Uber was already in Colombia’s dozen largest cities, with stress and strikes happening everywhere. Not the transport introduction one would hope for, but not unusual for Uber.
Meanwhile, April hopped down to San Francisco to prepare our home there for long-term rental. (While we are shifting our center of gravity to Portland, we’re not completely untethering ourselves from the Bay Area. Consider it an expansion of our root system.) We are thrilled to have a lovely German couple as tenants — he works at Facebook, she’s a writer, and they just had a baby girl! Home affairs in order, April then went to Charlotte, North Carolina to connect with university students and community leaders about the sharing economy and economic development. Charlotte isn’t a city she’d explored before, and she loved being there in dogwood season.
That basically gets us through Q1. It was pretty mellow, all things considered. (In retrospect, we really like mellow.) Thankfully it also gave us energy reserves that we would need in the coming months…
At the beginning of April, we headed out on one of our year’s highlights: Cuba. We had long wanted to visit. When Jerry saw an email that a conference he’d spoken at twice before, Applied Brilliance, was going to be held in Havana next, he wrote the organizer, who kindly invited us both to speak at the event. AB’s tagline is “transforming ideas into events that serve people” (sign us up!) and 2016’s theme was Resilience + Revival. Though we had to go through the traditional bureaucratic route to get our visas, etc., we were lucky to arrive just two weeks after Obama’s historic visit — and catch up with some of April’s college friends in Tampa en route.
Arrival in Havana was cinematic: it was, truly, as though we’d landed in a movie set from the 1950s. Vintage convertible Chevys, quiet streets (the Embargo means Cuba doesn’t have many cars, so traffic jams are nonexistent), sun-kissed breezes and people chatting in doorsteps. All of our accommodation was in homestays, as hotels are sparse and homesharing is a nationally sanctioned activity. We spent our first five days with Paco y Reina, grandparents with a flat overlooking the entrance to Havana Harbor and a view of the entire Malecón, Havana’s famous waterfront esplanade. They shared stories of life there as generations of family, friends and guests descended every morning for breakfast.
Applied Brilliance gave us a unique opportunity to see inside Cuba as well. It was structured as a gathering to share experiences and insights about entrepreneurship and art with local Cubans. While it’s still difficult to access certain parts of Cuba — the government, for example — we got a taste of the country going far beyond any tourist guide. We learned about being a Millennial in Cuba from the 20-something founder of Cuba’s first citizen journalism platform, attended an art exhibit in Havana’s Chinatown, strolled endlessly lazy streets, and visited Fusterville, a village-sized artistic homage in the style of Barcelona’s Antoni Gaudí. It was hard to believe that technically this was a business trip.
Once Applied Brilliance wrapped up, we took an additional several days to explore the western flank of Cuba. We took a half-day bus to Viñales, in the heart of Cuba’s agricultural heartland and a massive UNESCO Heritage Site. Imagine tobacco fields in the middle of a karst valley, peppered with horses and small terra-cotta-topped homes. We enjoyed a fabulous day hike through this landscape, learned how to roll Cuban cigars, and worried about how an impending tourism wave may crush the region. We also had what ranks as probably the worst meal we’ve ever had traveling together; it became a running joke. (You can see a collection of photos and videos from the trip here; April wrote up some of her reflections on Cuba and the sharing economy here.)
We really didn’t want to leave Cuba, though we were excited about what awaited us at home. For April it meant a return trip to Singapore with the Jobbatical team, followed by a back-to-back trip to Vienna, Austria to connect with YGL friends over innovation, a Viennese Philharmonic concert and hike in the Lainzer Tiergarten. For Jerry, it meant the annual Ten Year Forecast with the Institute for the Future, this time held in Oakland, in a Masonic temple. As usual, this meant much work and merriment with his IFTF “frolleagues,” and then plenty of time facilitating the event.
We regrouped briefly at home in early May, marveled at Portland springtime, and enjoyed it while we could. (It’s incredibly comforting to find a place that allows you to truly feel like your best self. Note: spend more time there!) April then departed on her first (of five) multi-country work trips of the year. Beginning with a week in Amsterdam for global Sharing City convenings and a trip down memory lane, followed by a long weekend in Toronto for the B&R 50th hiking-and-biking family reunion gala, a few days in Madrid for a keynote and city explorations, London for meetings, and finally Reykjavik for sharing economy pathfinding work. Iceland did not disappoint at midsummer: the sky never got dark, the people are among the most inspiring and multi-talented anywhere, and the hospitality was warm and welcoming. The country is grappling with some very serious tradeoffs between tourism growth and economic recovery, but if anyone is up for the challenges, the Vikings are.
While April was globetrotting, Jerry was creating media, experimenting with screencasts (screen recordings with his voiceover) about the Relationship Economy themes he’s developed for years. For example, you can watch a short series of videos embedded in a Prezi (imagine a zoomable white board) here, on the topic of how we “consumerized” our world and what that means (turn the volume up, go full screen and let the videos play; then hit the right-arrow key on your keyboard to advance to the next section).
We were also looking forward to our second travel highlight of the year: a family trip to Ecuador with Ella, Amelia, Allison and Stefan. For several months prior, we had been co-planning it via calls, emails and collective brainstorming. Ella and Amelia are now old enough to be interested in things like finding the best flight deals and off-the-beaten-track adventures. Ecuador did not disappoint!
We began in Quito, where we got our high-altitude legs, walked around the old town and ate our first humitas y pochoclo. From there, a gorgeous drive down the “String of Pearls” (endearing name for a chain of volcanoes, of which Ecuador has dozens) through patchwork-quilt mountain scenery to the village of Chugchilán and the Black Sheep Inn. April had stayed at this eco-lodge years ago, when only a dirt road ran through town, and had fallen in love with the region. We spent several days hiking through nearby hills, cloud forests, canyons and páramos (windswept steppes). We hiked along the Quilotoa Crater and nearly got blown off its lip. In the evenings we feasted on local vegetarian cuisine and played music by the fire. Other than the occasional dog chasing us on the trail, highly recommended!
From the highlands we continued down the spine of the country, overnighting in the sleepy town of Riobamba (which turned out to be a favorite, not least thanks to having this entire boutique hotel to ourselves — with an equally charming host) and pushing onwards to Cuenca, Ecuador’s arts and culture capital. We gulped churches and cobblestone streets, and enjoyed a fun Airbnb home complete with pool table and jacuzzi. We also stumbled upon the otherworldly Museo de Arte Prohibido (Museum of Prohibited Art) which was featuring a tattoo conference. Not your everyday exhibitions…
From the south we headed west, through the gorgeous Cajas National Park and descended 10,000 feet — in one morning, in a van, going downhill forever — to Guayaquil, Ecuador’s second largest city and port. Until recently, Guayaquil was a place to be avoided: crime-infested and downright scary. It’s still not a tourist magnet, but it provided an interesting contrast (and excellent seafood) for one night. Our last push was north along the coast, to the tiny village of Olón, where we lay on the beach and ate copious amounts of ceviche straight from the sea. We also visited Isla de la Plata — aka “poor man’s Galapagos” — where we saw blue footed boobies, watched wonderful humpback whales up close and personal, and snorkeled amongst schools of tropical fish.
From Olón we hightailed it back to Guayaquil, flew back to Quito, hopped in a bus to the northern market town of Otavalo for its famed market, and called it a trip. Not without adventure until the last minute, though: an earthquake at 9pm the night before we flew home, and April being yanked from her flight and put through police paces as if she were a drug smuggler. Thankfully we were safe and everything checked out, but after that, boy was it time to go home. :o
We’re halfway through 2016 now. Hurray!
After returning from South America, to be honest, we kind of just wanted to hide for a while and do nothing. Thankfully this was the second (and last) multi-week respite we had in Portland. Several weeks of Stumptown summertime, sunshine, roses and beer. We took a getaway to Bend, eastern Oregon’s outdoors mecca, which was beautiful and fun (where else can you surf in the local river?) but way too hot.
It may seem like we travel too much to actually work, but nothing could be further from reality. Truth be told, we work a ton, definitely more than we ought to. The downside of working for oneself is that there’s no boss to tell you that your calendar is crazy. But truth also be told that we both truly love what we do and are immensely grateful for the flexibility that our professional independence provides. So we’re going to put those benefits to use every chance we get.
For the past couple of years, we’ve collaborated opportunistically: we are both advisors to Trov, we’ve delivered co-keynotes, co-led workshops and co-written op-eds. But there was nowhere to easily find “us.” In July, we changed that: welcome to our duo professional website! (We still have our individual portfolios and websites, of course — Jerry here and April here.) Though we haven’t yet marketed ourselves much, mainly because we’re busy, but it feels great to hang out this shingle. Let’s see where it leads. :)
Heading into late summer, Jerry attended a small but very interesting conference on alternative education called AERO that took place in Portland, then he went to work moving his Mom from the Bay Area up to the Portland area. Jerry’s experience from too many lifetime moves served him well, as boxes got packed, stacked and reopened and everything shifted north.
Unfortunately, Jerry’s Suncorp project got derailed, slowly. A CEO change and major corporate reorganization took months to settle and reshaped the group Jerry had been helping. Then a tough claims year put Suncorp in austerity mode, closing outside collaborations like Jerry’s. This was sad all around, because things there were just getting interesting. In the meantime, Jerry had been meeting locals in Portland in search of a similar collaborative vibe closer to home. This quest paid off, as you’ll see shortly.
In August April continued to advise on a documentary film project on the Future of Work (to be released in 2017), took quick trips to Boston and San Francisco for the film, and made her maiden voyage to Aruba to advise the tourism authority on new business models, the sharing economy and future of travel. She loved getting a taste of the island, learning a few words of Papiamento, the incredibly warm welcome — and she’s pretty sure she was the only foreigner not on vacation there.
We greeted the arrival of fall with a combination of joy (cooler temperatures) and seriousness (girding ourselves for an intense few months ahead). Jerry attended a geeky conference he loves in Woods Hole, on Cape Cod, then went to a brand-new event a friend produced in Austin. They were different as night and day, but all fed his curiosity and appetite to meet new people. April departed on Labor Day weekend and, practically speaking, didn’t resurface until Christmas.
Her first whistlestop work tour included Oslo, Copenhagen, Brussels (the EU is pressing on collaborative economy policy discussions more than the US) and a return visit to Aruba to deliver a keynote for World Tourism Day (on-island twice in two months; what luck!). She went home for four days, then departed again for Europe: Venice, Italy for another conference; Helsinki, Finland (where she was captivated by the Chapel of Silence); Tallinn, Estonia (which remains one of her favorite cities in the world); a Copenhagen redux; and back to London. She then flew to Montreal, where she gave a keynote to hundreds of lawyers and insurance brokers from around the world (super interesting: welcome to risk management in the new economy) and stayed a couple extra days, during which she ran around Mont Royal, walked herself silly and fell in love with the Quebecois. While April was chasing time zones, Jerry was much more sane, holding down the Portland front and attending two local events run by the same group, all having to do with diversity and inclusion.
We would’ve called it a year after all this, but Q4 — and all its global madness — beckoned, as did a trip we’d been looking forward to all year: the annual YGL (Young Global Leaders) Summit, which this year was held in Japan. We could not have been more impressed, inspired by and grateful for both the Summit and the entire country. YGL is now indelibly marked in our hearts, minds and family-of-choice.
We had the opportunity to experience both traditional and future-forward Japan: the country is at once rooted (impossibly, it seems sometimes) in its cultural norms and expectations, and yet embracing new technologies at warp speed. Put these tensions together, add significant population decline (from 127M people today, to an expected 65M in 2080 — yes, half the size) and you get some fascinating results… like the only place we’ve found in the world that is excited for automation to replace humans on the job.
Our trip began in Tokyo, where we arrived a couple days early to get over jetlag and explore the city. We skipped major tourist sites like the Imperial Palace — beautiful as it is — and headed to lesser-known neighborhoods full of charm and history: Kagurazaka, with a funky ramen shop open only from midnight to 3am; Yanaka, with its artists galleries tucked behind impossibly narrow alleyways; Ueno Park, with families strolling its wide promenades. And a huge highlight: the Tsukiji Fish Market, the largest in the world, where tuna is auctioned off at 3am (if you arrive at 4am, you’ve missed it) and lines are around the block at 6am for the best fresh, raw fish breakfast of your life.
The YGL Summit was part professional development, part diving deeper into Japan, and part family reunion. We participated in learning journeys on topics ranging from nuclear energy in the wake of Fukushima (with the head of Japan’s energy regulator) to traditional tea ceremony, aikido and virtual reality at Japan’s Googleplex. We heard from inspiring YGL friends on fighting fear and xenophobia, civic innovation, and creatively tackling gender bias. The gathering was capped off with the greatest honor April could imagine: being chosen by her fellow YGLs to give the graduation speech as they become YGL Alumni — no one can bring themselves to say “old!”
We added an extra week post-Summit to explore other parts of Japan, particularly those with less concrete and more fresh air. Our first stop was Nara, Japan’s capital back in the 8th century and today a haven for temple-seekers, nature lovers and deer (a deer park covers most of town). We traveled by bullet train, of course — an experience in itself — and stayed in a retro 1950s house complete with tatami mats, antique furniture fand stacks of manga (thanks Airbnb). We went for a lovely jog through nearby hills and parks, marveling at temples and dodging deer en route. April did her first Japanese handstand and ate enough mochi to make any Japanese grandmother proud, while Jerry ate his weight in okonomiyaki.
From Nara it was a quick hop north to Kyoto and temple heaven. We strolled the Philosopher’s Path, visited the stunning Arashiyama Bamboo Grove, lost count of the torii at Fushimi Inari-taisha and marveled at all manner of food (some of it still wiggling) at the Nishiki Market. By this point we were thoroughly smitten with the country, its unique combination of simplicity + elegance + efficiency, and even imagining what it would be like to live there for a year or so, but left wishing most of all to return and visit other regions first. You can see Jerry’s favorite photos and videos from the trip here.
Back to Portland, where autumn was in full force and the days gradually getting shorter and wetter. Our yearning for Japan was quickly sated when — two days after coming home, missing our daily dose of wabi-sabi — we returned to Portland’s Japanese Garden, just up the street. It may not be full of geisha, but it’s the best we’ve seen outside of Japan, and within walking distance! Jerry settled in for a long stretch of work and deep thinking, including preparing and giving a keynote talk for a tech conference in Tempe. That talk had little to do with Jerry’s recent thinking and required him to “reinstall” his ways of thinking from 20 years ago, which he found really fun to do. The event was private, so the talk isn’t online.
Meanwhile, April tried not to get over jetlag… as less than one week later, she went back over the Pacific on her penultimate work marathon. First stop: Seoul, South Korea for their annual Sharing City festival (she’s on Seoul’s Sharing City advisory board). She also visited community-led sharing economy companies, ate meals including 28 (!) different banchan (side dishes), and found herself in the middle of peaceful protests against the country’s President.
…which brings us to Election Day in the US, with its surprises.
Before leaving for Korea, April had voted by mail and, along with countless others, awoke on November 8 (in Seoul) expecting to make history for women that day. Back in 2008, April had been in Kenya and experienced the euphoria of Obama’s win first-hand. Ironically, this year she opted to take a tour of the North Korean DMZ (demilitarized zone) that day. It was eerie, and little did she know how things would descend from there. As the election results came out, South Koreans were not only aghast, but bona fide fearful of what this could mean for Korean relations. She made her way south to the town of Gyeong-jo, known for being an “open-air city-museum” for all its cultural sites outdoors, and talked with as many locals as she could. It didn’t solve anything, but it did comfort — and there was a silver lining in being buffered from the intensity of emotions in the US then.
For months before the election, Jerry had been tracking the trends, tactics and terminology of the many campaigns, as they all narrowed down to Hillary vs. Trump. Two days before the election, he published this video about his perspective on the strange and twisty campaign (that’s a long video, so hold off unless you’re really into it). When he realized that Trump had won, he was shocked but not surprised, and set out to figure out who predicted his win correctly, and who offered useful insights on what had happened. That process really shook his cobwebs away, and provoked him to create a series of shorter videos piecing together what happened. They look like this:
We still haven’t recovered from the election and thoughts of the upcoming inauguration, to say nothing of disconcerting global trends. Given that topsy-turvy context, we’re focused on identifying and harnessing the light that wasn’t visible before. (In the spirit of: the system cracked. It broke. Cracks are how the light gets in… ) Our work, midwifing new ideas and imagining new futures, has never felt more important. We plan to consistently, peacefully stay true to our values and protest when appropriate. If you are involved in such efforts too, please let us know, as we’d love to better connect these dots with others.
Speaking of which, from Korea, April continued westward to Dubai for the inaugural World Economic Forum Global Futures Council (GFC) summit. She was selected to join the GFC on the Future of Mobility (which includes travel :)), a huge honor. She’d never really visited Dubai either, so that was an extra bonus. After three days of non-stop meetings and views of the Burj Al-Arab next door, she went really westward — one of the longest single days of travel in her life — and, four flights and 28 hours later, landed in Aspen, Colorado. Three days of wonderful discussions at the Aspen Institute, two days CrossFitting with her Italian sister Jessica (who conveniently lives in Aspen) and April returned to Portland exhausted, happy, and wishing she could crawl into bed for days.
But not quite yet. “Only” three more trips and then that can happen… does globetrotting finally sound more exotic than it actually is?
We enjoyed Thanksgiving in Portland with Jerry’s Mother and started to set our sights on 2017. Jerry had one of the best Decembers we can remember. First, IFTF brought him in on an interesting project creating a foresight course for a major client, which meant diving deep into mixed reality, cognitive computing and more, and finding ways of making these topic comprehensible and memorable.
Then he knocked on the door at Ziba Design. Ziba is an elegant design firm (five blocks from our place!) that over its 32 years has expanded from industrial products like Microsoft’s ergonomic keyboard, portable Bluetooth speakers, lightweight camp stoves and squirtable ketchup bottles to bank lobbies, business processes and corporate identity. Just as they were looking for big ideas to expand into, Jerry came into their conversation and rapidly found great chemistry with the team, and even better that his 20 years of ideas about trust and the Relationship Economy had landed on fertile soil again. He starts 2017 there part-time as their Strategy Director, with a charter to help Ziba and its potential clients think bigger, then act on the new ideas that result.
His part-time role at Ziba allows Jerry to continue other client work, as well as running REX, the think-and-do tank he started in 2010. It was a quiet but solid year for REX, with the thesis becoming increasingly relevant until it was almost painfully so with Trump’s election. Consider for a moment that Trump represents the apex (or nadir?) of consumer culture: a flashy reality TV billionaire used modern social media to hack everyone and gain control of what is arguably still the most powerful nation on Earth. That happened, plus we had some great REXy guests and conversations about innovative community health care in the Netherlands, taming Artificial Intelligence, Cuba, Japan, Greece, biomimicry and dealing with fake news in the post-truth era.
While Jerry was clicking into Portland’s thriving design scene, April left for her final business trip of the year, and one of her most-anticipated: Africa. For several years she has been keen to bridge sharing-economy principles with emerging markets and sustainable development, drawing on her previous career-chapters and expertise, and she’s finally getting her chance(s). This first installment was pretty basic but enabled a clearer sense of potential and direction. More to come in the new year. From Nairobi it was back to Copenhagen one final time (very hyggelig in winter), a quick sprint through London, and finally… home.
We spent Christmas in Atlanta with April’s Italian family for the first time, combining the holidays with — most joyfully — Nonna’s (Italian grandmother’s) 90th birthday celebrations and — most unfortunately — bouts of stomach flu. This holiday letter is our first attempt at anything requiring cognition since recovery. To strike the right note for 2017, we inaugurated the year with a midnight run around the Willamette River.
Looking farther into 2017, we are full of hope, dreams and a few reality checks. Jerry plans to bring his ideas to Ziba and head into the world with them, in a quest for clients who think strategically and are willing to see differently. (If you’re curious or know someone who might be, please contact him.) This may sound strange, but Jerry sees Trump’s breaking things (which has unfortunately only just begun) as an unprecedented moment to rethink and reinvent the way we all do things. Our collective interventions are now more necessary than ever, if Trump’s words are to be taken seriously at all.
As Jerry ramps up, April hopes most of all to slow down, travel less and play more. Take fewer engagements, but take them deeper. Do more public speaking and expand her speaking repertoire. Dive into blockchain? Write a book? Much is up for consideration… which feels like the greatest gift of all.
Whereabouts-wise, we know we’ll be in Boston (February), Argentina (March), Boulder + Mexico + Thailand (April), and April will be back in Africa at some point, but other than that it’s all about Stumptown. About Portland: April’s become a huge fan of Yoyoyogi, a lovely yoga studio that’s close by, and we have two new occupants in our flat. One is Alexa, the other we call Gigi, but really they’re an Amazon Echo and a Google Home device. They’re pretty amazing to have around.
If you find yourself in the Pacific NW, please let us know! That’s also a perfect segue to use this as an opportunity for an address book update, as we haven’t been very proactive on that front:
April Rinne & Jerry Michalski
1420 NW Lovejoy Street #515
Portland OR 97209-2745
The year ahead and beyond looks daunting, uncharted and unknown. The last thing we should even fathom doing is putting our heads in the sand or pretending a miracle will happen. Rather, let’s take Jo Cox’s (fellow YGL and UK MP, tragically murdered this summer) words to heart: “We are far more united and have far more in common with each other than things that divide us.”
With love, joy and gratitude for each of you, for life itself, and for the amazing world we live in,
Stumptown serendipity: Fell head over heels for Portland, Oregon. Bought a lovely little loft there. Roots still in San Francisco but we’re shifting our center of gravity a bit northward in 2016.
Lots of sharing: April’s speaking and advisory work has grown nicely, along with the sharing economy. Combine the two, and: she traveled to 17 countries this year — including five (5!) new passport stamps — and was on the road 36 out of 52 weeks. A few too many air miles, but lots of reasons to be grateful.
More Brain, more REX: You can find Jerry’s face in the App Store! It’s called Jerry’s Brain. He also started a project with an Australian insurance company to make the Relationship Economy real.
Finding our groove: We stretched ourselves a lot — on several occasions we’d look at each other and say, “What are we doing? But it feels right…” and, in retrospect, it was. We started doing co-advisory work opportunistically. Discovered we love it and do it well. Keen to do so more, and more intentionally. We are both represented by the same speaker’s bureau, which we absolutely love. We’re grooving and it feels great.
Now for the full version… returning to January 2015, which feels like at least a decade ago!
We arrived in Portland on New Year’s Eve 2014, and little did we know how it would transform the next year. Our first visit was a combination of memory lane (April had lived there briefly many years ago, in the immediate aftermath of her parents’ accident) and co-advisory work. We liked Portland. It felt good, open, quirky, super-outdoorsy, eminently walkable. It functions better than almost any other city we’ve been to. We left wanting to come back.
So we departed long enough for another trip to Davos, where April spoke in five different sessions. It was distinctly less “wow” than the first time, but we were doubly honored to attend again — and still pinch ourselves at the tremendous community that the World Economic Forum has opened up for us. YGL remains among our biggest sources of joy, friendships and inspiration ever. April stayed on in Switzerland a couple of days to ski, which was more humbling than anything else — though magical to be stuck in an Alpine hut nursing a cup of cocoa, wondering how telemarking seemed so easy as a child.Continue reading “Holiday letter 2015!”
Hello friends… or true to form, with greetings from (at least a few places) where we’ve been this year:
Sain bain uu! (Mongolian, but they also say…)
Нохой хор! (“nokhoi khor!,” literally “hold the dog!”)
Hei, kuinka voit (Finnish)
Hallo hoe gaat het (Dutch)
Dia duit (Irish)
您好 (“ni hao” in Mandarin)
Plus of course the holas, buon giornos,saluts and guten tags you’d expect from places we’ve been before.
2014 has been a doozy. Our first year as Mr. & Mrs. — in this wonderful way, even better than we ever imagined. Our first (and so far only) year of both being almost completely independent professionally, with all the advantages and challenges that presents.
We delivered our first co-keynote speech, which was fabulous fun on all counts. April has a new website, and in a couple weeks, Jerry will be the first person on Earth to have his brain available to all in the App Store (no foolin’!). We ticked off many lifetime bucket-list items, like riding semi-wild horses across the Mongolian steppe and marveling at the beauty of British Columbia. Despite many firsts, however, it’s our umpteenth year feeling incredibly lucky, excited, joyful and in love with life.
So let’s get started with this year’s annual missive!
January 2014 feels like a lifetime ago. We began the year quietly, enjoying a week at Laguna Beach (Jerry taught and April tagged along) and then Jerry took off to Zurich shortly thereafter to teach a group of Swiss and Germans about the Relationship Economy (in English), hosted at a think tank called GDI. From there he went to Geneva to give this talk at LIFT. (What’ll it be? Stalk or serve?)
April ducked to Florida for a quick speech, but made it back in time for her birthday — which Jerry managed to celebrate like none other (including buying a mini version of our wedding cake, which had been eaten by guests before April managed to devour the icing on our special day)!
February was a busy month with one of the year’s biggest highlights: April’s cross-country Canada Sharing Economy Tour. Over the course of a week, April delivered 15 presentations and other events (yes, 15 in a week) on the sharing economy in Montreal, Toronto, Calgary and Vancouver. She collaborated with SiG, the country’s social innovation organization (if only every country had one!) and Cities for People. It was a true delight to play the role of catalyst and guide, and underscored the kinds of things she loves to do — and made plans to do more of…
It seems that each year, when we sit down to write our annual missive, we think “goodness, how could next year possibly top this year?” And then somehow it does. 2013 was definitely among the most notable examples of this. Because of the number and diversity of neat experiences, we’re not able to go into as much detail about each — unless we want to finish in 2020 — but hopefully still a fun read. Here’s to a banner year, now let’s get started!
TL;DR version: Got married — finally, yaaaaay! Attended Davos. Explored Myanmar for 3 weeks. Built (rather, continue to build) a new company, new role, new speeches, new clients. Went to Australia for the first time. Delighting together in the terms Relationship Economy, Sharing Economy and Collaborative Economy: how are they similar, different, predictive of what’s ahead for the world? April’s travel mileage reduced by ~50% — mostly direct flights to places with no vaccination requirements — which was great, yet somehow didn’t lessen the intensity of our lives.
This also was a year in which we adopted the sharing economy (or collaborative economy — more on the distinction below) in full force as a lifestyle. In particular, this was our Year of Airbnb. Families from around the world have stayed in our home while we’ve been away, and our own travels have been revolutionized in the best of ways. We use it for business trips, personal travel and local getaways. Speaking of which, we’re writing this from an incredible, cozy cabin near Big Sur!
Backing up to January 2013, which feels like a decade ago… we were blessed to be invited to the World Economic Forum’s annual summit in Davos. Neither of us has ever experienced anything quite like it. Full security at every building, despite snowcoats and boots with skid-proof grippers. April slept on average 3 hours / night for nine nights straight, and yet was wide-awake in her happy zone. Highlights included presenting in the YGL “state of the world” plenary session, meeting heads of state, world-renowned CEOs, visionaries and even royalty (!) “committed to improving the state of the world” (WEF mission) at every turn.
At one of the receptions, despite being super careful with our gear, a distracted German journalist took Jerry’s laptop bag from right behind him, absconding with all his valuables until we sleuthed what had happened and texted the journalist back toward us. On a more fun front, Jerry discovered a two-hour “Audi driving challenge,” which involved drifting (turning while letting your wheels slide) on an icy slalom course with coaching from professional drivers. We both did an intense poverty simulation, and had very different reactions to it. We left Davos on a high, inspired by the Alpine air, inspiring ideas… and utterly exhausted in the best of ways.
On the most gorgeous October 5 in California history (we swear), on a hillside overlooking the broad Pacific with a wee San Francisco in the distance, we exchanged vows and rings officiated by two dear friends in the presence of 75 friends and family. It was beautiful, and just the way we wanted it.
But it almost wasn’t. The story of how gives us chuckles now, but mostly in hindsight. Several times in the week right before the wedding it looked as if it wasn’t going to play out according to plan. Rehearsal evening, and literally up until the morning of The Day, we hit two roadblocks.
One of the effects of the 2013 Federal Government #Shutdown was the closing of national parks. It was April who realized that Rodeo Beach, the beach we’d chosen for the rehearsal dinner picnic Friday evening, is part of the Golden Gate National Seashore and might be off limits. We did some scouting of options — Rodeo, Crissy Field and Golden Gate Park (which was definitely out due to the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass festival) — and saw that while facilities like parking lots and bathrooms were off limits, the beach and park grounds themselves were not.
So we launched Occupy Rodeo, telling everyone coming to the Friday picnic about the predicament and that we might have to bounce off Rodeo Beach to another spot.
When we got to Rodeo that Friday afternoon, there was indeed an officer standing next to a small barricade blocking off the parking lot, but she waved us on with a cheery “enjoy!” as we followed others out onto the beach. The weather cooperated wonderfully as we enjoyed locally made international food and drink. Once the sun set and stars came out, though, it got chilly quickly, sending us home.
It’s been dry and windy…
On Thursday at 1pm, while we were figuring out what to do about the #Shutdown, April got an email from the person who had given us the permit to hold our ceremony on Trojan Point (which is luckily not a national park), who asked her to call him right away. This time it wasn’t the Government interfering, but Nature: the local fire department had put a Red Flag Alert out for the northern part of Mt. Tam due to heat, dryness and high winds. Our reception spot was still safe, but the ceremony site was off-limits until further notice.
As this letter takes shape, April is sitting on the shores of Lake Kivu in northwest Rwanda. It’s pouring rain outside, with giant hibiscus dancing under the drops. Just a few kilometers down the road is Goma, Congo, where civil unrest rages and the M23 rebels have just taken control of the city. What she thought was thunder turns out to be gunfire (click the map to make it larger). Some might say she’s in a war zone, but she just thinks of it as an exciting albeit unexpected travel adventure. Given that she should probably keep a low profile until the situation settles, this is a terrific opportunity to say muraho (“hello” in the Kinyarwanda language) to our international friends and family of choice!
Jerry may have been a bit further from Congolese rebels and gunfire, but he wasn’t sitting still. For him, 2012 was a year of broadening and deepening the Relationship Economy thesis, manifested in a series of speeches and videos we’ll point to as they happened during the year.
2012 has probably been one of the most intense, learning- and experience-filled years so far for us (though we’ve said that before). In a word, it’s been extraordinary. It has not been particularly balanced though – April spent the better part of 8 months on the road – and we are both committed to spending more time together, even if not always at home.
Because of all that’s happened, a caveat that this letter is long is probably in order. We’ve received loads of wonderful feedback over the years saying “please, share more!”, but we also realize that not everyone wants to read everything. We hope you’ll take this in stride and enjoy however much (or little) feels right. So let’s get started… Continue reading “Holiday letter 2012!”
Happy 2011 Holiday Greetings to Loved Ones Around the World!
What a year it has been: many highlights, many travels, a few challenges and heaps of gratitude. It’s hard to believe – and a tad embarrassing – that we didn’t manage interim updates here since last year’s holiday missive, but perhaps that’s indicative of how occupied we’ve been with living life in the present. Now it’s time to make up for that and provide a past-present-future update. So, here we go!
2011 in a nutshell: A year of goodness, happiness and restlessness. A year in which we remained engaged-but-still-not-married. A year in which April took at least one international trip per month for eight out of ten consecutive months and somehow managed to remember the time zone when she got home. A year of REXiness for Jerry, building on the REXpedition platform he described in last year’s letter, and including REXperiments and more (keep reading). A year in which we gave thanks every day for our blessings (we love this TED talk about gratitude), and remembered that our worries are pretty “lucky worries.” A year of good health, more time with our families-of-choice, adventures, blending new and old friendships, and deep anticipation of what is to come.
Rewinding to January, we took a quick getaway to Laguna Beach, where Jerry played faculty to a group of public affairs pros (for him, kinda like being in the lion’s den, something he loves) while April enjoyed Laguna’s “winter.” Big news came at the end of the month, when April learned she had been selected as a Young Global Leader (YGL) by the World Economic Forum – yes, the folks in Davos. This honor framed the rest of the year in the most incredible and memorable of ways (which you’ll see peppered throughout this update; hear more of her views on global leadership in this video done for WEF).
In short, April gets to be a YGL formally for five years, during which time there are a variety of summits, forums, task forces (on everything from water to urban mobility, dignity, youth financial education and happiness) and other initiatives to join. She’s part of the WEF community which comes with all kinds of perks – not least, the people! It was hard for her to keep this information confidential for six weeks like WEF required; her poker face is pretty bad. Meanwhile Jerry wonders if there is an Old Global Wizards club that he might join… (hey!) Continue reading “Happy Holidays 2011!”
Dear Friends, Families of Choice and All-Other-Wonderful-People-In-Our-Lives,
Happy, festive holiday greetings! We hope this finds you thriving and having enjoyed a fulfilling year. We’re not quite sure where the time went, except quickly and full of neat and meaningful experiences. And before you wonder (or lest we leave you in suspense), we’re still engaged but not married, still haven’t set a date, still overwhelmingly grateful for each other, and still appreciate life’s myriad blessings every day.
Also before you ask about our globetrotting this year, let’s just say that April started writing this letter in the Himalaya… but that’s getting ahead of ourselves, so let’s go back to the decade’s beginning first.
2010 got off to a great start, with a happily laid-back schedule compared to last fall’s whirlwind travels. April took work trips to Toronto, New York City (where she met Natalie Portman at a SoHo gym!) and Kansas City. She continues to enjoy leading WaterCredit at Water.org, which is expanding in exciting ways (keep reading) and gives her ample opportunity to learn and grow professionally. In February, Jerry hosted the latest of the agenda-less Retreats he’s run since 1996, this time at the Marconi Center near Point Reyes. At 90 people, this one was the largest ever, and full of good people + good ideas + good intent as always. We took many a weekend cycling diversion, especially as April got a new bicycle (christened Silke) – happy to be two-together-on-two-wheels again!
In March April took her first of two trips (this year) to India. She got to experience World Water Dayfirst-hand at one of the largest such gatherings in the world in Tamil Nadu (watch this video, with nifty time-lapse starting at :52). She also got pretty horribly ill, prompting her first trip to an India doctor, which turned out to be a memorable lesson in the kindness of colleagues and strangers. On the way back she swung through Cambridge, Massachusetts for more meetings and a bonus Beantown happy hour with some of you.
From April (the month) through June, we were both hard at work. There were a few updates on the home front – a rebuilt deck, a stolen motorcycle (RIP Thumper, we miss you) – though rather miraculously neither an iPhone 4 nor an iPad showed up on our doorstep. (That will change in 2011 for sure!) We ran the Bay to Breakerstogether; it was Jerry’s first time experiencing the only-in-SF-costume-party-you-call-this-a-run? extravaganza. We took some independent work-related travels, April to Washington DC, NYC and KC (again) and Jerry to Paris. And perhaps most memorably, we enjoyed several local getaways together: Cavallo Point (part of Jerry’s IFTF advisory work during the year); Carmel for seaside and sunshine (on a different gig of Jerry’s); and a gorgeous, hiking-and-wildflowers Point Reyes home-swap. Continue reading “Holiday letter 2010”