Happy Holidays 2011!

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!)

YGL pretty much set the tone for the year: meet, learn, connect, explore, help, go-do-be-see-dive-in-and-help.  Honestly, April felt that if nothing else happened the entire year, that would be already more than enough “good stuff” for a worthwhile year.  But of course, there was more in store for both of us.

The spring kicked off with Jerry’s second REXpedition offsite. This time it was held locally at a neat space across the Bay called The NeXus, complete with Thai Buddha statues and bayside views (that’s the REX posse, poised for action, on the right). REXers addressed conventional wisdoms being proven faulty, such as “scarcity = value” and the Tragedy of the Commons, and wrestled with questions like “what is the future of marketing?”

April’s YGL news went public in early March, and shortly thereafter she attended her first YGL Summit conveniently held in Silicon Valley.  What a great way to see her own backyard in a new perspective.  The next week we participated in one of our favorite annual gatherings:  the Institute for the Future’s annual Ten-Year Forecast at Cavallo Point (Jerry’s worked with them for years).

From there, April departed to India to kick off the single largest WaterCredit program in the history of Water.org.  She met with many MFIs and spent time also in Goa and Varanasi (and visited the famed ghats along the Ganges River; full photo set here).  An unexpected highlight was being in the country when India won its first world cricket championship since the 1980s.  Imagine if when the Red Sox finally won the World Series in the US, they had 1 billion fans… that’s the kind of celebrations we’re talking about. Crazy fun, to say the least!

From India, April hopped up to Switzerland for meetings and a fortuitous visit to the WEF headquarters.  She spent time in Geneva and Zurich, with bonus time to hike along La Salève with a dear friend and meet other YGLs.  Zurich did not disappoint either, as she arrived just in time for the annual “Burning of the Böögg” to mark the beginning of spring.  Maybe 2011 should be called the year of unique festivals…

Still in April the month, April the person took two other short domestic trips to Kansas City and Boston, while Jerry did an East Coast swing through DC and upstate New York, at the end staying several days with friends who built their own cob house as part of a lovely intentional community. (Fwiw, using a dry composting toilet inside a beautiful house is trippy!) We did get to travel a bit together – finally – in the form of Palm Springs for the wedding of dear friends at the end of the month.  It was fun to revisit 1950s nostalgia and stay in a Jetsons-style hotel complete with bright shag rug carpet.

Believe it or not, life from January through April was tame in comparison to subsequent months.  There’s a shared calendar on Jerry’s office door which we both admit looked downright scary from May through mid-November.  True, it also meant many amazing travels and unforgettable experiences – but a miracle combination of energy + effort + good karma was required to pull it all off!

May kicked off with the Shareable conference in San Francisco.  We are both getting increasingly interested in sharing-based business models as one of the most innovative, growing ways to do business (think Zipcar, Craigslist, Netflix and Airbnb as examples; there’s a great book called The Mesh if you’d like to learn more).  Then Jerry took off on a long-awaited trip to Brazil, his first time there despite a dozen years spent growing up next door.

Jerry went to São Paulo and Curitiba, which is inland an hour’s flight south. This was not the prime tourist’s pass through Brazil: São Paulo is a huge, sprawling business center with few landmarks of note (and no billboards!). The picture on the right is an atrium decorated with Post-Its!

Curitiba was Jerry’s goal, because despite a complete lack of money, the city managed to reinvent itself in the 70s and 80s, sparked by an extraordinary mayor, Jaime Lerner. In Curitiba, Jerry attended a conference on innovative cities that featured Lerner and many others sharing their learnings and worries.

The Brazil outing was meant as a scouting expedition to bring a couple of groups to the country in October, but the global economy is mired in goo, so he’s postponed that plan into 2012 or maybe even 2013.

Meanwhile, April attended her first-ever MakerFaireDIY fun extraordinaire – with local family and went to Colorado to run the Bolder Boulder 10K race with her nieces Ella and Amelia.  We had such a good time that we’ve decided to make the run an annual tradition.  She’s just trying to take the fact that they might be faster than her very soon in stride.

In June, we spent a long weekend camping at Point Reyes, one of our favorite spots on earth.  Because we went despite grumpy weather, we had the entire campground – perched high on a cliff above the crashing Pacific Ocean waves, a 6 mile hike from civilization – entirely to ourselves.  We also experienced a complete deluge the first night and seriously wondered if we might just get swept off the cliff!  The following week we headed to the Sustainable Brands conference in Monterey together; another one of our growing and shared interests is sustainability strategy, within companies, governments, communities and the world at large.

Shortly after returning from the coast, we headed to Asheville, NC, for another highlight of the year:  Jerry’s Retreat! One of the big draws to Asheville was that our friends Kevin and Rosa Lee had moved there to be closer to their family (Kevin’s the guy who introduced us in the first place). The other big draw is the stories they started to tell us about Asheville, which, much like Curitiba, had revitalized itself over the years. The Retreat group spent some time at super-eco-friendly Warren Wilson College, fording the Swannanoa to get to Kevin and Rosa Lee’s farm for an outdoor dinner, and watching the Universe’s story projected in an inflatable planetarium called a GeoDome.

A few days after returning from Asheville, April headed to Peru for WaterCredit expansion work.  Returning to Lima after five years, it was almost like another city.  There has been so much development and modernization of the capital, it now feels like some mix-up of Los Angeles and Chicago with a touch of pure Incan culture.  Highlights of the trip included meetings with families in urban slums, learning about how they get their water, how much they pay for it, and whether they have a toilet.  (April agrees, her job is not exactly what you’d call typical – but it sure is good for cocktail party conversations! And yup, that’s April in Lima as a water droplet.) Jerry loved every detail he heard about Lima, where he spent the first 10 years of his life.

All of that happened in June alone.  Are we tired yet?

Come July, we did catch our breath a little bit.  We house-sat for friends in Sonoma and took lovely, long rides through vineyards.  We went on our first-ever “urban garden walking tour” and learned how to make a salad entirely out of foliage in Golden Gate Park (!).  We then headed to the magical town of Galisteo, New Mexico (near Santa Fe, in a basin revered for its natural energy) for another REX offsite. Here REXers shared their personal REXpeditions in the context of their work and goals.

Galisteo kicked off an autumn in which we both hit our strides and “dove deep” into what we do, why we do it, and learning of all kinds.  For April, it was also the first in a series of eight awesome events between the end of July and early December (happily, Jerry attended four of them plus others of his own; April also wrote a short blogpost).  In August we returned to Colorado for April’s high school reunion which was much more fun than she’d expected, and certainly more fun than high school itself.  Next Jerry made a quick trip to Minneapolis, while April headed to Sweden for the annual World Water Week in Stockholm.  She enjoyed the benefits of Scandinavia in midsummer, including jogging between archipelago islands and exploring Södermalm district (of hipster and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo fame).

August also heard Jerry’s ThinkPad give off a death rattle. He made the radical decision to go back to Apple and bought a sleek, almost miraculous MacBook Air (the new 13-inch one). It’s his first Mac since 1992 (there’s an original 1984 Mac in the basement).

In early September, Jerry went to Cape Cod for a geeky conference while April began spiritual work with a shaman.  We then both attended the SoCap conference, another one of our favorite annual gatherings, and the next day April departed for China.  She spent a week in Dalian at the WEF Annual Meeting of the New Champions, aka “summer Davos.”  Hands down it was one of the most extraordinary weeks of her entire professional life so far.  The theme of this year’s meeting was “Leadership & Quality Growth”, and the gathering was a who’s who of Asia and beyond.  April wrote an op-ed about yin-yang (im)balance and leadership styles for it, and decided she wants to write more.  Although seeing the growth course China is charting for itself is a bit scary, it’s also a reminder that we live in an incredible world. It’s undergoing change at unprecedented pace and magnitude, and things are never “going back to how they used to be” — that’s for sure!

It took a while for April to recover from China (in many ways – some of which she’s still working on), and before she’d gotten over jetlag we were off again: to Google’s Zeitgeist conference in Phoenix.  Time for a Camelback Mountain handstand redux and supper with former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor!  From there, Jerry jaunted to Toronto for the SIBOS conference, where he participated in a maverick track on the future of banking and currencies.  By the time he returned, Occupy Wall Street was underway, which became a common thread in our news + conversations.  Entering October, we attended our first Quaker meeting together (Jerry had regularly attended in Connecticut years ago) and geared up for our first long-ish international trip in almost two years:  Mexico!  We attended Opportunity Collaboration, a poverty alleviation conference in Ixtapa, where we co-moderated the Colloquium on the Common Good.  Afterwards we spent time in the nearby pueblo of Zihuatanejo and enjoyed taking a much overdue mini-vacation together. Back home, Jerry and some buddies went karting, which turned out to be much more fun than he expected.

As we moved towards November, Jerry took a couple of fun work trips to Seattle and San Antonio, working with a cruise line and a military “information operations” group, while April continued pursuing WaterCredit expansion opportunities.  It’s been a very exciting year for Water.org.  CEO Gary White and co-founder Matt Damon were named to the TIME 100 list (of most influential people in the world), and water remains ever-more present on the global agenda.  The WaterCredit initiative continues to scale; we’ve doubled our MFI partner network and nearly quadrupled our funding base, so there’s a lot to do!  April now spends more of her time looking at potential new countries and channels for Water.org/WaterCredit expansion, mainly in South America and Southeast Asia.

Similarly, Jerry is busy building his REXpedition, first by adding a virtual, global offer called REXlab, and then by prototyping a workshop called Building the Wecono.me that finds new opportunities in one economic sector per workshop by taking them apart, juggling them in the air (conceptually) and reassembling them differently. His partner-in-crime for this project is hot studio, a (hot) user experience design firm in SF. They held a live-fire rehearsal of the workshop in November and will roll it out in 2012. Jerry feels like he has a huge idea by the tail in the Relationship Economy notion. He’s trying to keep if from flopping him around on the deck, and is gradually gentling it.

With the wecono.me wrap, April left the following day for her last international trip of the year: Spain!  It was a multi-stop trip, including time in Kansas City and Atlanta before heading to Europe.  In Atlanta she returned to Emory University to give speeches on water and microfinance, and really enjoyed a trip down memory lane.  In Spain, she attended the Global MicroCredit Summit in Valladolid – a treat of a town, which was the capital prior to Madrid – and made a quick visit to Salamanca, Spain’s Renaissance treasure.  Although it was a great trip, she was very happy to put her passport away at the end.

At the end of the month, we both attended a workshop on greater consciousness with a friend who’s been initiated as a shaman in multiple traditions and brings that awareness to practical folk like us.  We’re both deeply focused on developing our “relational awareness” and bringing this back into the world-at-large as well.  What is really amazing is that, when one regrinds their lenses in this way, the path towards a brighter future – one that’s not based on fear, zero-sum transactions or false notions of scarcity; one that not only acknowledges but embraces humanity’s vulnerability and deep desire for authentic, non-materialistic connections – seems strikingly clear.  We are in the very early stages of a global shift that will radically change much of the world around us:  how we do business, what we prioritize, how we treat one another.  We’d like to be champions of that process and more humane, positive relationships too.  (Don’t judge this statement by the photo…)

Speaking of better ways to spend one’s time, we also realized that this was the first time in five years that we were both in the US for Thanksgiving.  We wanted to be of service and do something new, so we decided to volunteer.  We delivered hot meals to the homeless and homebound in San Francisco.  It was a meaningful experience, despite the drizzle, and – we hope – set the stage for a holiday season focused on community and serving others more than ourselves.

And here we are in December.  We took another local getaway earlier this month, to Santa Cruz for Jerry’s birthday and a small conference called Highlands Forum.  What a wonderful retreat, and so close to home – we plan to go back, hopefully many times.  April then took back-to-back quick trips to Kansas City and Washington DC, and we now have only one trip left this year:  Colorado for Christmas with family, as we’ve done the past few years.  Snow angels, here we come!

As we look towards 2012, there is much on tap already and even more eager anticipation for what’s not known.  April travels to Cambodia in February and Bolivia in April, while Jerry’s next Retreat is in May near SF.  April will attend a 2-week YGL leadership training course at the Harvard Kennedy School in March and the next WEF/YGL annual summit later in the spring, which she is excited-beyond-words about.  She’ll also take a trip to Indonesia sometime over the summer, and Q3-4 travel remains TBD.  We plan to go elephant seal-watching near Monterey, continue to explore locally, make more trips to Colorado, and may attempt some kind of “shareable” experiment (details still murky).  We’re toying with the idea of a trip to Cuba and possibly (depending on the global economy) a Jerry’s Retreat in Brazil.  We’re planning an extended trip to New Zealand in early 2013 – very excited about that, and all recommendations welcome!

Our goals for 2012 and beyond are fairly simple (even though our lives seem complex sometimes):  Worry less.  Write more (FYI Jerry is becoming a featured blogger on Forbes, and there’s still a book in the works). Finish designing our home garden.  Dive deeper into sustainability, relationships and leadership.  Be happy.  Keep connecting our life-dots and how to best use those to help others.  Slow down.  (Yes, April means that!)  Remember more.  Be still enough to appreciate the present and understand what’s next.  Express joy, gratitude for being alive and in this world today.

We wish you all the best imaginable year ahead (it’ll be 2012! don’t let the world end!) and are so glad you’re in our lives.  We’d love to hear from you (email and Twitter are easiest).  Last but not least, thank you for reading this far!

Lots of love,

April & Jerry

PS:  as last year, for the brave and curious, here’s 2011 in context in Jerry’s Brain.

8 thoughts on “Happy Holidays 2011!”

  1. I’m exhausted just reading it, but what fascinating lives you are leading. Sometime when you both are in town for four hours together–maybe we can have dinner again.

  2. Thanks for sharing your busy and exciting 2011. Reading your letter I made a direct connection a couple of times. The obvious one is the visit to Lima, I appreciate the work with WaterCredit over there. The other one is the 1984 Mac, I remember it. In fact, I wrote a paper with it for a class. Jerry was such an Apple fan then. Actually, I have a Mac freak family, except for me and mostly because of work.
    Have a less busy 2012 but every bit as exciting as this year coming to an end.
    The way I see it 2012 is a win win. If the world ends at least we’ll be there and we won’t a miss a thing: there would be nothing after we are gone (kind of selfish though). And if it doesn’t end, well that’s good news.

  3. Jerry and April, heavens! what commitment, what accomplishment. Thanks for serving the common good so brilliantly. Here’s hoping our paths will cross in the new year. Best, Grant

  4. I’m honored to be in your circle. You wax poetically in every feeling, thought, word and deed. Loads of gratitude for your leadership on the planet. You inspire me beyond words.
    Onward and Love, Leilani
    P.S. I expect to see one or both of you in CO and SF in 2012!!

  5. What an amazing year 2011 you have had! I am glad that the WEF is such a great experience for you. April, phantastic that you can return to Harvard in the spring – you will see why I liked the Kennedy School so much ;-) Great that you are getting into leadership and that can travel so much – as both of you love to do. Your retreats and workshops sound really fun, cutting edge and interesting.
    Best wishes from Brussels, I hope your travels will bring you there next year,
    Christiane

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