For the past four weeks, I’ve been doing a little experiment as part of a cohort in which I’m participating. Every week, I’ve set aside three hours to write about lessons I’ve learned from different people (Doug Engelbart, Jeff Conklin, Chris Dent, Gail and Matt Taylor, and Kristin Cobble) and projects. I’m doing it primarily as a bottoms-up exercise to surface the core principles of my work, but I’m also curious to see if the stories themselves help people better understand my own story — why I do the work that I do and the core principles underlying my practice.
It’s been challenging and fun. It’s definitely helped me get clear, and I’ve also gotten good feedback from peers. I’ve benefited from decently organized notes over the years, several of which I published on this blog.
At times, I find myself flummoxed by how long I’ve been doing this. I “officially” started focusing on collaboration in 2002 — 15 years ago! — and I started this blog the following year. I’ve been pulling up lots of posts that I wrote a decade ago or longer, and while it’s been fun to revisit work that I was doing and questions I was exploring, it also leaves me wondering where the years have gone.
Then I think about my mentors. Jeff had been doing this work for 20 years when I first met him, Matt and Gail for almost 30, and Doug for 50! One of the many things that all four of these good folks had in common was that they were still curious, still learning. They had strong points of view that they had earned through many years of real practice, but they never let that interfere with their hunger to learn more and from anyone, regardless of age or background.
Compared to my mentors, 15 years still squarely places me in the beginner category, which is good, because that’s about how I feel. Maybe I’m in second grade now. It’s firing me up for what I’ll learn in the next 15 years, at which point maybe I’ll graduate to third grade.
More importantly, it reminds me how lucky I’ve been to have important mentors in my life and how important it is for me to pay it forward.