In Pursuit of Purpose

I’ve been thinking a lot about what makes for meaningful work. People often think that finding meaning is the same as finding happiness. More accurately, it’s about being willing to face the hardship and sadness. To do something meaningful is often doing whatever you can to set others free of what troubles them, to find … Continue reading In Pursuit of Purpose

Our Stories Share the Same Roots: A Community Mural Project

It’s been a really good summer, in many ways. Full of laughter and play. Weekend trips. Camping. Outdoor excursions and inside jokes. Crackling fires. Summer pies. At the same time, it has been an emotionally tumultuous year–for lots of us, I imagine. Maybe election years are always this way, and there’s a lot at stake with … Continue reading Our Stories Share the Same Roots: A Community Mural Project

What God Looks Like

My mother once told me the story of a cartoon she saw in a newspaper some years ago, which explained God. In the cartoon, God is a faceless, featureless oval on a table. People come to see and give thanks for all that God has done. They see that God has nothing, no way to see or feel or hear or think. So out … Continue reading What God Looks Like

Our Relationship with Power: Why It Matters & What We Can Learn

Did you miss my show at Arts + Literature Laboratory? Here’s a recap of why I chose to focus on power and a video of the story I told at the reception. Jenie Gao | Our Relationship with Power, video by Midwest Story Lab One of the long-term themes in my artwork is relationships, between people, between nature … Continue reading Our Relationship with Power: Why It Matters & What We Can Learn

Lessons of departure: the heart and mind of a rural town in a tourists’ economy

Lanesboro Arts Center is beautiful. The space is bright, open, welcoming, and full of activity. They regularly host artists and writers to use the space as a getaway to focus on projects, as well as workshops and seminars for the community. When the directors offered to show my work there, they also kindly took the time to … Continue reading Lessons of departure: the heart and mind of a rural town in a tourists’ economy

A welcome interruption: a letter for busy people

We are a culture in transit, both for the joy and the agony of it. Our long work commutes depress us, while ideas of travel and escape excite us. In one of the great contradictions of the human condition, we talk about the journey being more important than the destination, despite what we might think … Continue reading A welcome interruption: a letter for busy people

Rules are made to be…

I’m a lover of paradox, for those who didn’t know, especially the man-made ones. In Milwaukee, Wisconsin, you need a parking permit to keep your car on the street at night. You can only park on one side of the street at night and you have to switch sides each day. During the day you can … Continue reading Rules are made to be…

Art and Leadership: the power and purpose of creativity

I recently wrote an article called “The Myth of the Starving Artist—and what it can teach us about job security.” In it, I discuss how society’s attitude towards art parallels how people feel across industries about their jobs and companies. We’re in a culture that devalues creativity and values pursuing a paycheck over the purpose … Continue reading Art and Leadership: the power and purpose of creativity

The love affair of art & politics-and the culture they create

The chase. The game. Love it or hate it, love it and hate it. Choose to play, choose not to play. There’s no getting away from it. Our existence depends on relationships and our fulfillment on how well we play with others. Today, I’d like to invite you to play a game of make believe. Let’s … Continue reading The love affair of art & politics-and the culture they create

How to comfort your mother and still be true to yourself

My mom, like most parents, worries about my happiness and wellbeing, which means she spends a lot of time thinking about me being unhappy and unwell. Funny how that works, right? She worries about me being alone and unfulfilled. It’s one of her favorite topics to analyze and rehash. I appreciate the intent, and when we … Continue reading How to comfort your mother and still be true to yourself

The myth of the starving artist–and what it can teach us about job security

“What do you do?” This is the number one small talk question we ask people, on par with discussing the weather. It’s a question we either don’t care about at all, because most people hate their jobs, or use to size up other people. Are we on the same tier? Are you also in a dead … Continue reading The myth of the starving artist–and what it can teach us about job security

How to Catch a Counterfeit (or how to focus on what matters)

Back when I started working in manufacturing, I had a boss who would ask our team: “How do you catch a counterfeit?” The answer? “Study the real.” There are infinite variables, infinite ways for a person to create a counterfeit. If you try to become an “expert” of the counterfeits, you’re wasting your time. You could … Continue reading How to Catch a Counterfeit (or how to focus on what matters)

The competition for our attention. The fight for our love.

Comparison is a blessing and a curse, depending on how we use it. Comparisons help us understand context. They give us familiarity, which is vital for connection. The same things can be used to drive disconnection. But if we are rational beings, then tell me. Why do we believe that businesses can be scalable, but compassion cannot? … Continue reading The competition for our attention. The fight for our love.

What a year of “underemployment” looks like

It’s taken me waaaay too long to finally put this information together, but since a lot of people have asked, here’s what one year of “underemployment” looks like since I quit my corporate job, the good, bad, and ugly, followed by what’s happened since. For those of you who don’t want the details, there’s a … Continue reading What a year of “underemployment” looks like

The challenge of staying bold without being ignorant

It was 1991. I was three years old. My dad was in Seattle and my mom would be alone with me that winter. The road was covered with ice on her morning drive, and when she parked her car to drop me off at preschool, she was scared to get out and walk with me … Continue reading The challenge of staying bold without being ignorant

True leaders are teachers

We need to be teachers. Whenever we learn something new, we should immediately ask, “How can we share this?” Our greatest asset as human beings is our ability to actively, purposefully teach one another.  While our chimpanzee friends are wasting time waiting for a chance encounter and observation between one chimp fishing for termites and another … Continue reading True leaders are teachers

What the seasons teach us about change

Fall. This is the season when the trees undress and the people cover up. Once again, the seasons teach us how shared conditions lead living things to change in different ways. They illustrate how things being opposites do not equal one positive and one negative, but both necessary and synchronized adjustments. I have lost a couple … Continue reading What the seasons teach us about change

A Response to the Rape on the Madison Bike Path

This is in response to the rape that happened on the Madison bike path, which is now one of four attempted attacks since July. To my friends in Madison–and those who do not live here but have friends here–SHARE this. Share this. Share this. A smart and informed community has the opportunity to be a … Continue reading A Response to the Rape on the Madison Bike Path

A challenge to my community: speak up for what you care about

It’s not a loud voice, but it’s an extremely prevalent one in our culture. I have friends who choose not to talk about things like politics on Facebook or at work, because the wrong person might see, because that coworker or that family member or old friend might disagree. And as someone who’s been there, as someone who … Continue reading A challenge to my community: speak up for what you care about