A DANCER REIMAGINED
Every piece of her past informs her current career. Today, Cecily makes her living helping others navigate the twists and turns of life, as a highly sought after futurist. She guides companies through a process of paying close attention to trends, markets, data, and culture. The goal? Futuristic breakthroughs to problems of the present.
To see into Cecily’s own future, we’ll look into her past to find a path to remarkable imagination and resilience.
Cecily comes from a line of builders and searchers. Growing up in an alternative family— creative and academic—she watched her mother, a painter, flit from Judaism to Catholicism to Hinduism and to Buddhism. Her stepfather was a professor. Her father worked in public television and radio. While this collection of adults may not have prepared her for the skills of making a robust living, she learned that to lead an interesting life you must be interested in life.
A DANCER REIMAGINED
Attacking life with gusto and enthusiasm, Cecily dove deep into all of her passions—everything from romance, to dance, to a surprising new love for science.
Even after finding success, there was still the need for more. Cecily itched to find a “thumbs up” feeling with a partner. She couldn’t predict that everything would be lost in the process.
At this point, Cecily may not have known where she was going. But she knew how to put on a show. She knew how to teach. She knew how to run a business. So Cecily set out to combine these skills in such a way that could forge a new direction for her career. After many iterations, she founded the Push Institute, a think tank that tracks the implications of global trends. Within the institute, Cecily created the PUSH conference as a call to action for audiences to take charge of the future. Speakers at PUSH included the unlikely combination of the Prime Minister of Estonia, a theoretical physicist, a Grammy-Award winning songwriter, and a buddhist teacher.
Once asked, who are you to be doing all this? Cecily answered, “I’m the one doing it.”
In finding herself, Cecily was prepared for the big life challenges still ahead. She now had the experience to position herself as a leading expert in predicting business trends. But even more importantly, she is now able to uncover purpose in others.
For 17 years, Sommers has been speaking and consulting on strategic foresight and innovation. Her book, Think Like a Futurist: Know What Changes, What Doesn’t, and What’s Next, shares some of the tools and techniques to break free from the “Permanent Present”—the bias for projecting current conditions into the future. Here, she gives Pollenites four practices to sustain change.
It’s a state. What will come up first, last, and in between is the fear, and you want to challenge that with a positive potential. Do so by setting in yourself a more open brain. Just smile. It’s a physical shift. Correct yourself when you find yourself not smiling. Positivity ratio. For every negative thought we have, it takes three positive thoughts or experiences to balance that out. Whenever there’s a negative experience, think of three positives.
This is what you do when you face a problem. You’re stuck. You don’t know what to do. When this happens you just don’t know enough information to make a decision. When we’re in a problem state we think there is something wrong (wrong with me, wrong with the world). Instead, practice curiosity. You’re way through stuck to flow is when you can see the solutions—something you haven’t seen before. You’re crafting a learning terminal. When you get stuck, practice curiosity. Ask yourself: What do I not know about there? Where can I start looking way outside myself? That’s how you find your way forward. Creating the opportunity for discovery. The ah ha moment. You’re energized. You see your way through.
This one occurred to me in my chiropractic days. What I was hearing from people was their self-assessments: “I’m not that courageous.” We have to practice it in the small ways every day. Not when we’re scared shitless. Grow your capacity to take bigger risks. Say hello to people you don’t know. Show yourself you can survive something—the small act of courage of “excuse me, I don’t agree.” You begin to build a capacity in yourself that you can draw from in the bigger moments. Most situations in which people are caught in fear are because they’re afraid to make a decision. They think it’s an all or nothing decision. What it takes to move in life is to keep making decisions. Each decision is not the last one; it’s just the next one. The way to move away from fear is to make a decision and take action. Each time you do that, you’re practicing courage.
When you’re swimming in uncertainty, self doubt, you don’t get to say when things become clear. Things aren’t clear until they’re clear. You have to give it time until the clarity smacks you upside the head and you allow it to be okay. Evolution—the change that begets change—and the patience in that process. We get to have goals and pursue them and evaluate the outcomes. Just have to let things hang out there for awhile.
Read our in-depth feature on Cecily for more on the art of reinvention.
On Thursday, October 22, more than 100 Pollenites woke up early and joined together in a conversation about reimagining life: When are we at our best? Are we ready for new challenges? What baggage do we need to shed? Before looking inward and answering these questions, a panelist of career and life reimaginers kicked us off by modeling vulnerability.
Sometimes you know exactly what you want and how to get it, and sometimes the answer isn’t as clear. But when you look ahead with curiosity and courage, the possibilities are endless.
Life changing moment: Cancer
“After my mastectomy, I looked down my gown and thought, I am so good. I am already whole. The rest is just about going through the process.”
Lesson: Time is short.
“It took time to recognize the voice rising in me, going NOOOOOOOOO! This is not working. I ask myself: Is your life working? Yes or no? And if I go thumbs up, I stay. I have to keep being a really good editor. Don’t wait too long to make a change.”
Life changing moment: Sobriety
“December 31, 2010 was the last time that I drank. Waking up on January 1, 2011, I tried to imagine a life without alcohol. 1/1/11 was a very convenient date of rebirth for me and for my family.”
Lesson: Be thoughtful.
“Most people are opportunistic. I suggest thoughtfulness instead. What steps could I be taking to help make that next step more likely to happen. I tell folks, Why network? Why show up for a cup of coffee with a stranger? I think it is because you are trying to accelerate serendipity. As you learn in recovery, so much is not in our control. A new opportunity may not just happen to you. You must take action to change your career.”
Life changing moment: Unemployment.
“About a year ago this week…I was an emotional wreck. My primary definer was one thing [her role as co-founder and co-executive director of Students Today Leaders Forever]. “Disorienting” resonates with me. It was how people oriented to me. Now that I was no longer working at STLF, I had to keep my crap together as people brought up STLF to me. Keeping ones crap together is generally difficult.”
Lesson: Fight tradition.
“Not having a job in our society is almost a crime. I got a lot of negative feedback about being on sabbatical and intentionally jobless. They said it would hurt my future opportunities. Six months away means every previous opportunity expires? Snowbirds actually gave me a lot of courage. They leave and when they return, everyone’s like, yay! They’re back.
We must reimagine existing behaviors. We should be equally critical of new paths and tradition.”
Life changing moment: Moving.
“I grew up in a small town in southern Iowa. We were the only minority family and we were constantly dealing with bias and ignorance. Then I was accepted into St. Catherine University. As a Muslim woman, culturally, it is not the norm to leave home before marriage. And I was going far away for college. It instigated so many new things.”
Lesson: It is okay to move on.
“My last day working at the nonprofit I founded, CAIR-MN, was September 31, 2014. I got on a plane and spent a month in Southeast Asia. I let the person who took my place address the issues, just the way I had to. I was mindful of giving him space. I spent eight years building the infrastructure. If it will fall apart without me, I had failed all along.”
Lunch provided. $34 MN WIN Members, $54 for Nonmembers registered before November 18th.
Are you feeling stuck in your business? Even when your options don’t look so great, there are actions you can take right away that will help you bring about profound change from the ground up. At this luncheon, you’ll learn a simple system for getting into action quickly, even when you’re lacking motivation, procrastinating, or facing down big obstacles, so you can get moving and live the joy-filled life you were meant to!
Golden Valley Country Club, 7001 Golden Valley Rd, Golden Valley, MN: 55427
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