3 Habits of Great Creative Teams

An oldie-but-goodie talk I came across today, thanks to Swiss-Miss.

I’ve been reading Gillian Tett’s The Silo Effect: The Peril of Expertise and the Promise of Breaking Down Barriers as my work-focused read this month – in a maybe un-ending curiosity into how teams, specifically creative teams, work efficiently and effectively without losing the spark that makes them great creative teams.

For the past two decades, Keith Yamashita has worked alongside CEOs and their leadership teams to define — and then attain — greatness for their institutions. He has worked with leaders at Apple, IBM, General Electric, Johnson & Johnson, eBay, Nike, and Gap, among others.

Keith founded SYPartners — a firm steeped in the belief that transformation of individuals, teams, and institutions requires equal parts empathy, aspiration, and a bravery to act. The firm fuses systems thinking and creativity to help organizations in times of seismic change: the formulation of a new business strategy, a merger or acquisition, the rise of a new CEO, the return-to-greatness journeys after an industry shock.

0:30 – Greatness and creativity go hand in hand
0:50 – Virtually all acts of greatness are the acts of an ensemble
1:50 – About SYPartners
3:18 – Diversity is important to any great ensemble
4:22 – The SYPartners division that is sharing the firm’s secrets
5:27 – The quote at the entrance of SYPartners
5:53 – “You have to create an environment where people can be their best selves”
6:27 – A soloist’s guide to getting unstuck
8:06 – You have to develop you own unique method of getting unstuck
8:42 – Great teams work hard to cultivate specific habits
9:47 – Great teams know each member’s “superpower”
10:40 – Understand the forces that may prevent you from finding your purpose
12:50 – The 3 Habits of effective teams
13:30 – The ability to see, not look, is important. What lens do you use in a new situation?
14:56 – Finding your superpower
17:23 – Don’t settle for a job that doesn’t make use of your superpower
18:20 – About SYPartners’ superpowers and how they make the firm tick
19:25 – If your superpower is grit, take care of yourself
21:00 – About duos, the smallest atomic unit of trust
22:00 – Respond with love, not fear. That’s where greatness lies
22:57 – Greatness is about being yourself, fully

After Effects and Meh

When I took the Strengths Finder analysis a few years ago, it confirmed a not-so hidden truth: I like to learn things.

I spent some time earlier this year taking an online course for Adobe’s After Effects CS6, a motion graphics and visual effects program used heavily within the post-production world. I didn’t know much about the production of motion graphics and if I’m honest, terms like “keyframes”* and “rotoscoping” make my eye twitch. The course is 9 hours long and comes with a zip file of exercise files, but isn’t exhaustive. It would’ve felt like I was back in school if I hadn’t been interrupted with real-life work projects and you know, lunch breaks.

This is me, complaining:

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*A sample definition from the course: “Keyframes are just recordings of the settings of one specific parameter at a specific point in time.” I appreciate that the narrator used “just” – like: Hey! Keyframes are nbd.

Needless to say, several months later – I’m still at about the same spot and it’s likely that’s due to my not having a specific reason to use After Effects. Also, I know so many people who are amazing at it and the entire Adobe Suite that it’s nice to focus on the stuff you want to focus on — writing, editing — and let the pros help you out.

A Longish Post of Recent Work

The past year has been a whirlwind, or just a normal year, sometimes it’s hard to tell. I had some technical difficulties with the blog, some work difficulties (in that, I had to) and ultimately some time difficulties – in that, I didn’t have time to update anything longer than 140 characters on Twitter. I took a couple of screenwriting courses, wrote two spec scripts and one original, and because of work, had the opportunity to work on some very cool things.

As I ease back into this, I wanted to share a couple of those very cool things that I’m especially excited to have been a part.

This is what it looks like when you’re happy on set being boss.

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Branded Content: CMT Music Awards 2016 + Aveeno 
I work on a lot of branded content and to be honest, it’s some of my favorite work, and not just because there’s usually very cool talent (like country artist Cam). Branded content is an opportunity to engage with viewers by connecting them with brands that fit their lifestyle, plus the idea is that it’s mutually beneficial for all involved. That was exactly the idea I tried to communicate in writing this Aveeno piece, which had very few script revisions. It’s rare to be one and done, but as an Aveeno user and about the same age as Cam, sometimes it just clicks.

The spot was shot by the awesome Dave Ogle, a great DP in Nashville who also shot a spot I wrote and produced last year for CMT’s Next Women of Country + Toyota. We edited in house at CMT and gratefully, were able to use Cam’s single at the time “Mayday”. Honestly, I might be most proud of the line “hanging with my best gal” which is something I say all the time, and always in reference to my own puppy.

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Traveling in Costa Rica, Again

The thing about hustling on passion projects is that all passion burns out after a while. I traveled with a friend back to Costa Rica this year to take a break and refocus — back to the mostly sunny beach town of Tamarindo on the Pacific Coast for two-weeks of what Theroux would probably call a “superior and safe holiday” but what my not-so-adventurous friends might call “exotic world travel.” In reality, it was a bit of both – the photo highlights of which are below.

I packed six pair of shoes (the downside of traveling with a wonderful, albeit packrat friend is that you bring way more than you need), but wore only my slip-on Seavees, which remain coated in a layer of fine sand — and probably could’ve gotten away with two pair of bathing suits, shorts and t-shirts for the entire time. Tamarindo isn’t off-the-grid, there’s Wifi in most places and it’s populated with a decent amount of expats and tourists. We mostly traveled within the northwestern province of Guanacaste – you could go to multiple playas all day and never be unsatisfied. We did make it out to Rincón de la Vieja, a national park and volcano about 2.5 hours northeast – for a hike, waterfall and natural hot springs.

If you’re adventure-seeking, there are loads of locals roaming the beaches offering bus trips to other parts of the country, to Nicaragua, to islands and other beaches for snorkeling, diving, zip-lining, surfing, paddleboarding — whatever. Mostly, I just wanted to enjoy the experience of living in Costa Rica, eating the typical plates (Noguis is my hands-down favorite, followed by Green Papaya, and La Bodega for breakfast), complaining about the roads, stopping on the side of the road for the corridas de toros in time to see a young improvisado get tossed from a bull, hearing howler monkeys groaning in the morning while they swing across the road on ropes stretched for exactly that purpose. And naturally, reading as much as possible, drinking copious amounts of Imperial and taking a break from the routine of digital life and daily creative.

I just discovered Paul Theroux for the first time (sorry, avid travel-readers) and devoured Dark Star Safari and The Old Patagonian Express on this tripand found as well the literary travel sites Roads & Kingdoms and Nowhere, which are both fantastic and gave me plenty to indulge in now that I’m back in humid Tennessee waiting out the rain to get home, — so naturally, now I feel like I can write about traveling all day, the only caveat being — who has time and money for that? And if I did, would I enjoy it as much? Would I find the empanada shop tucked in the corner shopping center where I consider bingeing because they’re only 2000 colones each? Those existential questions typed out, here are a few moments from the break:









Rincón de la Vieja







Playa Dantita



Playa Conchal


There is no shortage of good days. It is good lives that are hard to come by. A life of good days lived in the senses is not enough. The life of sensation is the life of greed; it requires more and more. The life of the spirit requires less and less; time is ample and its passage sweet. Annie Dillard

Summer Reading / 4 Books to Enjoy, Detest, Debate + Share


The media (née publishing industry) really has a way of psyching us up for summer reading, right? It’s possible I follow too many writers and publishers on Twitter, but people are unloading summer reading lists like there’s nothing better to do than to curl up (as one does) in some fantastical leather chair, in your library of many leather-bound books, a perfectly-brewed pour over coffee at your side and in your lap (beside the well-behaved, non-shedding, foot-warming dog) a thick volume of the greatest novel ever. Or, you know, on a beach or a porch somewhere, a temperate breeze just strong enough to move the blades of grass just so. You will sit there, never moving, going through tens of these novels, hundreds of these novels, until your to-read list is empty and your GoodReads challenge is blown out of the water. And that’s how I fantasize about book reading.

This summer, that will not be exactly my situation but I do want to finally get to four books that I’ve been putting off until I could get as close to this scenario as possible. Two fiction, 1 non-fiction and 1 semi/possibly work-related. This, is my brief summer reading list:

Lidia Yuknavitch, The Small Backs of Children / In a war-torn village in Eastern Europe, an American photographer captures a heart-stopping image: a young girl flying toward the lens, fleeing a fiery explosion that has engulfed her home and family. The image wins acclaim and prizes, becoming an icon for millions—and a subject of obsession for one writer, the photographer’s best friend, who has suffered a devastating tragedy of her own.

Ta-Nehisi Coates, Between the World and Me / In a profound work that pivots from the biggest questions about American history and ideals to the most intimate concerns of a father for his son, Coates offers a powerful new framework for understanding our nation’s history and current crisis. Americans have built an empire on the idea of race, a falsehood that damages us all but falls most heavily on the bodies of black women and men bodies exploited through slavery and segregation, and, today, threatened, locked up, and murdered out of all proportion.

Tom Kelley + David Kelley, Creative Confidence: Unleashing the Creative Potential Within Us All / In an incredibly entertaining and inspiring narrative that draws on countless stories from their work at IDEO, the Stanford d.school, and with many of the world’s top companies, David and Tom Kelley identify the principles and strategies that will allow us to tap into our creative potential in our work lives, and in our personal lives, and allow us to innovate in terms of how we approach and solve problems.

Mia Alvar, In the Country: Stories / These nine globe-trotting, unforgettable stories from Mia Alvar, a remarkable new literary talent, vividly give voice to the women and men of the Filipino diaspora. Here are exiles, emigrants, and wanderers uprooting their families from the Philippines to begin new lives in the Middle East, the United States, and elsewhere and, sometimes, turning back again.

What are you reading this summer?

Things My Mom Posts to My Facebook Wall, an abbreviated list

(in no particular order)

  • a reminder about it being Olivia deHavilland’s birthday
  • a list of dog rules (I don’t have a dog)
  • elementary school age photos
  • many, many posts with this line: “Have I told you lately that I love you?” (not accompanied by Rod Stewart video, so clearly she does not)
  • comments like “I miss you” ; “scary” ; and “Are you okay?”
  • ads for Reba’s DeluxStick cosmetics line
  • teases for things she may have purchased for birthday/Christmas
  • motivational quotes
  • a texting while driving YouTube video
  • more motivational quotes
  • updates on whatever Stevie Nicks is doing in the world
  • articles about sisters
  • mini thank you notes for when I visit
  • posts like this “Reminiscing about the day you were born. It was awesome”