That work involved digging deep, asking tough questions of herself, and working with a coach to look at her purpose and her skills, and the things she needed to change in her life. All of which made her extremely uncomfortable. There were deliberate efforts to push her out of her comfort zone. “I hate improvisation. I plan everything down to the letter.”
Daughter of a marine engineer, with a military background, the idea of pulling an idea from thin air and testing it with a roomful of people didn’t sit well. “I work in the digital space where letting go of control is a path to success, and yet I personally found letting go of control extremely challenging.”
Similarly, she spent her life as a journalist listening to other people.
“And yet I wasn’t in the habit of listening to myself. And here I was in a situation where you couldn’t choose your level of participation: you had to jump all in. We were there to explore. And I watched people make stuff up and try things out on the fly, sometimes with ridiculous success. And sometimes not, but it was always interesting. I learned that the real artistry and mastery is letting go of the script and stepping into the unknown with the skills you have.”
Post-THNK, Michele started to share hunches, to pursue silly ideas that in the past she’d park, to drop things in front of groups of people to see how they landed. She remembers realising how far she’d come when she was hosting a brainstorm with some of Love Matters’ biggest donors. “Five minutes before the meeting started, I decided to go with a silly idea I’d had, and have everyone make up their own porn name, and introduce themselves with those. I said to heck with it, we are going to be discussing a pleasure-positive product, I want to get everyone to a place where they feel creative and off-balance, and I want everything in the agenda to occupy a fun frame. To this day, many of those donors still write to me using their porn names.”
And there lies the kernel of what Michele today considers the greatest gift her THNK experience: trust. “Stepping out of your comfort zone is profoundly scary. And I don’t think it’s really gotten easier. But you learn to trust that things will be fine.”
“I was given a gift I did not know I was going to receive” she says. “We all like to think that we’re working on our professional skills every day. But I was just renovating the outside of the house without paying attention to the foundation. THNK was all about the foundation: Is the foundation secure? No? There’s a crack there? Let’s fix that.”