Giving ourselves permission

Written by Anna Love-Mickelson
Posted June 17, 2013

A number of people have asked us how we ended up doing what we do.  Surprisingly, Parker and I have very similar experiences.  Here’s how it went:

When we landed in our first design thinking training session we were both in a pretty shitty place.  We wanted something new, but didn’t know what it was.  We knew more about what we didn’t want than what we did want.

Our first bootcamp gave us something unexpected, something we didn’t go there to get. We both left feeling light.  It was as though we had a coat of armor that had been lifted.  We became clear on what our work values were (which, by the way, weren’t must different from our personal values).

So there we were, on top of the world ready to solve big messy challenges.  It didn’t take long until we began to run into problems we didn’t know how to overcome and people we didn’t know how to influence.   We began to feel those old feelings of being a victim, fearing failure, and of not being good enough.

Each time we returned to the d.school that light feeling returned.  It took many trips back and a good couple of years to figure out what is was that made us feel so good at the d.school and so shitty at home. At the d.school we had permission to think big, be courageous and have fun.   At home we returned to that old way of behaving and thinking.  It was a brain synapse that had been traveled for a long damn time.

Once we figured that out, everything became easier.  We were able to name those negative influences and let them go.  Soon, these behaviors impacted the way we thought.  Just acting a certain way changed the lens through which we saw the world.  The adage, “act as if…”

It became easier to be bold, experiment, and put ourselves out there – our real selves.  People were drawn to us not because of what we said or did, but because of the way we made them feel.  Oh, and the work we did was better than anything we had ever delivered in the past.

Most importantly, we fell in love with the journey. On a smaller scale, that meant our immediate challenges at hand. On a meta level that meant the journey of life.


  • Todder Moning

    Really cool post Anna! I’m always learning from you guys that the big ideas are not only o.k, but encouraged. Appreciate how design thinking works, even on the big ideas.

    • Anna Love-Mickelson

      Thanks Todder! Having the permission (actual or perceived) to think outside the box feels pretty damn good. Glad you are enjoying the posts.