Open Letters

An Open Letter to the Awesome People Who Actually Follow My Monthly Challenges

Dear Awesome People,

It’s my twelfth consecutive month of monthly challenges. Woo! But the thing is, I may have challenged myself into a corner of sorts. I’ve really been struggling with my own topic this month, my open letters series. It seemed like a great idea when I was in the prep stages, but each morning as I sit down to write, instead of feeling super excited to write, which is how I normally feel about my writing and video projects, I’m feeling the opposite. I'm putting off my writing until the end of the day (two days in a row now.) And that is not what these challenges are about. They are about pushing boundaries, exploring and having FUN. If they're not fun, I'm on the wrong path. 

Maybe I’ve said all I have to say in the way of open letters? Maybe after my really positive experience with my first NaNoWriMo challenge, I’m drained of depth and meaningful words?  

I’ve given this a good deal of thought because I’ve been feeling this since day 02 this month. It’s an experience I’ve not run into in any of my prior challenges. So here’s what I’m thinking…

I’m not going to stop writing, I will continue 31 consecutive days of writing as committed, but I am going to switch gears. I need to choose something I can really connect with. While it’s always a little scary to serve your heart and feelings up on a plate by way of public post, pushing myself to explore is exactly what these challenges are about. I’m feeling like my open letters have filled the space they needed to fill, I need to reach further, push harder, challenge myself in a different way. 
My next post will be a different direction than open letters, but rest assured I shall continue through Dec 31! 

If you are participating in #tinychallenges, or a 30 or 31-days challenge of any sort, or if you simply follow along in reading these various adventures I would love to hear your thoughts on this gear changing business. 

Thank you for reading and for your support in these little experiments. I appreciate it!

Jaimee

An Open Letter to Edgar Mitchell

Dear Edgar,

On March 26, 2014 I had the pleasure of having a conversation with you for a podcast that never aired. We talked about how you walked on the moon just over 42 years prior to our conversation, and I asked the question, “What have you been up to since you walked on the moon - what do you do after you walk on the moon?”

We covered a lot of topics in our thirty-minute conversation. You told me all about your interest in Dr. J.B. Ryan’s work at Duke University in “mind over matter phenomenon”, and how this work which dated all the way back to the 1600s had led you to study a great deal in parapsychology. We talked about the practice of sustainability and the work you’ve done with your Institute of Noetic Science in the study of consciousness. It was a beautiful and brilliant conversation to be a part of. What an honor, indeed. I want to share with you the importance of the part that has stuck with me the most.

You talked about how astronauts often came back from space with something you called “The Big Picture.” You described it as an experience that made you realize we are all start dust, since all the matter in our universe is essentially made in the star system, so we’re all star dust. You said, “this perspective of seeing the Earth from such a great distance helps you see that the glue that holds us all together is love and caring.” You went on to share how this understanding, this perspective has pushed you to move your life toward caring for the greater good. Living and serving the bigger picture.

I want to thank you for that message. It’s wonderful hearing from someone who has set foot on the moon that everything after that revolves around the purest, simplest core of our existence. It’s a perfect message that has soaked deeply into my soul.

With Heartfelt Thanks,

Jaimee

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Edgar Mitchell was the Lunar Module Pilot for Apollo 14 and the sixth person to walk on the moon. 
Read more about him here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edgar_Mitchell

Also check out his Institute of Noetic Science: http://www.noetic.org/

An Open Letter to Tony Hsieh

Dear Tony,

While my time working directly with you at Zappos was brief, I learned a good deal about great leadership and about myself. This letter is a reflection on some of those things. 

I was tasked with heading up the team + strategy for the first mobile apps at Zappos in June of 2010. My first meeting on the project was listening to a room full of people who’d been working on a version of the product for several months prior. Upon completion of that meeting, I was approached by several individuals who each said something along the lines of, “I know we just discussed that, but Tony really wants this.” And each person had a completely different version of what “Tony wants.” Which led me to ask my boss at the time, “Can I just ask Tony what Tony wants?” 

The three of us sat down, I asked you a handful of UX-ey/vision/business objective questions, you answered each with direct simplicity. I walked out of that meeting feeling like I knew exactly what we needed to do, without having been given any specific directive on how to do it. In summary, your most defining point was, “I just want something I’m not embarrassed to Tweet about.” Of course there was more to it than that, but that line sums up the fact that you communicated a very clear business objective and trusted us — the team tasked with pulling it off — to deliver something that exceeded expectation. And we did. Eight weeks later we went from having never touched an iPad to having the first iPad app for Zappos, raining cats to boot. Our team worked really hard and had a lot of fun. Lesson learned: Great leaders trust they’ve made great hiring decisions, communicate clear objectives, then get out of the way. 

I know I’ve not always been the easiest person to be a manager of. About 85% of my job history (the patches where I’ve been an employee as opposed to self-employed) is made up of roles that didn’t exist before I held them. Those roles were open for me to define and grow as I saw fit as long as the activities of the role supported business objectives. My role at Zappos started out that way and I did some my best work under those conditions. Two of the four managers I had during my two-year tenure at Zappos were really amazing people who understood how to work with someone like me. I learned a lot and I’m grateful for it all. Lesson learned: Great hiring is about finding a person with great ecology to bring to a team, not finding a round peg that must fit into a round hole. Great leaders know how to fuel someone who has the right team ecology.

You had my back when I felt passionate about something, whether I was right, or just being passionate was never in question. You trusted that my passion came from the right place, and trusted that my reasons were sound. While I’ll not point out the specific example, I believe to this day we made the right decision. You put my care/concern for quality over checking off a box on the roadmap. Lesson Learned: Great leaders ask and listen to how much their people care about something before making an “executive decision.” Whether that decision results in success or failure, everyone learns a lot from the process.

A couple years ago I invited you to be on a podcast I was co-hosting. You were kind enough to accept the invitation, we scheduled, and somehow I ended up with the wrong date in my calendar, and as it turned out I was going through security at an airport at the exact moment you emailed to find out if we were still doing the show. I’ve never been more embarrassed for wasting someone’s time as I was in that moment. I still feel bad about it because I value time as a precious commodity. Wasting yours, mine or anyone else’s is not a thing I want any part of. I know I apologized for it already, but ya. Ugh. Lesson Learned: Don’t waste people’s time. Be succinct, be clear, be mindful, be organized. Get better at using a calendar and write more stuff down.

I’ll keep it at that for now. Thanks again for all you do, and all you’ve done. It was an honor to have worked with and learned from you.

Respectfully,

Jaimee

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For those unfamiliar, you can read more about who Tony is and some of the stuff he does/has done here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tony_Hsieh

Also: Zappos.com

An Open Letter to Sylvester Stallone

Dear Sylvester,

I want you to know how much the movie Rocky means to me. Not just the movie, but you having written and directed it. I’ve heard the story of how it came to be, how you actually reached such a low point you had to sell your dog order to buy food, but then you were able to buy him back once you changed your situation. The story around how this movie came to be is as important as the story the movie tells.

I do some public speaking out in the world, one of my more recent talks is called, “Through Burnout & Back Again — Design Skills That Saved My Life.” It’s my own story of how my 17-year career as a web & mobile app designer (which I LOVED) hit an unexpected wall of burnout and depression after the loss of my dad in 2012. As an independent mother of two little girls, that was a scary thing to go through, but I had to figure it out. I couldn’t give up. The talk shares how I used my design career skills to re-design my life (just as I would have designed an award-winning product in my glory design days.) I quote the movie Rocky in this talk because the movie — the lines from this movie — were exactly what I needed to fight my way through this really dark time. It was this quote that ignited an amazing new journey and direction for me in life:

“It doesn’t matter if I lose this fight. All I want to do is go the distance.”

That line inspires me every single day. I think of myself as a serial heart-follower, but every now and then I find myself at a crossroads where I get stuck trying to figure out how to get out of my own way. I may be my biggest recurring obstacle in life. It’s examples like you Mr. Stallone that remind me what is possible with focus, persistence and sticking with your guts. You remind me that I am capable of going the distance if I am willing to fight for what I want, and what I believe in.

You’ve given me an amazing gift in the continuous inspiration to allow your heart to lead the way. Thank you so much for that!

With Utmost Respect,

Jaimee

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If you've not yet seen the movie CREED, go see it immediately. It holds up well to the spirit of the original Rocky. And I had some teary-eyed moments while watching it.  WATCH THE TRAILER

 

An Open Letter to Cyndi Lauper

Dear Cyndi,

I’m not sure how you manage it, but you’ve been one of the coolest people alive since I was about 5 years old. I’m 40 now. That's a pretty good run and you're still going.
My first Cyndi record was a 45 of the single Time After Time. I taped the little paper sleeve it came in onto my closet mirror, near where I kept the My Little Pony castle. 

I think what strikes me most about you, beyond the obvious boldness and strength, is your kindness and humility. The world connects to you through some of your most incredible songs, and you’ve taken further steps to be not only someone who entertains but someone who helps on a much larger scale. Your TrueColorsFund is a really beautiful movement to help many who’ve connected with your songs and far beyond - you help those without a voice.

I love knowing there are people like you in the world to help and inspire others toward positive change and compassion. I love that you live on your own terms, and you always have. I love that you have spirit and have maintained the element of fun and creativity in every single aspect of your life. All these fantastic ingredients sum up to an example I aspire to raise my daughters to be more like. 

My open letter here is brief, but I want to say, thank you for all you do and for who you are. 

With Gratitude,

Jaimee   

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Check out some of the incredible work Cyndi is doing through her TrueColorsFund: truecolorsfund.org

And here are a couple nifty factoids:
Did you know Cyndi Lauper did the intro song to Pee-Wee’s Playhouse (credited as Ellen Shaw)
source

Did you know “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” was originally recorded by Robert Hazard?

An Open Letter to Dolly Parton

Dear Dolly,

You are one of my most favorite people that I’ve never met. I’ve admired you since I was a little kid, my parents used to have some of your records (an eight-track tape or two, even.) I always loved the stories of your songs even though I never understood them as deeply as I came to understand them with age and more life experience. I think my admiration became really concrete with your role in the movie 9-to-5. You were this really beautiful lady who was funny, hard working, nice and spirited. It’s hard to say you really know who any celebrity is behind the scenes, but I always felt like you did a great job of being a well-decorated version of yourself. Honest and humble, all the while glamorous and focused. I love that. 

I realize this is nothing more than a fan letter, something you’ve likely seen more millions of times than I’ll ever imagine, but I’ve learned the importance of letting people know when they’ve added value to your life. You’ve added value to my life through your stories and your example of what it means to live your dreams. I’ve never been to one of your shows or met you in person. I’ve followed what you’re up to off and on for years from a quiet distance. You’ve left an amazing impression on me. Whenever I peek in, I learn about a million more awesome things you've done in the world and you’ve made and shared more incredible stories.

I’m the mother of two young girls, and bringing girls up in the world gets you thinking a lot about role models and good examples. I never push them to look up to celebrities, but I do encourage them to seek inspiration that moves their soul for reasons they owe no explanation for. You are one of those examples for me. I’ve often thought about what I would say to you if I ever met you. I never turn up with much, I always think I have great questions stored away for those rare occasions when I meet someone who’s been an inspiration to me, but when I’ve found myself in those situations, I often find myself wide-eyed and frozen - just a little too shy to let words escape. I’m sort of a goober that way. 

Thank you, Dolly Parton, for being who you are. For being open and real about life, for dreaming big and keeping to those dreams. Thank you for being absolutely fantastic.

With Respect and Care,

Jaimee

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Be sure to check out "Coat of Many Colors" based on the inspiring true story of living legend Dolly Parton's remarkable upbringing: http://www.nbc.com/coat-of-many-colors

You can learn more awesome stuff about Dolly at dollyparton.com

 

An Open Letter to Karen Salmansohn

Dear Karen,

Hello there! My name is Jaimee Newberry, I’m a professional experimenter. I wanted to let you know that you’ve inspired me in some pretty big ways in my life, and I feel like I owe you a great big THANK YOU.

In 2004 I saw you speak at a "HOW Design" conference in San Diego. You talked about your career, sacrifice, bad luck, pushing through, changing direction and owning your life. You told the story of how you got your first book published. It’s been a while, I don’t remember the talk today with incredibly keen detail. What I do remember is that you inspired me. I remember returning to work feeling energized and excited. I remember thinking, “one day I’ll give talks about something at a conference, too!” I was a web designer at the time, I loved my work so much and you inspired me to grow in new directions. 

After a while the energy of the inspiration dissolved into my bloodstream, your books went on book shelves and life propelled forward. I believe that inspiration takes up residence in our brain and leaps out at unsuspecting, but desperately needed times. Earlier this year, eleven years after having seen your talk or touched your books, I started doing some research for some of my own work and I happened across your name. Immediately I ran to my book shelve and there you were. You’d been there all along. Ready to be a source of inspiration once again.

A couple months ago I volunteered for something called AppCampForGirls, and one of the guest speakers there was an amazing woman named Colleen Wainwright. Over breakfast, I mentioned my monthly challenges (sometimes writing, sometimes YouTube, sometimes who knows what) and I mentioned that you’d been the inspiration for me in wanting to do public speaking and Colleen asked, “Have you ever told her that?” I had not. “You should,” she said. (Thank you, Colleen!)

I’ve been actively speaking at conferences of all sizes for the past five years now. I have no idea if I will ever impact anyone the way you impacted me way back in 2004 but I feel like I owe you the biggest expression of gratitude for the inspiration and seed you planted in me so long ago. You demonstrate a beautiful example of following your heart, living boldly and laughing often. You reminded me that the best story to tell is my own. Thank you!

With Gratitude,

Jaimee

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To learn more about Karen Salmansohn, check out her site at: notsalmon.com

Introduction: Open Letters Series

My "tinychallenge" for December 2015 is an Open Letters series.

My open letters are inspired somewhat by Timothy McSweeney’s “Open Letters to People or Entities Unlikely to Respond” in combination with own monthly #tinychallenges, emphasis on gratitude.

My open letters are a way of thanking different people for the impression or inspiration they’ve left on me. Whether my list of 31 is publicly recognizable or completely obscure, all of them have inspired me, pushed me to grow, or otherwise influenced some part of my direction in life. There is no sequence or order of hierarchy, I created a list of 55 bullets over the past few days, I will consult the list each morning and write to whichever feels right that day.

My personal rules for this series:
    • 31 days, one letter per day
    • each letter must be written in 45 minutes or less   
    • each letter must be posted publicly upon completion (no editing)      

With that, let the journey begin!

Jaimee Newberry
December 2015