It makes sense we’re talking about gratitude in the month of November. Not only is it the month of baked sweet potatoes with marshmallows (and jelly???), it’s also the time to get together with our community.

We spent the morning reflecting on how we can reach out, reach down, and reach across to forge better communities.

I think we all left with a feeling of joyous urgency, inspired with new ideas and ways to give back to this community that has given us so much.
This recap was lovingly written by Anna, and photos taken by the gracious Sean.


Leading with gratitude


Activity! Love letters

How do you give?

Don’t judge, ok?

When stuff gets rough

Stop, collaborate and listen

Be gracious with yourself


Leading with gratitude

This isn’t just about being a leader. It’s about starting every interaction from a space of gratitude. That person is taking their time to interact with you, give you advice, work on a project with you, heck- maybe even hire you.

If you are in a leadership position, be sure to recognize when your team is good at their jobs. I’m not just talking about the big wins (like finishing a major project or winning a client), I’m talking about the little ones. Like noticing they are good at keeping people’s spirits ups. Or they are the magic fairy that keeps the coffee pot full. Take into account their talents outside their professional field and figure out how to pull them in to a project.

The biggest we can do when we are in leadership roles is to make sure everyone has a voice. Asking everyone’s opinion is a way of showing gratitude. Think about it- you value their opinion so much you are directly asking for it. You are acknowledging their energy on the project and want to make sure they give all the input needed.



The creative industry tends to have a more non-traditional route to success. There is no cut-and-dry approach to this life. We all really rely on mentors to help us forge our own path. Because we have no set structure, we 100% rely on our community. We have to be shown a way and be empowered to make hard choices.

Who are the creative Yodas in your life?

This section might seem small, but mentoring is a theme that runs throughout this whole recap.

Activity! Love letters


Take 2 minutes right now (I mean, right now, like, put your coffee down and listen) to write a list of all the people that got you where you are today.

Be sure to include

  • mentors

  • teachers

  • family

  • friends

  • that random barista that keeps you happily caffeinated

  • partners

  • bosses

  • colleagues

  • clients.

Yeah, you have a lot of people to be grateful for.

This month I challenge you to write 3 thank you cards a week.

Separate it out so it’s not a daunting task, but do thank these people.

Just think about how you would feel if someone wrote you a thank you note. You would probably cry and immediately tape it up on your desktop screen and not admit that you tear up every time you look at it.


How do you give?

So we’ve figured out who our mentors are and thanked them. Now, how can we start to give back to our community?

The coolest thing about giving back is that you actually end up getting more.

When you give without expecting something in return but give because it comes from a place of compassion, passion, energy, or knowledge- the return is like a billion times as great (this is scientifically proven).

I urge you to give where you can. If you’re great at organizing, a non-profit could probably use your skills. If you have extra time and can donate your talents to a local organization, do it! Go to portfolio nights, spend time with students - the list is virtually endless.

It’s not selfish to bless people with your skills (and honestly gives you an opportunity to get better at them).

Giving back doesn’t have to be grandiose acts of kindness.

It can be a simple showing up. Show up to events or shows that your mentors and community members put on. Advocate for them, because they sure as hell advocate for you.

Incorporate giving back into your everyday routine.


Don't judge, ok?

Hey- how often do we have that reaction of “OMG THEY ARE THE NICEST PERSON UGH I’M HORRIBLE” and then go eat a massive burrito? I mean...maybe that’s just me…

The lesson here is this: don’t wallow or judge yourself against others who are probably reaching saint-level goodness. You are too! We all have different ways of giving back, it just so happens some ways are more visible than others. Nothing wrong with that.

When stuff gets rough

When the going gets tough and self-doubt is the highest it’s ever been, this is the BEST time to give advice. Too often we wait until we’re over the self-flagellating buried-under-blankets hump before we reach out to help others.

Giving advice only when we feel on top of the world gives the impression that we have our shit together, when in reality we totally don’t. Like, not at all. How much more powerful would it be to share when you’re struggling? I guarantee someone else has had the same struggles and can help you out. Or, vise versa, your story might tell another creative that it’s ok they are clutching their blanket in despair right now. It’s going to get better.

There’s this cool philosophy of the Dalial Lama- ‘wisely selfish.’ If you’re feeling down and out, instead of curling into a ball, do something nice for someone. Not only will you spread more joy in the world but you’ll feel better too!


Stop, collaborate and listen

If you’re reading all of this and can’t think of a way to give back, that’s ok! You don’t have to carry the burden of coming up with an idea on your own.

Collaborating helps with burnout - you get to be with people and give back. It’s a win win win situation.

Your superpower just might be bringing people together. The tech community does it! There are hackathons, GiveBack Hacks, whole weeks dedicated to solving tech problems. Why don’t we do this as creatives? …maybe we should do this with the Rise & Design community?

The challenge now is this: think outside your immediate network. What spaces can you CREATE in order to solve problems? Match people up who don’t do the same things to get a diversity of ideas and humans.

Invite them all to coffee or a happy hour drink next Friday and see what happens. Probably something magical.

Be gracious with yourself

Man, the MidWest is so fricking humble. How many times this week did you genuinely ask a total stranger “How are you?”, or hold the door open for them, or say something along the lines of “Oh, no, it was all you! YOU did it!” (when really you did).

This is good, this is nice, but don’t humble yourself too far. Be sure you’re also the one giving advice and compliments.

A quick trick is this: start replacing “sorry” with “thank you.” For example, instead of saying “Sorry I’m running late” say instead “Thank you for waiting for me.” It shows your confidence and your appreciation for the other people in the room.

A big part of gratitude isn’t just outward, it’s inward.

Thank yourself today.

I could write whole essays on this, but really. Thank yourself. If you’re not gracious towards yourself, you’ll find giving back even harder.


Thank you for reading,