My 1/3-Life Crisis

Today is my one-third life birthday. I’m 33 and 1/3 years old. I have a lot of great stories from this first chunk. So what’s next?

Have you seen the documentary where Picasso paints from the other side of a glass? It’s a national treasure of Spain and for good reason. It’s simply him working. Hypnotically, he paints and paints and paints. Even once the piece looks “done” he reworks the same spot over and over again. Paints over the old marks. Grabs a new canvas and starts again now that he knows “what he’s doing.”

But this isn’t about Picasso, this is about me. What am I trying to say here? Life is weird. It took a big left turn for me in the way of a broken engagement. My worldly possessions are once again in a storage locker. I have no permanent address. I wouldn’t say I’m starting over entirely, but I am scraping some big sections of the canvas that looked like they were finished.

My next piece will be Cambodia.

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But I should back up. Did I tell you how many incredible, incredible people are around me? People I can go to in moments of raw, thick, embarassing(!) existential crisis? I didn’t? Oh, so one of them is Pascal Finette, Director of the Office of the Chair at Mozilla. He kicks my ass when I need it. (True story, he was a drill sergeant in the German air force.) I told him it’d been four years since my last vision quest where I walked the earth and got some perspective. I told him I needed a recharge.

Pascal says things that suck all the oxygen out of the air, like “Where do you want to go? Anywhere in the world you want to go, I can make an introduction.” You see, Pascal mentors startups at Unreasonable Institute and is the sort of person that just knows everyone. After several seconds of stunned silence, I replied that it wasn’t as much the where to go as it was what kind of work I wanted to do. So I told him.

Behavior change has been a fascination of mine for many years. The question of “How do people make decisions?” is what drove the creation of PieLabPDX. Now I’m moving a level deeper to “How does a culture evolve?” No bigs. With this description, Pascal said “I know just who to introduce you to.”

I’m extraordinarily fortunate to announce I’ll be spending the last three months of 2013 volunteering for 17 Triggers, a behavior change marketing agency in Phnom Penh. They work with development organizations like UNICEF and USAID on educational projects that range from agriculture, financial literacy to family planning.

From the intro call with Mike Rios, a founder of 17 Triggers, it was (forgive me) love at first sight. I didn’t talk to any other organizations. I didn’t need to. Mike’s enthusiasm and heart won me immediately. If you watch this talks at TEDx Phnom Penh about his quarter-life crisis that lead to the creation of 17 Triggers, I think you’ll see the same spark in him that led me to book a one-way ticket to the other side of the world.

My phenomenal team at Mozilla has supported my desire to take some extended leave from the moment I mentioned it. Thanks so much to all my big-hearted colleagues. I am honored to know and work with them all. <3 <3 <3

Whatever you do, just don’t call this a mid-life crisis. I plan on having one of those in a few years.

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