Ways of Rekindling Life’s Enchantment, with Michelle Strutzenberger – PS61

Episode Introduction

A couple of months ago, I received a beautiful email from this show’s guest, Michelle Strutzenberger, announcing she was embarking on new starts and opening up new possibilities.  After 15 years at Axiom News, where she’d worked as journalist and curator, she was moving on. Among her aspirations was to focus her talents in the area she had wanted to develop further: children’s book authoring.

Michelle’s email touched me – she’s magical with words.  And, I have been a fan of Michelle’s work and Axiom News.  Over the past years, Michelle had written a couple of pieces about my innovations in Appreciative Inquiry.  We had this personal connection.  Our lives had touched.  On the one hand, I was surprised and sad that she was would no longer be with Axiom.  And on the other hand, I was admiring that she was following her heart by venturing into new territory.  As I didn’t want Michelle to disappear from my life, I reached out and we agreed to record our chat as a podcast.

Episode Overview – Rekindling Life’s Enchantments

Life's Enchantment, Michelle StrutzenberbergerIn our preparation call some weeks before recording the episode, Michelle and I touched on a number of possible topics for our recorded conversation.  Towards the end, Michelle offered the topic of “rekindling life’s enchantment.”  It spoke to me and felt right as a topic to explore together.

In this episode, we start on topic, and then meander through the conversation in a free-flowing, organic way. We, in fact, cover a number of topics including Michelle’s 15 years with Axiom News as a generative journalist.  We reflect on what makes journalism generative.  Michelle introduces her new book, The Secret Talent Shop of Pineapple River that is seeking a publisher right now.  I inquire into the the craft of writing and how it calls to Michelle.  

We then circle back to our topic “rekindling life’s enchantment” towards the end of the show when Michelle offers some delightful way to intentionally reconnect with magic, whimsy, mystery in our lives.

What Might “Rekindling Life’s Enchantment” Awaken in Us?

Michelle recalls the enchantment she and her twin created for themselves when they first arrived in Canada as immigrant children.  Even in times of uncertainty, they discovered the gift of being awake to, and seeing the spark, the allure in the conditions they found themselves in at different times.  Despite bouts of heartache, and sadness and fear, they were open and alive to the delight of life.  The enchantment – the magic and mystery and charm and whimsy – emanated from the reality of living life fully.

Intentionally Creating Conditions for Life’s Enchantment

If you find yourself somewhat numb and in a rut, or feeling fearful or threatened by your current circumstances, you can intentionally set out to create conditions that will find yourself delighting in life again, or reconnecting with your whimsical side.  In fact, it is most likely that when facing adversity, the greatest opportunity to defend against the adversity or suffering is to rekindle enchantment and find new delight in life again.  

The Secret Talent Shop of Pineapple River

Michelle’s second book, The Secret Talent Shop of Pineapple River features the wonder, excitement and adventures of four children as they unearth a most surprising treasure – the secret talents of their neighbours.  The book is very much inspired by the spirit and intention of asset-based community development, the work of Peter Block and John McKnight of Abundant Community in creating abundant communities and the worldview and practice of Appreciative Inquiry – both participatory change methodologies that shine the light on strengths, capabilities and imaginings of what is possible.  

Please visit the book's website to read a Portion of Chapter 10: A Heart Cleaned Out in a Hurricane

Building on Strengths and Dreams

In creating her book, Michelle’s own strengths and her ability to dream come to life.  Her story explores what might be possible when communities thrive and where people lift each other up, honoring their gifts and talents.  It invites what’s possible when we see the gifts in each other.  What delights is that by lifting up everyone’s gifts in a community, wonder, adventure, excitement is sparked.

Influence of Generative Journalism

Linking back to our topic “rekindling life’s enchantment”, I asked Michelle if she always saw the world this way.  She has no hesitation in expressing her gratitude for her work as a generative journalist at Axiom News.  This type of journalism complemented her own natural talents and worldview as a writer.  Take a look at Michelle’s post listed below to learn more about generative journalism.

During her 15 years at Axiom News, the team with founder and CEO, Peter Pula pushed up against watchdog journalism, sparking new possibilities about how journalists go about their work.  As generative journalists, the inquiry is about people’s strengths, assets and what else is possible.  They seek to find ongoing dialogue and partnerships to generate change and deepen relationships through a soul connection.  

A Meandering Conversation – A Calling to Create

Together we touch on other a number of other subjects such as the creative act of writing. If it’s a calling, it implies one just has to do it.  For Michelle it’s, in fact, the creative process – the act of bringing something new into creation – which calls or compels her.  To quote Michelle:

A sense of calling…

A calling is something you discover, not something you choose.  It’s about responding.

Circling back to Our Main Topic – Rekindling Life’s Enchantment.

After meandering far because I followed my curiosity into Michelle’ significant contribution to the world, we circle back to our topic, “Rekindling Life’s Enchantment”.  

Michelle offers a number of ways to find the delight, mystery and reverence akin to a sense of life’s enchantment.  Not only can we create the enchantment through our own experiences, as she and her twin did, and most children do, she offers that we can be nourished by the enchantment of others through their art, poetry, writing, music and a variety of performance media.  

A surprising twist that makes beautiful sense is when enchantment comes to us because others find us enchanting. For example, a child responds to us with wonder; or, in early stages of romance when life’s wonder opens up.

Michelle offers also that we can rekindle life’s enchantment in the knowing that God always delights in us.  When we have that faith, we are not dependent on others.  Our spirit is freed and allows us to delight in all that is around us.  

How to Connect with Michelle

MIchelle's website about The Secret Talent Shop of Pineapple River

Michelle on Twitter

Michelle on Facebook is Newshemayim

Michelle on LinkedIn


A Tiny Selection of Michelle’s Writing

Decoding a Generative Story

What if Marginalized Neighbourhoods Crafted Their Own Handmade, Place-based Economies?

Young Man Journeys to a Meaningful Life, Disability and All

Books Mentioned

Header Image

Norman Rockwell ‘Land of Enchantment' mural 1934

Attribution:  Plum leaves on Flickr

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Why Your Workplace Culture Needs Play

“Play” lights me up. Why? It brings out such values as curiosity, learning, development, collaboration and being in co-creative relationships with others. Play speaks to the human side of business. It’s fun, developmental, positive and when freely initiated it’s self-organized. Play is a developmental and life-long activity.

Recently, I had the good fortune to spend some considerable time immersed in the topic of play, in my voluntary capacity as Chief Curation Officer, and speaker for TEDxNavesink on the topic play. There were 24 talks and entertainments on this topic across all stages of life, as well as a wide range of contexts, and expressed through a number of lenses: psychologists, researchers, technologists, gamers, writers, musicians, kids, educators, an anthropologist, a spiritual teacher, a toy designer, a venture capitalist, an improv artist, an artisan beer maker, and an organization development professional.

There were many takeaways from the TEDx Play event, and in this post, I focus on one big one: the distinction between free play and managed play.  As an organizational development professional actively working to bring the values of play into workplaces, free vs managed play resonated.

Free Play vs Managed Play

Free play equates to making it up as we go – improvisation – as many kids still have the freedom to do. They hang with other kids and they’re left to their own devices: lots of learning in that kind of play.  On the other hand, managed play is being part of an organized activity where there are coaches, parents and others with expectations: lots of different learning in that kind of play.

Free play is where we’re given free rein to use our imaginations, our inventiveness, our resourcefulness, and find our innate leadership, and followership.

Workplace Culture and Play

Thanks to Lisa Nielsen for the image.

Thanks to Lisa Nielsen for the image.

In workplaces, we could say free play is where we’re given free rein to use our imaginations, our inventiveness, our resourcefulness, and find our innate leadership, and followership.  We have opportunity to experiment and try, try again. Determination, tenacity and courage are developed.  With free play, creativity rises to the top and failure is a non-issue. It simply means we keep adapting until we  get the results we want.  We’re usually challenged and stretched in such contexts, and if not, we move on because we’re bored, are no longer learning, contributing or having fun. In the world of Open Space, we call that “The Law of Two Feet.”

On the other hand, managed play is where we participate by following predetermined or someone else’s rules.  There are authorities who guide us and correct us if we step too far outside the bounds and it’s perceived we could potentially cause harm to ourselves or others.  We learn to play inside the rules, to play safe and not show weakness or vulnerability.

When we bring the play ethos into business contexts, both free and managed play are relevant for different purposes and contexts – creative agency vs. the military, for example.  Leadership with an eye on shaping the organizational narrative and culture will decide which leaning will serve the whole system best.

Play is a developmental and life-long activity

Play is how we grow. Play shapes who we become.  We create performance in play.  We make room for it in our childhood (yet, that may be increasingly debatable), and we need space and time to continue to develop our playful selves as (working) adults. Play as development flourishes when these three attributes are present:

  • self-determination
  • co-creation
  • positivity

Play is how we grow. Play shapes who we become.  We create performance in play.  We make room for it in our childhood (yet, that may be increasingly debatable), and we need space and time to continue to develop our playful selves as (working) adults.

Co-creating experiences in workplaces where these three attributes get lived out is my best work.  They produce performance I might now refer to as free play which can light up all the players.  There are multiple participatory methodologies that facilitate such playful cultures of ownership, innovation, and shared leadership: namely Appreciative Inquiry, Open Space Technology and World Cafe.  All to be expanded upon at another time.

I’m curious, in your workplace, how does play factor in?

N.B. I originally wrote a version of this post as a guest blogger on Switch and Shift.

The Greatness Zone and Positivity, with Jay Forte – PS011

Episode Overview – The Greatness Zone and Positivity

Jay ForteMy guest and conversational partner is this episode is Jay Forte.  Jay is a business and motivational speaker, coach and author.  Jay is President and Founder of The Greatness Zone – an organization that provides talent and strength-based tools to help people live extraordinary lives, and, organizations achieve exceptional results.  Jay is the creator of the Entrepreneurship and Innovation course at Lynn University, Boca Raton, FL where he’s an adjunct professor.

Jay is a fellow podcaster -his podcast show is The Greatness Zone and he has another one about to be launched next week, called Ready for Life.

Through the lenses of positivity and our own greatness zone, we talk about the importance of living a purposeful life and how to create that for ourselves.  It starts with developing a sense of self-awareness and how we go about our daily lives.  Taking time to notice the world around us and how we fit it can start by becoming aware of our strengths, and what gives us joy which leads to discovering the best of who we can be for ourselves and for the world.

Energizing Work

Delivering, training and coaching the Greatness Zone is optimistic and positive work that energizes Jay.  His goal is to share what’s right with the world rather than what’s wrong.  He works to help people find their strengths. When people find the right road that helps them find their abilities, talents and values, they tap into their own greatness zone.  All of that is most energizing.

From Misalignment to Alignment

Greatness Zone work is  extra energizing because, Jay admits he was misaligned for most of his own life.  He was of the mindset, that the world does a good job of reminding us that a lot of things go wrong most of the time.

He stumbled into the greatness zone,  because, at that time he was not on the right  road:   he was on someone else’s road: starting with parents, then employers and partners. He experienced pessimism and negativity. He lacked passion, even though he was good at what he was doing professionally, he was not standing in his own authenticity.

The Greatness Zone

The-Greatness-Zone-LogoJay defines it as a place where you are aware of the best in you and you bring that self to the world. To find your own your Greatness Zone, Jay provides a process and series of steps that help you identify your own road to a rewarding, fulfilling life.  It’s a process of self-discovery that leads to clarity of your abilities, passions and values. When you can identify them, that’s when your Greatness Zone shows up.  This quote says it:

Frederick Buechner:

“Your vocation in life is where your greatest joy meets the world's greatest need.”

Jay teaches that we need to identify our own road and  our place in the world.

Millenial Generation

In his course, Entrepreneurship and Innovation, designed for freshman, the focus is on tapping into the greatness zone by taking students on a journey of discovery: of themselves, the world around them and their fit.

He teaches his students to come up with three adjectives that describe themselves and their behaviour and then write a statement that suggests who they are in the world, as a “branding statement.” This is a measure of success that is a great outome – they show up in the world differently at the end of the course than at the beginning.  Better than any grades, he suggests.

When you have this clarity of yourself, the world opens up and so much more becomes possible;  and the world seems a more supportive, caring place.

Ready for Life

This is a new program and podcast which Jay will be launching early November. It's geared to bridge the conversation between parents and children, so kids find their own blueprint and begin to think about what might be after college.  Some tips about the course's intention:

  • We come packaged to be game changers and most people don’t know what they’ve got
  • If you’re aimless you are not optimistic.  Some clarity about what inspires you opens you up
  • You only change when you notice what is amazing and remarkable about you – what your built-in genius is
  • World gives you back when you are in your authentic place – there's a mutual exchange

Positivity and The Greatness Zone

At the core they are the same.  They are about self-love, self-awareness, noticing the little things that really do have a big impact. Jay talks about an inventory of greatness, and I talk about a reservoir of positive emotions.  Both facilitate a deep sense of knowing that our contribution to the world makes a difference, and we do have impact in all that we do, that we, and the world are full of countless possibilities and opportunities.  We need to trust and act so we can expand our horizons.

When coming from the place that “I matter and can make a difference,” we can participate in a way as Buckminster Fuller describes:

“What is it on this planet that needs doing that I know something about that probably won't happen unless I take responsibility for it.?”

How thrilling is that!


  1. Buckminster Fuller – “What is it on this planet that needs doing that I know something about that probably won't happen unless I take responsibility for it.?”
  2. Frederick Buechner – “Your vocation in life is where your greatest joy meets the world's greatest need.”

Links Mentioned In This Episode

Books Mentioned In This Episode:

The Fullness of Being Alive

Fullness-of-being-alive-300x270When asked by Bill Moyers “what is the meaning of life?” Joseph Campbell replied, “I don't believe people are looking for the meaning of life as much as they are looking for the experience of being alive.”

The Fullness of Being Alive

How so absolutely real is that!  After visiting India and Nepal, and being immersed in the experience of other cultures brought “the experience of being alive” up front and personal. I saw and felt both the rawness of poverty co-exist alongside the comfort of wealth, and latest mobile technologies being used along side women filling vessels from community water pumps.   It's those in-your-face contrasts that jolt us into the fullness of being alive.

Read more

Shift Technology Mindset from “I don’t need an iPad” to “I LOVE my iPad”

My-iPad-225x300From “I don't need an iPad” to “I LOVE my iPad”

How often I am witnessing that shift!  And, I wouldn't mind $100 for every time I've influenced a friend or colleague to invest in an iPad.

It's a year since the iPad came on the market. At first, I admired it vicariously via my partner, who is an early adopter with most things technological, especially computers, cameras, music and bikes.  Once I got my fingers on it,  (I did resist for a week or so), I changed to “I want one.”

Since then, I am increasingly loving my iPad.  It goes where I go: into every room in the house, the car, the plane, the boat, the doctor, the dentist, the hair salon, the beach, the park, the local coffee shop, bars, restaurants, and workplaces, of course.  My iPad is with me, everywhere.

Read more

Immersive Learning on Tablets

Ipad-shotSerendipitously, on three occasions in as many days, I have been in the presence of three 3 year olds (just love all those 3's).  Each time, I was filled up with joy watching them engage with content on their iPads.

First time, we were at dinner with a couple when their three year old pulled out the iPad, tapped into one of her favorite apps and was immediately engrossed as she tapped, swiped, dragged and, from time to time, sat up, tilted her head confidently to reflect on the objects she was engaging with.  Her fullest absorption in her iPad totally attracted the attention of older people in the restaurant,  amazed at her competence with the tablet device.

Read more

Embracing Change as a 7 Year-old

800px-SS_Normandie_at_sea_view-300x175When I was 7 so much change happened.  I traveled by ship from Sydney Australia to Genoa in Italy, because of my father’s work.  He had been posted to Athens, Greece for a 5-year term.  I only remember parts of that long 6-week journey.

It was the “old days”, when life aboard a luxury liner in first class was still akin to what you read about in novels at the beginning of the last century and what we see in movies, such as the Titanic:  opulence, elegance, indulgence, style and sophistication.

A Princess in my own Mind

I was 7 going on 37 – full of romance and imagination.  I was a princess in my own mind afloat this luxury liner setting out in the Pacific Ocean, crossing the Southern Ocean,  the Indian Ocean, up the Suez Canal into the glistening Mediterranean Sea.  I was 7, which I have since learned is a significant age in human development.  It sets the psychological thermostat for how you internalize beliefs about yourself and your relationship to others and the world.

Read more

Fun Creations

How cool!  How delightful! How simple!

How important?

“It's one thing I'm really good at.”

Fun creations. To be doing something you are good at and having fun and involving others in co-creating fun. That's participation, collaboration and engagement and playing to one's strengths!   The New York Times is talking about Matt Harding who seems to have fun doing what he's really good at.  The article brings attention to a number of the positive attributes that living in 2010 is all about: having the internet to share one's own creativity; involving our global village life-centric ways that unite us through music, laughter, activity, play.

Read more

What is the world calling for?


Tipping Point of Consciousness & Service

What the world is calling for is much clearer than it has ever been.  We have started to think more consciously of ensuring the future for generations to come.  There is a collective ground swell to serve.  In the second decade of the 21st, the world really has changed.

The citizens of this planet reached a tipping point in just about every domain, resulting in more people speaking up for greater compassion and understanding across cultures;  workers and shareholders alike calling for greater transparency and integrity in financial markets;  consumers are seeking products and services that conserve our natural resources and health. Read more

Pretend and Play

Play is Vital

You bounce on a trampoline, higher and higher; you're on a swing pumping back and forth gaining greater momentum;  you throw a frisbee and leap to catch it; you run and tumble in the fresh snow;  you tip-toe into the surf jumping over the waves until you dive in to finally get fully wet.  You laugh, you feel exhilarated, you feel joyful and energized.  It's called play. Remember?

It's good for you.  It was then and it is now.  It helped you then and helps you now.  Your joyful state opens you to aliveness, greater creativity, and to others.  See Using Tools Wisely: Playful Co-creation

The National Institute for Play
 defines play “as a state of being that is intensely pleasurable”. It energizes and enlivens us. It eases our burdens, renews a natural sense of optimism and opens us up to new possibilities. These wonderful, valuable qualities are just the beginning of what play is.

Read more