How to Stay Focused on What Matters Amid Uncertainty

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Photo by Melinda Gimpel on Unsplash

Starting a new year is often a time filled with goal-setting and resolutions. For me, that has often meant reflecting on the past year and looking toward the future with ambitious plans (“this is the year I’m finally going to [fill in the blank]”).

And since 2020 was such a tumultuous and challenging year for so many of us, it makes sense for us to be excited about moving forward and setting plans for the year ahead. …


Providing more structure can make all the difference

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As both an educator and an illustrator, I am constantly exploring creative ways to use design to support the learning process. One go-to design feature for me has always been the visual organizer. You’ll find these popping up in almost everything I design that has a distinct learning goal, from nature-themed booklets to field trip guides and maps. In fact, I’ve been creating and using visual organizers for many years as a museum educator, too.

So what is a visual organizer?

More commonly referred to as a graphic organizer, a visual organizer is essentially a way to visually represent and organize information. Many of the visual organizers that I design help provide a simple, clear structure to record observations and take notes. These types of visual structures have become very popular in daily planners and especially through the exploding interest in bullet journaling. Our brains are just drawn to having boxes, bubbles, circles, and shapes to write in — since there is very little that can be scarier than a big open blank page. …


Connecting with Nature Can Help Reduce Our Daily Stress

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image from blog.daveasprey.com

There is no doubt that the past six months has been a jarring roller coaster of emotions, with everything from the pandemic and having kids in online school at home to the constant barrage of racial injustices and the highly divisive political season leading up to another election. The long list of daily stresses and anxieties keep piling up. Yet amidst everything going on right now, it’s important to take the time to slow down and find some easy ways to take care of ourselves.

For myself and my family, getting out into nature has always been our go-to strategy for some calm and decompression. This was a big driving force behind starting our own business, Super Nature Adventures, after the last presidential election — finding ways to connect more deeply with nature, along with helping kids, families, and communities create more meaningful connections to the world, to nature, and to the places where we live. …


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“brainstorming over paper” by Scott Graham on Unsplash.com

If the current pandemic crisis is indeed a unique and unprecedented opportunity for organizations to re-imagine themselves and how they work, then I cannot think of a better time to seriously consider adopting a collaborative and shared approach to leadership. Not only do collaborative forms of leadership align more strongly with organizational cultures working to advance equity and anti-racism, but it is also increasingly difficult for any single individual to possess all of the skills and abilities needed to lead a complex organization into a future of post-pandemic uncertainties.

In his post entitled “Museum Leadership for the Rest of Us,” Robert Weisberg cites a roundtable conversation among business experts and senior partners at McKinsey that calls into question the hero mentality of directors and CEOs in times of crisis. When asked “Does this mean we are seeing the end of the hero CEO?,” …


Learning to listen to our hearts and lead from a place of care & well-being

pair of dark-framed eyeglasses placed upside down on a magazine or book.
pair of dark-framed eyeglasses placed upside down on a magazine or book.
Photo by Nick Hillier on Unsplash

Embracing a more human approach to leadership asks us to elevate care, relationship building, and collective well-being as integral elements to our organization’s values and culture. It is about putting all human beings (not just customers or clients) at the center of our organizational thinking. For those in leadership positions, this means setting aside ego, stepping back, learning to listen in radical ways, and making decisions based in care and deeply-held human values — and doing this all while it might run counter to conventional thinking and entrenched legacies of leadership (in our organizations, and even in our minds).

In an April conversation with New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman about leadership in times of crisis, business expert Dov Seidman stressed the need for business leaders to put people ahead of profits and heed the call to pivot in ways that are anchored in “deep human…


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Since the beginning of this pandemic crisis and throughout the ongoing protests demanding racial justice, we have seen evidence of a wide range of leadership qualities on the public stage — watching national political leaders on TV and through social media, seeing governors and mayors respond to these crises in their own states and cities, and feeling the effects of how those leading our organizations and nonprofits have decided to respond. The behaviors of those in traditionally-defined leadership positions have varied from being fairly brave, vulnerable, and serving the greater good, to acting in ways that are extremely harmful, self-serving, violent, and reprehensible. …


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Written by Mike Murawski

As protesters have gathered in the streets of more than 2,000 cities and towns across the United States to stand against police brutality, white supremacy, systemic racism, and the violent oppression of Black communities, museums across the country have decided to post images of artworks by Black artists (without statements), share their own vague and often hollow statements of ‘solidarity,’ and post the #BlackoutTuesday black squares on their social media accounts without considering the impact. …


Many people have written about & reflected on the importance of tapping into our own creativity during these unprecedented times. Over the past month, I’m particularly proud to have been able to dedicate more time to my creative side — a side of myself that I’ve sometimes hidden behind my more “professional” full-time work in museum institutions. Without those barriers (actual and mental) in place any longer due to my recent layoff, I’m bringing my passions and creative work to the forefront.

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a peek into what my new work space looks like : )

Since 2016, I’ve been part of the incredible, entrepreneurial adventure of launching a new business with my partner Bryna Campbell called Super Nature Adventures. This all began as a way to bring our family’s love of nature & the outdoors together with my creative skills in illustration and design, developing a subscription series of hand-illustrated maps, stickers, & educational resources for trails across the Portland, Oregon, region (where we live). Now in our fourth year of Super Nature Adventures, we’ve been expanding into new and exciting areas of our work, partnering with non-profits, foundations, government, and businesses to help support access, learning, and connection to parks and nature spaces. …


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A couple years ago, back in 2017, I made my first-ever visit to the Santa Cruz Museum of Art and History (MAH) — a long overdue pilgrimage to this institution led by author and change agent Nina Simon. She had invited me to be a ‘camp counselor’ for their summer MuseumCamp, and I could not turn down a chance to visit the MAH, see what makes it tick, and be a part of this community of changemakers that gather each summer for the MuseumCamp experience. Not only have I known Nina for several years and been a dedicated reader of her Museum 2.0 blog and her books on museums, but the MAH had just officially opened Abbott Square, an adjacent public plaza that the museum converted to a bustling community gathering place and food market. For me, the Santa Cruz museum is fundamentally one of the exemplars in turning an institution toward a focus on its local community. …


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As I sat down to shape this piece a couple months ago, I found myself reflecting on the sometimes frustratingly slow, pain-laden, and capricious path of change for museums, and my own role as an agent of change and accomplice in this work of making change happen. On my desk in front of me, I have a towering pile of books on the shelf in front of me on museum change, activism, and inclusive practices along with a formidable pile of diversity statements and strategic plans that talk about equity and community. Conference after conference and convening after convening bring to the center themes of equity, inclusion, relevance, community, and audience. There are rapidly growing networks of activists and changemakers, with expanding movements connecting through social actions, events, book clubs, reading lists, online syllabi, and social media hashtags. Yet given all this, why do some of the pivotal changes happening in museums right now feel tenuous and temporary? …

About

Mike Murawski

Independent consultant, change leader, author, and nature lover living in Portland, OR. #MuseumsAreNotNeutral + Founding Editor at https://artmuseumteaching.com

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