Victory Lap

As a young journalist, I once returned to the home office from a far-flung war zone to pick up some awards — along with accolades from peers. Veterans called it taking a “victory lap.”

I felt compelled to take a much different kind of circuit — receiving my second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, nearly fifteen months after this global catastrophe began. No awards this time, just a 62-mile roundtrip to the clinic in Everett, Washington and beyond (with time lapse video from my handlebars). Still, I planned it as a micro-retreat to revel in two-wheeled freedom and independence after being so long locked away.

Fittingly, I listened to five hours of Andy Weir’s new sci-fi treatise on self-reliance in the face of stacked odds, Project Hail Mary. It was a great respite for reflection: had I done what was necessary to learn and lead during so much uncertainty? I hope it was enough, particularly as my professional roles shift in the coming months.

I moderated fifteen episodes of “Co-Existing with COVID 19,” leveraging the University of Washington’s global experts to make sense of the pandemic. Here’s the series finale from May 20th:

My final Co-Existing with COVID-19 Show: The End?

I hosted major fundraising conversations for two beloved civic organizations — Seattle Town Hall (with author Jill Lepore) and Seattle City Club (with political consultant Christine Blocker and MSNBC anchor Ari Melber) — doing my best to maximize the consumer-grade technology I had in my equipment bag.

My interview with AWS CEO Adam Selipsky

I did the same for the Technology Alliance’s “State of Technology Luncheon” on May 26, as I led a fireside chat with new Amazon Web Services CEO, Adam Selipsky — his first public appearance since taking on that role. (I spent a few hours with Adam in 2017 as he prepped for his first on-camera media outreach as Tableau Software CEO). Over the last 15 months, I’ve led 26 high-profile conversations — all of them on Zoom or Teams. So this was my first face-to-face keynote in a very long time.

I created new curriculum and new credentials as higher education re-invents itself. My new for-credit certificate in Leadership in Emerging Technologies & Trends launches this fall. I just successfully piloted the kick-off course along with this info session:

I created a University of Washington-branded badge in “Adaptive Leadership” for my graduate program’s signature event this year. I also conceived and co-hosted (with a select group of students) a three-part “Luminaries” salon series, bringing the best of my network of influencers to my learning community.

Time lapse of my ride through the University of Washington campus arriving at the Sylvan Grove

And I accepted the invitation to host the university’s global Commencement show. This is most fitting as I’m concluding the full-time role I’ve held at this institution since 2007 at the end of this month. To do so in this culminating — albeit online — event feels right.

My live commencement interview with the president of the University of Washington

Meanwhile, I continued to work with Microsoft — supporting that tech company’s quick two-step to virtual curriculum and convenings, along with co-hosting its signature global Include event.

I helped launched a new for-purpose initiative around community-powered innovation through MIRA!: Mobilize Innovation, Re-Imagine Agency. Along the way, I accepted a number of invites to share my thoughts in podcasts, news features and panel conversations — from disinformation to the January 6 insurrection to the future of storytelling.

Finally, I’m a small business owner myself, who has championed small businesses with my wife through our Independent America films, as well as my leadership role at the Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce. So, I’m grateful to CreativeLive founder Chase Jarvis for inviting me to collaborate with him on soon-to-be-announced small business pandemic recovery initiative, centered around learning.

During it all, I tried to keep my family safe and active. It was a hard time, but as I know all too well, constraint can also produce incredible creativity. My productivity kicked into high gear during this period of upheaval.

Within a year of taking that initial “victory lap” in New York City as a television news producer posted to the Middle East, I had given notice to leave my position at NBC News. My departure from a role that I’ve held at the University the past fourteen years is less abrupt and far more considered. Still, the ritual is now established: it’s just long enough to rejoice, reflect and recover — before a return to the starting line.