Picture This

Posted by on Sep 3, 2017 in Blog, Featured | 4 comments

Picture This

One of the exercises that I do when I’m starting up a new project with a team or teaching a new class is to have the participants introduce themselves in a unique way. I have them each draw a picture of their lives with no words allowed. I then have them explain their picture to the group. Even though there is always some anxiety about drawing a picture, I find that their explanation comes to life and isn’t as dry as it would be without the visual. It doesn’t matter if people can’t draw—everyone thinks of symbols, significant events, and turning points and somehow can convey them.

To practice what I preach, I usually illustrate and explain my own life for the group as well. First, I create themes. For each of these themes, I draw a small picture that captures what I mean. These small pictures then become the drawing of my life. It looks like this:

The Big Picture

I’ve spent about a third of my life in the West, a third of my life in the Midwest, and a third of my life in the East. Perfectly balanced! I grew up in Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, and Kansas and went to college in Wisconsin. After college, I spent about 2 years in Connecticut and 20 years in New Jersey. Interspersed in there were about 6 years in the San Francisco Bay Area and 15 years between Los Angeles and the Sacramento area. It’s been a life of movement, change, and adaptation.


My Career

I credit my career choice to the experiences of my adolescent years, starting up in new schools as an “outsider” and not knowing anyone when we moved to a new town. It was tough but I got skilled at connecting with people and ended up with friends who are still in my life. These were the skills that led me into consulting and working with teams in organizations, which I did my entire career.



My Family

I grew up in a large family, with one older sister and four younger brothers. We had a lot of freedom to wander back then—swimming in the river, exploring caves, and climbing down waterfalls. A real Huckleberry Finn life! I then married my college sweetheart, Farn, and we now have been married more than 45 years. We have two sons, Dylan and Alexander, who live in the Bay Area. They have 4 sons between them, with a fifth boy on the way. I can’t wait to take my grandsons hiking in the mountains when they get a little older. It will be an opportunity for me to re-live my childhood.

My Places

I have lived in small towns, suburbs, and cities. I like elements of all of these places. But as I get older, I find that I prefer a quiet, peaceful location with a slower pace. I prefer to look out the window at trees and mountains rather than buildings. I prefer to see wildlife from my living room rather than having to drive and take a hike. I still love having a big city close by and San Francisco fits the bill. At this point, I’m ready to stay put in California, and I won’t complain if my map of “thirds” loses its balance.


  1. Loved this post! I’m glad Hanover was a part of that third! I would have liked this approach in some of the MANY workshops I attended or taught.

  2. Lovely approach, John.

    I didn’t know about your background being split into thirds. Interesting component to who you are today, as well as working in global organisations and traveling extensively.

    Otherwise, how would we have even met across the pond?!

  3. What a neat way to communicate and force the audience to listen, rather than read your slide ahead of you.

  4. I love this John. I’ve known you my whole life but your story in pictures allowed me to know more of you. We’ll have to do this together, you, Farn, Tom and me, on your deck some evening.

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