Archives: Ignites

Being Artwork

What do a billowing, vibrant net and a large crocheted tree have in common? They both invite us to slow down, interact, and LIVE life to the fullest. Wildly inventive and thought-provoking, these two massive public art pieces by sculptors Janet Echelman and Ernesto Neto honor the presence, Being, and existence of those interacting with them. Both pieces are designed to be in constant motion and seem to breathe along with their viewers, pulling them in and inviting them to Be.

Neto’s hand-crocheted, 65-foot tree, which was on display in the Zürich train station last year, was affixed with 1,300 bags of aromatic spices so that as travelers moved through the station, they were greeted with a sensory Experience that was grounding, rooting, and encouraged them to slow down. The scent of turmeric, cloves, cumin, and black pepper provided a respite amidst the hectic travel hub.

Echelman’s pieces of colorful nets, which have been featured in some of the most visited spaces in the world, are purposefully hung so that they shift and change with the movement of the air around them. As she said in this interview with the Smithsonian, “I wanted the visitor to be within the work. The piece aims to show how interconnected our world is, when one element moves, every other element is affected.”

How might we introduce elements into our health care spaces that encourage others to interact and slow down? Be it a water feature, an art piece, or a sensory Experience, how can we honor the breath and life of our team members, providers, patients, and guests?

To Be, Or Not to Be

One part of Being that can’t be denied is that one day, we will no longer Be. Michael Hebb realized that most Americans simply don’t think about how they want to die and created the non-profit organization Death Over Dinner to get us talking about it. Death Over Dinner is dedicated to helping normalize talking about death and dying by hosting gatherings to have facilitated discussions in a safe space: at the dinner table. Participants in these empowering dinners discuss their wishes, their worries, and consider the fact that while most Americans want to die at home, 75% die in hospitals. Paradoxically, all this talk about death results in a sense of renewed vitality for gatherers. Hear Hebb’s inspiration and reasoning for yourself in this short video.

Death is not only an inevitable part of our individual lives, it’s an inevitable part of our journeys as health care professionals. How do we encourage those on our teams and in our patient rooms to have the important and difficult conversations around death and dying? How might we assist in honoring a patient or family’s wishes and serve as advocates in those precious life Moments?

A Story We’ve All Heard

How we design and orient our places of LIVING and work greatly affects how easy it is for us to Be (Download a PDF version here). Architect Ryan Mullenix and developmental molecular biologist John Medina partnered to design some of the most creative and wellness-focused office spaces for the likes of Samsung and Amazon. Their inspiration? Neuroscience. Elements of sound, nature, open space, movement, and food all have great effects on our ability to be productive, stress free, engaged, alert, and safe. In order to create spaces that allow team members to do their jobs to the best of their ability, Mullenix and Medina incorporate these elements into all of their projects.

What elements of sound, nature, open space, movement, and food are activated in our places of work? Where are there areas where we can better design to allow for our team members, providers, patients, and guests to Be?

In the Spotlight: Jeff Zlotnik

For this month of Being, we are joined by Jeff Zlotnik, Founder and CEO of The Meditation Initiative. For more than 15 years Jeff has been LEADING free meditations – sharing techniques and simple tools to bring calm, peace, and presence in the Moment to prisons, hospitals, students, wounded warriors and the community at large.

Jeff believes that, “once we stop trying to change everything outside of us and we work on changing our mind and our heart and our reaction to the world around us, life gets a little easier, a little more peaceful, a little happier.”

What does the principle of Being mean to you?
Often I think people make the mistake of thinking that just Being means that you don’t do anything, but the practice of mindfulness and meditation is about bringing that sense of Being into every environment you’re in – it’s simple, applicable, and practical. To me, Being means first Being present and aware. That awareness helps us tap into what we’re sitting with. Where’s my heart right now? Where’s my mind right now? Am I steady? Am I fully present at this Moment? Paying attention to the Moment and that personal awareness go hand in hand with Being. But if we‘re just Being and our mind or heart is filled with anger, hatred, disgust or resentment, then Being has the potential to be not so beautiful. The reality is an angry person who meditates is just an angry meditator.

Often, even though we are trying to Be present, we are thinking about other things, we’re worried about tomorrow. This is when we need to slow everything down. To pay attention to the breath. To become comfortable in stillness, expecting nothing, simply sit and breathe. And as we Experience that quiet and stillness – that peace and calm, the question is, how do we take this idea of Being, becoming aware of feelings, sensations and emotions, and then bring that to everything that we’re doing. How do we bring that sense of Being into action?

The beauty of meditation is that it’s free. You have everything you need with you at all times, it only takes a few minutes, and it can be practiced anywhere – in line at Starbucks…before a meeting…anywhere.

Any time you do anything that is free and that can be done anywhere, it makes it a lot easier for people to add it into their lives. So a lot of it is really breaking down the barriers of what I think really hinders the movement of the mindfulness practice in this country. People tend to tie it to a dollar sign or think they don’t have the time or need to go somewhere special, but we all have a few minutes we can sit and breathe. So my role is about encouraging, motivating and inspiring people to make that a part of their lives. We don’t have to go any place special to Experience this sacred sense of Being. We have to learn to illuminate and Be everywhere.

What advice do you have for health care leaders as it relates to this principle of Being?
I like the simple metaphor from flying on a plane when they provide the safety instructions: “if the oxygen mask falls, put your mask on first before helping a child or someone else.” I think for health care providers, those who are in the industry of caring for others, the most important thing you can do is to care for yourself every day — your mental and emotional health and well-Being. You are engaging with so many people who really need and require you to Be present, attentive, compassionate, and kind with them. To bring your full sense of Being to those you care for, it’s important to give yourself that beautiful gift of really caring for yourself a few Moments each day. Make yourself a priority. Take a few minutes to check in with yourself, sit with yourself, and just Be with yourself.

To Experience Jeff’s simple practice of Being, enjoy his TEDxYouth@SanDiego talk where he equips high school students from hundreds of high schools across the globe with the gift of Being.

Principle: Storytelling


Stories Connect us. They serve as a glimmering thread that weaves us together as people and weaves through the health care Experience. Storytelling is at the heart of humanity and has the power to spark our imagination — helping us care, believe, and act on what is important. Every Experience, every relationship, every subject is stored in our mind with a Story. 

Through Stories, we engage. In our work, we use Storytelling to build energy and relationships, ensuring that every individual that makes healing possible is acknowledged and activated as both a Story gatherer — listening and acknowledging — and a Storyteller — sharing and Connecting. Everyone has a Story, and every Story matters. Listen. Do you hear the Stories that are being told?

How Storytelling Fits into LIVING

As we immerse ourselves in the practice of LIVING, we bring new ideas to life, creating the space for Connections and setting the Stage for possibilities. Storytelling is the beautiful result of that practice. Stories emerge in the Moment and unfold when given the opportunity to be shared. They can be the catalyst that propels us forward and breathes new life into ideas. 

Checking In: Library Hotel

Just around the corner from the New York Public Library in Midtown Manhattan, the Library Hotel is a mecca for writing and LIVING out Stories. Carefully designed to amplify the Story and structure of an Experience, the hotel is organized (think Intention) using the Dewey Decimal System, and rooms are themed accordingly. Guests can select their favorite genre — social sciences, language, math and science, technology, the arts, literature, history, general knowledge, philosophy, or religion — and then sink into the books and the Experience in the room. Check into “Mystery” (800.006) and you’ll be treated to Sherlock Holmes, Agatha Christie, and other classics. Or “Fairy Tales” (800.005) with the Brothers Grimm, Aesop’s Fables, and Beauty and the Beast. The hotel also houses more than 6,000 books in their Reading Room, bookshelves throughout the property, Writer’s Den, and Poetry Garden. Knowledgeable and friendly staff, or “librarians,” will readily share an anecdote or Story when asked. The most important Story the librarians would like you to Experience, however, is the one you are writing while you stay. 

Do our organizations tell a consistent and inspired Story from warm welcome to fond farewell? How might we ensure that at every turn our team members, providers, patients, and guests are confident in our narrative?

Giving Stories Priority

Since the beginning of time, Stories have been a fundamental part of the human Experience, creating Connections, educating, sharing, and uniting. Now, more and more organizations are realizing the power of Storytelling and prioritizing it. Why? Quite simply, Storytelling creates empathetic bonds, provides a platform for learning, and engages customers in a fresh way. Take, for example, this Subaru marketing video, which focuses not on the specific car or it’s horsepower but rather on the Stories of people and their LOVE for each other. Subaru is showing how their brand can fit into our lives. Another great Storytelling organization, the New York Yankees, have been drawing us into their Story for more than 100 years. Using the YES Network, digital platforms created by players, and the great Storytelling capabilities of their leaders (think George Steinbrenner), they not only tell the Story of the hero’s journey of their players, they also use failure and turn it into Yankee lore. Players’ struggles become triumphs, and fans are engaged and Connected — making the team more human and relatable. New York City, fans, and the team all participate in the shared narrative.

Humans of The World

Brandon Stanton is a true exemplar of Storytelling. Some of you may remember his name from Inside Out, and others may simply be a fan of this great visual Storytelling. He is also the author of Humans of New York: Stories, his second best-seller, included in your LIVING Action Kit. Stanton is passionate about capturing real Stories with a single still image and providing the platform for those featured in the photographs to share their Story in their own words. While the images themselves are breathtaking, the raw, poetic, human captions shared alongside each photograph bring the Story to life. Stanton moved to New York City in 2010 and started taking pictures to get to know the people and the city better. He initially started out with a goal to capture 10,000 portraits and Stories and plot them on a map of the city. Now, millions of images and followers later, his Stories are still unfolding across the globe. To hear more of the Story behind this Storyteller, listen to this in-depth interview of Stanton on The Tim Ferriss Show.

If there were a Humans of the Health Care Experience page, what would be on it? How might capturing images and the personal Stories of healing and caring be used as a positive force in our organizations? Think of five specific images that would tell the Story of your organization’s Experience for team members, providers, patients and guests?

A Story We’ve All Heard

Airlines have been trying to refresh how they share their safety instructions for quite some time. In 2017, British Airways tried something completely unique. Featuring some of the UK’s most beloved celebrities, the spoof safety video aimed to keep passengers engaged while still meeting the legal reporting requirements. The clip ends with a call to action above and beyond following safety protocols: an ask for passengers to donate to Flying Start, a charitable partnership between British Airways and Comic Relief. Repetition is important in some of the organizational Stories we tell, but changing up the narrator or perspective of the Story can make all the difference.

After watching the British Airways safety video, reflect on Stories that are frequently told in health care and across our organizations. For those narratives that must be told frequently and repetitively, in what ways might we newly engage listeners? Is there another individual or team who can bring the Story to life?

In the Spotlight: Kyle Christiason at UnityPoint Health on Storytelling

This month, we are joined by our good friend and Experience exemplar Kyle Christiason, MD, Medical Director at UnityPoint Health, to understand how he has made Storytelling a vital component in his practice and why it matters.

What does the principle of Storytelling mean to you at your organization?

Storytelling is a vital, innate skill for humans. We are all Connected by Storytelling through history — it is in our DNA to Connect with one another and is core to our survival. Storytelling and Story listening inspire us to become passionate about something or someone, and allows us to understand someone else’s Experience just by LIVING through their Story and the feeling.  

Some of the most transformative Stories we share — both tragic and wonderful — occur in health care. They are often major mileposts — before or after the diagnosis…the surgery…the birth. And our life Stories are anchored to those milestone Moments —those are the Stories we all tell and share. They remind us why it matters that we make every Moment more special and meaningful.

How do you, as a leader and in your organization, use Storytelling as part of your Experience journey? 

In the clinical space, Storytelling is a powerful and learnable tool. It helps teams focus on the privilege to care for friends, families, and neighbors. We start each day at the clinic with reflection, reminding one another why we are here and sharing Stories of a few memorable Moments. This Story practice becomes a call to action for our team to show up in the narrative and care for and with patients in a meaningful way. 

We end our days with a two-step debrief practice. First, sharing any pain points of the day. What happened today that might we be able to do better tomorrow? Practicing, asking, challenging, and solving with each other on a regular basis has become a part of our culture. Then, we finish by asking each person to share their “joy bombs” — those special Moments that brought Joy to their work, large or small. Through this Storytelling practice, our care teams are now Intentionally LOOKING to create and remember those special Moments. The times that give them Joy — I think that helps them reduce their risk for burnout, helps them Stage Experiences for each other and for our patients, and sends them home each day with these Stories on their minds and in their hearts to help them feel positive and inspired from their day.

What Advice do you have for Lab Partners? 

Lean in. I love the quote from Michael Margolis, “If you want to learn about a culture, listen to the stories. If you want to change the culture, change the stories.” As leaders, we should practice Storytelling. It’s okay to not feel natural, lean into the discomfort. When we practice Storytelling such as the dedicated time for Stories in my clinic, we can become more comfortable and when we listen we become more meaningfully Connected 

Be the best Story gatherer in your organization. Seek out Stories from different people, departments, and regions. Regularly engage in Story rounds by simply asking a few questions: What do you LOVE about what you do? Tell me one thing you did to improve the life of another person this week? What’s one thing someone else did that made you feel special? Be a role model for others to see how easy it really is. Sometimes we make it harder than it should be. By modeling Storytelling and Story gathering you can take down the barrier of it feeling overwhelming.

Become the best pollinator of Stories in your organization. When we hear something special, share it with someone else. Not only can we be touched by someone’s Experience, we will be more likely to LOOK for those special Moments in our own life. Listening and sharing creates a culture of caring for one another, celebrating what is good. When it’s part of your culture to practice this, everything else becomes easier.

Sometimes there are Stories we should stop telling. Not every Story and not all words or phrases need to be used. It’s amazing how many warfare terms there are in health care. There may be a “war room” for developing strategy. We refer to our caregivers as the “front line.” We talk about providers being “in the trenches.” When we launch a new initiative, we call it “pulling the trigger.”

When we refer to health care as being the same as warfare, we are destined to subvert our goals. However, we can Joyfully embrace being a part of what I consider to be a sacred and noble profession by using terms that are more appropriate. Rather than “frontline,” consider  “face-to-face caregivers.” Instead of helping a “non-compliant patient,” consider “let’s support this person to be their most successful self.”

Consider nonverbal Stories. We can also change our Stories through our non-verbal language. When we leave the examination room and LOOK at a person with our hand on the doorknob asking, “Is there anything else you want to talk about today?” we are sending a message that screams “I am done with our conversation even if you are not”.

Remember the power of small.  In leadership, we can focus on changing the game by focusing on the small details. A genuine smile at the check-in desk. A nurse remembering my child’s name. A physician who calls me at home to ensure I’m safe and I understand my medications. A culture of introducing every member of the care team during a hospital stay. It’s taking a Moment to address “me” before addressing the health record.   

Transformation doesn’t happen in a cataclysmic Moment but rather the millions of tiny miracles that happen every day and each of those Moments is a Story waiting to be shared.