Holes in the Safety Net

July 15, 2020

There seems to be so much more information available since most of society has gone virtual. I’ve tried to select a webinar each week to listen and learn from. The University of Pittsburgh’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion has been hosting town halls covering important topics. I recently listened to their Holes in the Safety Net town hall and captured live illustrations in my sketchbook while listening. All their recorded town halls are available on YouTube – link. Below are my live illustrations of the discussion.

Live illustrations captured the many barriers people with disabilities have faced during COVID-19. One of the most important statements I noted was the fact that the struggles panelists shared are not NEW, they are just now being amplified. These struggles are also layering over other amplified issues, especially for BIPOC. Panelist, Kenneth De Haan, spoke in detail about the need for understanding the context of a disability, specifically deafness. For example, barriers and needs vary depending on when I person became deaf and to what degree. As the illustration highlights, access is a common barrier. Important to note, a panelist discussed how there really isn’t a safety net at all.
Panelists noted that the same bandaids cannot fix all of the barriers and those barriers were existing issues that were discussed through the lens of the pandemic. Not everything is a challenge though, the Live illustrations captured what is working such as hospital policies, flexibility for accommodations and options. The panelists identified areas of opportunity to build on in the future.
Live illustrations captured the different ways to advocate for people with disabilities. Interesting point was brought up that in the current pandemic, everyone is experiencing a disability and we are all trying to learn to self advocate. Policy is big challenge, but can also make a bigger impact if addressed well.
Live illustrations captured discussion on pros vs cons of masks and shared other tools that could be beneficial. Panelists discussed Universal Design, the need for education about it and the limitations to it – it doesn’t solve all the problems, but is a great place to start. Some actions that educators, tech designers and others could take were shared.
Live illustrations captured discussion around HIPPA compliance and the use of virtual platforms, like Zoom. Challenges specific to individuals with hearing impairment were discussed. Panelists shared suggestions for the community when they are advocating for people with disabilities.

Cognitive Dissonance

June 18, 2020

Live illustration of Vernee Smith’s May 30, 2020 Video Post about Cognitive Dissonance

Sometimes I LOVE social media – when it works for the good and amplifies voices that need heard. I happened across a video from Vernée Smith on a Facebook group and I believe her voice needs heard. Vernée so succinctly explains cognitive dissonance and her video with all its analogies was begging to be illustrated.

I love the idea of a journey from one truth to another. Vernée provides an explanation on the tools needed as we go on that journey.

Check out her video – have a listen and let me know your thoughts.


June 19, 2020

Vernée Smith also hosted a webinar with RMU’s Bayer Center for NonProfit Management where she expanded on cognitive dissonance and shared how we can have brave conversations about diversity, equity and inclusion.


If your organization is looking for speakers on how to have those conversations, I highly recommend considering Vernée.


June 24, 2020

A friend of mine – who teaches on cognitive dissonance – shared a lengthy but interesting article on it. Check it out here.

Find the Pause Button

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Am I the only one who feels like the energy and atmosphere surrounding all of us is heavy and urgent right now? At first I personally thought it was a reflection of the holidays, my family obligations, and all the to-do’s attached to the launch of my new program. But lately I’ve recognized that while all of those things bring a certain weight and urgency, this challenging energy goes deeper than that.

I’m not one for dramatics or hysterics. I frown on drama for drama’s sake. But I feel like the world is screaming out right now — for something — but it’s unclear exactly what’s expected.  There’s lots of Help! SOS! Pay Attention!  And so because it feels different than usual, I’ve been doing my best to listen to all of it.

In the last month, I have seen so many calls to action at the local, national and global level that, quite frankly I’m struggling to keep them all straight.  The noise and hysteria of it all is blocking my rational thoughts.

I’m very aware now that I do need to act, but I’m taking an opportunity to be mindful about my actions and response. I want to choose where I give my energy and focus carefully, because I want to make a genuine difference. Plus, I’d still like to remain calm and in control of all areas of my life.

So rather than deliver a knee-jerk response, I’ve taken time to contemplate what is going on, how its impacting me and our society, and realistically assessing what I can offer that will help to alleviate some of the heaviness and urgency and ultimately, affect positive change.

I’ve turned off some of the background noise – notifications, emails, alerts — all the things vying for my attention. This isn’t because I plan to ignore them forever, or because I want to stay blissfully unaware until it all goes back to “normal.” It’s because I needed time and space to decide what I think and how I feel.

So often I see others fall into the trap of acting before thinking because they feel uncomfortable with heaviness and urgency, and they look for the quickest possible way to remove the discomfort. Action can be like a bandaid for discomfort.  I fall into the trap of acting too quickly, and without forethought sometimes, too.

But this time the urgency required me to sit with the discomfort and tune into myself so I could determine how I can best participate in a way that stays true to my core values and my personal goals for this coming year.  I am a strategic thinker and I help others create massive positive change, too, both in their personal lives and in their communities.

That’s why I knew that I had to deliver in a big way with Relaunch. Now more than ever, people need to approach an increasingly uncertain 2017 with clarity, knowing exactly how they’re going to live, participate, and affect change in their world.

Beginning on January 3rd, I’ll lead a community of Revolutionary Goal Setters to recognize patterns and notice when the light bulb goes off for them as they review their lives. I’ll assist them in creating a plan of action for next year so they can address the heaviness and urgency in their lives and throughout the world. And I’ll be creating my own plan right along with them.

Maybe you need to give this gift to yourself, too? Hit the pause button, regroup, get specific about your goals, and then go out and truly make an impact next year?  That’s how you become a Revolutionary Goal Setter. I would love for you to join this virtual goal setting revolution. Get all the details here: relaunchyouryear.com.

Set Your Intentions

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Unbelievably time has flown by and it is now June – half way through the year. So I took some time last week to complete a mid-year review. There was a lot going on in my business for the first 6 months – it was a “good” busy. In my end-of-year review of 2015, I was very specific and intentional about who I wanted to work with and that made a big difference. I witnessed the power of naming what you want, writing it down and watching it become reality.

Though I am pleased with the focus on my business, I fell short on the other areas of my life. To be quite transparent – I didn’t meet the goals I had planned for at all. In fact, I had serious trouble completing even the first few action steps I defined for myself. And they were seemingly super simple, easy to-dos, such as buying a pair of exercise shoes – which took me 8 weeks to buy. Yes, I said 8 weeks…to click a button on Amazon.

At first, I felt embarrassed and was resistant in sharing that little bit of information. Then I realized that is exactly why I should share it. Because we all struggle – holding yourself accountable is really hard. Just the act of defining your goals, remaining focused on them throughout the year is ridiculously hard. But that is also not a reason to give up.

There is great value in going through the process of setting your intentions; with time and practice, good habits can be formed. I think back to four years ago when I started the process of reviewing my past year. I spent a few fleeting moments deciding on very vague goals. I, along with my process, have grown so much and as I continue to create snapshots of my past, pull out some learning moments and actively participate in planning my future I know I am progressing even more.

I am aware that I will set high expectations and possibly fall short on a lot of them. But I continue to be intentional about my goals and somewhere in my subconscious I remember them and instinctively make choices to get closer to meeting them.

Because of this, I encourage you to continue where you left off and start setting your goals. There is never a “perfect” time to set goals. You don’t have to worry about deciding what to do first, just do something and you will experience some growth. And if you need some extra accountability or maybe a lot of guidance, let me know. Send me a message at emilycmarko@gmail.com and I can share some services that have worked for me and are working for my clients.

Do you have any tips on setting your goals? I would love to hear them!

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Tell Me A Story

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My mind has always been pulled towards a good story, lately I have been thinking about why that is. I believe for me, stories are how I relate to other people whether connecting with family and friends or building new relationships with clients. Stories help me find commonalities with people I meet, but also teach me more about who they truly are as a person.

Although we all come from different walks of life, I find it rather easy to befriend a person when a story is shared – theirs or mine. Sharing a part of yourself  – whether with a stranger or someone you are close with – requires a degree of honesty and vulnerability, but that is why I can relate to another person.

Early this month, I took a road trip with my dad to pack up my daughter’s dorm room.  A lot of stories can happen in a 4 hour drive. We talked about plenty –  best chinese restaurants, bad drivers, vacation plans, kids and reminiscing about the past. What stuck in my mind is how well my dad tells stories – it is a natural gift for sure. Between his delivery and subject matter, he tells stories that I want to hear over and over again! This instance, he shared several stories from his time in the Air Force while stationed in Vietnam. Though I can’t relate to being part of a war in a foreign country, sharing amazing and mostly funny stories about himself did make me feel closer to him.  I definitely can relate to his drive to experience different things in life by taking advantage of new opportunities.  Those experiences gathered throughout our lives can tell a great story, often times it is all in how we piece those experiences together and share them.

One of the things that I love helping people with is exploring and shaping their own story, especially when they feel like they don’t have a story to tell.  Using my visual storytelling tools, I can help you draw out the parts of you story that will really help connect you with others. Whether you are a small business owner looking to connect to customers, or a non-profit looking to share your story with the community that cares about your cause, using visual tools to open up to your story can help you translate it into an accessible format that people will really connect with.  And while my Dad’s natural gift is telling stories, mine is helping you to find your unique story to tell.

If you’re looking for someone to help you find and tell your unique story, I’d be happy to help.  Contact me at emilycmarko@gmail.com to schedule a call to see if we’re a good fit to work together.

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