Dr. Marry and Me,  Personal Writing

Lead from the Outside, ruffled feathers and the attempted sound of silence

Earlier this week, a small package arrived in our mailbox. It wasn’t something I had ordered, and it was addressed to our son. I could tell from the shape and feel of it that it was a book. I remembered Quinn had texted to say he’d ordered something that would be coming in his name, but that it was for me.

I opened it and was delighted to see he’d sent me Stacey Abrams’ Lead From the Outside. I knew of this book but hadn’t yet read it. I sadly put it aside because of work demands and didn’t really get to pick it up until the early morning hours of today.

Short review of the first quarter: Run, don’t walk, to get a copy of this book. If you see yourself fitting anywhere outside the stereotypical paradigm of straight, middle-aged, white, male leader, this is a book for you. And really, to be fair, there are plenty of men who fit that description who also have insecurities, doubt their ability to lead and have to find ways to unite those they are leading. This book is for everyone who longs to lead. Period.

I have now held a couple of Personal Systems Disruption weekend retreats, and I just announced the next one. They’ve been very successful, but there’s one session that hasn’t worked quite as well as the other five. I’ve been searching around for a way to add more content. This assignment from Ms Abrams got me thinking about an adaptation of it for the retreat. I share it here as both a taste of the book as well as a preview of sorts for why you should sign up for the next retreat.

Here’s my take on half of the second assignment she provides in the book:

Why I’m awesome:

  • I’m a fierce advocate for what I am passionate about
    • The arts
    • Personal Systems Disruption work
    • Those on the sober side of the addiction journey/those who live with addicts enjoying sobriety

Examples of trait in action:

  • The arts:
    • *I have brought the arts to more important community tables, often from sheer ability to slip through the door as it was closing and sometimes forcing it back open before the lock was turned
    • I have guided the growth and understanding of the larger value of the arts sector 
    • I have grown our own budget directly through creative advocacy. This has allowed us to much more actively support artists and arts orgs
    • I consistently speak and write publicly about the value of the arts, and that is helping to shine better light on their significant value 
    • I use qualitative and quantitative evidence, I weave stories, I share compelling research, I seek outside sources and experiences, I give personal examples, I am inclusive

*All of this is, of course, a group effort from TAP staff, present and past board members and others in the arts sector, but for the purposes of this assignment, I went with the singular

  • Personal Systems Disruption work:
    • I overcame my fear of failure to develop this work from my own personal experience to create a three-day, six-part virtual retreat that has reached women and men, young and not so young in CA, MT, IA, ND and MN
    • I write and speak publicly about aspects of this work 
    • I share personal stories of success and failure in an effort to shine a light for others to own and embrace their own successes and failures, too, in my blog extraordinary
  • Sober addicts/those who live with and/or love them:
    • Mazz and I shared our story with tens of thousands of people through The Forum—the most public way we could have launched it—to celebrate his three-year soberversary on Feb 1, 2020.
    • We created our nine-part, 27 episode series
    • We developed Daily Dose of Dr Marry & DD and have recorded 135 live episodes to date

Why I admire this trait:

  • Too few people are really willing or able to go to bat for these issues:
    • Artists intuitively know that the arts matter but don’t always have a way to articulate that to an audience who doesn’t understand the value
    • People are mostly afraid to own their dreams, and not just naming them but pursuing them with a ferocious tenacity
    • Addicts are often considered “throw away” people; we aim to dispel that misconception by shining light in some very dark corners and normalizing those who struggle and live with this disease. We are intentional about living our mission to openly share our experiences with addiction so others feel less alone.
  • My skill set is beautifully aligned to do this work—I am:
    • A natural-born and trained actor 
    • A vivid story-teller 
    • A passionate writer
    • A detailed researcher 
    • A curious seeker of knowledge
    • A quick thinker on my feet/able to improvise
    • An engaging public speaker
    • An open book—there’s very little I won’t discuss, dissect and address head on about myself in an effort to solve my own challenges and hopefully help others do the same for themselves.
    • A fighter. I love nothing more than advocating for the underdog because I have so often been the underdog, and I longed for someone to advocate for me. In the absence of those people (not always but often), I learned to do it for myself and for others along the way.
  • I don’t believe that the pie of success, happiness, wealth or change is finite. I believe we all can think bigger, dream more audaciously and pursue our deepest passions. The challenge is that we often need guides to help us do it—we need those who have power to look around and see whom they can lift up, whom they can support, whom they can empower to create their own success so that we all keep moving forward, together and better because of it. I have developed and inherited some power now, and I am determined to use it to light the path for others.

What others say:


Examples of trait in action:


Why they admire this trait:


Why I’m less awesome:

  • I’m impetuous, and sometimes my emotions throw a coup on my rational brain. This rarely serves anyone, including me. It’s the flip side to all my strengths: I think and act quickly—for good and for bad. I feel things so deeply that I often can’t take a deep breath for the weight of injustice, dismissiveness and (what I perceive as) outright stupidity as well as beauty, deeply developed rhetoric and overcoming insurmountable odds to succeed. The challenge becomes to discern when it’s the right time to take that impetuous energy and move forward and when it’s the right time to take a breath and sit with the raging emotion for a bit until it simmers down.

Examples of this trait in action:

Why I dislike this trait:

  • Honestly, I don’t dislike this trait. But others do, and that creates problems that I have to overcome in every situation of my life. What I do dislike is that by not exhibiting some judicious caution in saying everything that comes out of my brain in the exact second it appears, I alienate those whose points, agendas and ideas I might find valuable. I shut the door to dialogue with those who don’t think as quickly as I do or who see the merit in pondering a moment before speaking. I alienate those who feel under attack by my verbal barrage approach. And, ultimately, I do a disservice to those for whom I am advocating, including myself.

What others say:


Examples of trait in action:


Why they dislike this trait:


This assignment asks us to be vulnerable, honest, brave and willing to both praise and censure ourselves as well as accept praise and censure from others. What could happen in your life if you got honest with yourself and if others were willing to go to a place of loving honesty to really give you the opportunity to reflect and grow as a person? Could you take it? Would you hear it and ponder it, or would you ruffle your feathers and defend your actions?

I’m going to spend the weekend thinking about who I can ask to honestly fill the other half of this assignment in. And then I’m going to attempt to prepare for honest answers. I’m also going to preen my feathers in anticipation, so that when they get ruffled, and I know they will, they are at least ready to go. And finally, I’m going to try to be quiet for a bit. Whose voices and experiences have I missed? What opportunities have passed me by because I’m so busy being the loudest voice in the room? Who am I not able to serve because I have alienated them or others who could help me reach those who need me most? What joys am I missing out on because I bulldoze through life?

Lots to ponder. I hope you take some time to do this for yourself, too. And if you are feeling ready, sign up for the PSD retreat. You’ll never regret investing in yourself, and you’ll never know how your life can change if you don’t ask the questions, take the risk and do the work.

Dayna Del Val is on a mission to help others (re)discover the spark they were born with through her blog and newsletter, her professional talks and the (re)Discover Your Spark retreats she leads. Dayna works with people to help them not just identify and articulate their dreams but to develop a framework to get going on the pursuit of those dreams—today, in the next few months and for the years ahead. She's at the intersection of remarkable and so, so ordinary, but she knows that pretty much everyone else is, too. She's excited to be sharing this extraordinary journey with you.

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