Proud Film Envoy for the American Film Showcase

Proud Film Envoy for the American Film Showcase


2018 was an unforgettable, jam-packed year. I started the year as a new mom to a 2-month old. And it was the year where I was honored, and just plain tickled and thrilled, to serve as Film Envoy for the U.S. State Department's American Film Showcase.

I still get giddy when I get to say at meetings or parties, "Oh yeah, I was a Film Envoy for the State Department."

My baby girl in full AFS swag!

My baby girl in full AFS swag!

The American Film Showcase is a cultural diplomacy program that brings American indie films and know-how to audiences around the world. It offers an honest view of America through the lens of indie filmmakers. It was not an easy year for me to serve. In addition to being a new mom, I had just started production for an ambitious multi-year documentary project on four matriarchal communities in far-flung corners of the world.

But never did the American Film Showcase mission feel more urgent, making sure that people around the world got a broader view of our diverse people and our values beyond the headlines.

I was proud and eager to serve, and I am grateful that my dear hubby very much agreed. It was gratifying to share my film, The Big Flip, and my passion for storytelling and strategy with audiences in Egypt, China, and Ukraine. But what I'm most grateful for, the moments I recall most vividly, are the lessons and connections I get to bring back with me. Here are the highlights that come to mind.

AFSEgypt - 6.jpg

(For context, The Big Flip is a feature documentary about four American families where mom is the breadwinner and dad takes care of house and kids.)

1. The time in Cairo, Egypt, when a young man politely asked why I didn't choose to feature "real men" in The Big Flip.

With Aya D., a smart, talented and joyful local member of the U.S. embassy in Cairo.

With Aya D., a smart, talented and joyful local member of the U.S. embassy in Cairo.

It was the first day of the mission, and my first mission as an envoy. The man was polite and kind in his introduction, complimenting the filmmaking, thanking me for coming to his country. When he finished with his question, “But why didn’t you show real men in the film?” it took a moment for the sting to sink in.

And it did feel like a sting.

As the director who has grown close to the families featured in the film, my instinct was to gear up for an intellectual fight. I was ready to defend these men against what I was interpreting as bias and insults against them.

Thankfully, the researcher and facilitator in me took over. I focused the discussion on genuinely trying to understand where the young man was coming from. What did he mean by "real men?" What made him think that the men in the film did not fit his definition?

After the lively, at times heated, ultimately productive discussion at the American Center in Cairo.

After the lively, at times heated, ultimately productive discussion at the American Center in Cairo.

The discussion was long, at times heated, as other audience members jumped in to argue and dismiss his comments. But I persisted in including him, allowing him to share his frustrations, trying to listen without judgment.

It turned out his frustrations had nothing to do with the men in the film. His anger was directed at some men in Egyptian society whom he saw as bullies. Unable or unwilling to find work, they beat their wives, and took the women's earnings.

We never got him to change his mind or take back his mischaracterization of our big flip dads. But we managed to agree on this: what matters is for both men and women to contribute to the family, whether through earnings or housework or childcare. It's not right for just one member to carry all the responsibilities.

The next day, I was surprised (and a little worried!) to see the same young man and his friends return to another screening of The Big Flip. When he raised his hand during the Q&A, I was ready for him to restart the debate. To my surprise, he told us that he appreciated the film more the second time.


He shared the lesson he took away: it didn't matter who worked and who stayed home. What mattered was that husband and wife talked and agreed on what's right for the family.


Lesson to self: to change people's minds, don't try to change their minds. Change our minds together.

Changing minds is a multi-direction dance, not a two-way tug of war. To change minds, we have to let go of being right, of winning an argument, and focus on connecting, learning, and understanding. We have to listen with open minds and hearts. Then together, we can shift our perspective, and find common ground that we can agree on.

Doing a TV Interview at Sharm El-Sheikh Film Festival

Doing a TV Interview at Sharm El-Sheikh Film Festival


2. The time in Zhaporizhzhya, Ukraine, when a student reporter asked if I was worried about visiting given the security situation.

A beautifully designed cultural guide to Ukraine, thanks to the Kyiv Academy of Media Arts.

A beautifully designed cultural guide to Ukraine, thanks to the Kyiv Academy of Media Arts.

The question threw me off at first. What was there to be worried about? The streets, the airport, the people—nothing felt unsafe or out of the ordinary.

Then I remembered, this was a country at war with a powerful neighbor.

Beyond the gender equality message of my film and the strategy expertise I was sharing, what mattered most about the mission was that we were there. We showed up. We had not forgotten who our allies are. It was important for Americans to show that our relationship with the Ukrainian people mattered. That we want to invest in exchanges and connections between industry experts in Ukraine and America.

Photo Nov 16, 12 39 58 PM.jpg

So I told the student reporter that I wasn't worried, that I had great trust in the Ukrainian people in keeping our events lively, fun, and safe. A simple answer from the heart.

Lesson to self: focus on the people in front of me (and get over myself!)

Sometimes, I stress about saying the right thing, something deep and insightful that shows off my smarts, my unique expertise. But more often than many of us realize, the job is simply to show up, be present, and let people know that you care, and that you believe in them.

My job isn’t to be the hero in the room. It’s about making others feel like the hero in the room.

One of the highlights of the mission was having a Ukrainian big flip family and an American big flip family (from the Kyiv embassy) join us for a post-screening Q&A.

One of the highlights of the mission was having a Ukrainian big flip family and an American big flip family (from the Kyiv embassy) join us for a post-screening Q&A.

Admiring the Great Wall of China

Admiring the Great Wall of China

3. The time on a plane in China when, after a failed landing attempt, the grandma next to me took my hand and assured me it was going to be okay.

This was the same woman who, earlier, had pushed in front of me to put her suitcase in the bin.

It had been a rough day. I was annoyed after fighting masses of folks who jumped in line at security, and pushed and elbowed every step of the way onto the plane. There was a lot of turbulence as the small plane approached the small high mountain airport. The loud chattering of the passengers was driving me crazy.

But when the pilot suddenly pulled up just a few feet before touching the runway, the cabin went silent. That made me anxious.

On the road with the wonderful team from AFS and the Guangzhou Consulate

On the road with the wonderful team from AFS and the Guangzhou Consulate

Why did the pilot pull up? Why were people so quiet? Why hadn't anyone come on the intercom to tell us what was going on? Was I going to see my baby girl again?

The old woman next to me—someone I dismissed as rude, uneducated and annoying just moments ago—took my hand, looked into my eyes, and calmly nodded. My panic subsided.

The plane descended for a second attempt at landing, and succeeded without incident. I was relieved, grateful, and ashamed. The cabin erupted in busy chatter again; grandma and others started jostling for their bags and pushing ahead without order, business as usual. I looked around and flashed a smile at grandma before she pushed ahead. My sense of annoyance and smug superiority had evaporated.

The lesson here? Cultural norms for what's polite and acceptable civil behavior may be different from region to region—but that shouldn't be confused for a marker of someone's character.

This old village woman showed me more compassion and humanity in a moment of crisis than many a suited, educated business person has.

The plane ride I was describing was at the end of my AFS mission, when I traveled to Luguhu (where this matriarch lived) to work on my next documentary project about matriarchal communities.

The plane ride I was describing was at the end of my AFS mission, when I traveled to Luguhu (where this matriarch lived) to work on my next documentary project about matriarchal communities.


4. The time when the LGBTQ community stepped up to save our mission from falling apart completely.

Without diving into the details of what happened and where this was (I'm not allowed to), we had a mission where venues were canceling and organizers pulling out last minute. After several days of failed attempts to find new partners and spaces, an LGBTQ community stepped in to host and organize a screening.

Even though The Big Flip featured four heterosexual families, our LGBTQ audience was warm and engaged. They were able to connect with the broader theme of changing gender roles and expectations in society, and we started a lively discussion on why people are afraid of those who break those expectations. Even though the event was ended abruptly and unpleasantly (by circumstances beyond our control), I was touched by the community's warm, joyful, and courageous support for our mission. This even though our underlying purpose is not directly related to advancing LGBTQ rights.

The lesson I took away? Never say "this is not our fight."

No matter what rights and whose rights we are fighting for, we're all fighting the same thing—repression and fear. And the only way we can win this fight, for freedom and hope to win out, is by standing together, for each other, with one another. That’s why it’s often the communities who suffer the most, who have lost the most, who find the heart, the courage, and generosity of spirit to stand up to defend others.

AFS Film Envoy orientation at the USC School of Cinematic Arts

AFS Film Envoy orientation at the USC School of Cinematic Arts

There's so much more that's coming to mind, more than I can fit in one blog post. I started the journey as a film envoy stoked about being a part of something that believes in “the power of film and stories to foster understanding and cooperation, dialogue and debate.”

As I look back, I realized that, yes, it’s that, and so much more.

It’s the power of traveling and connecting with people different from us, one-on-one, on the ground and in the flesh. Because in the end, we learn not only what makes us different, but what is universal and connects us as humans. And in that process, we hold a mirror to ourselves and see things we didn't see before—things to be proud of, and things to change and improve.


To the talented team at American Film Showcase, the smart men and women at the U.S. State Department, and the brave local staff and partners at our embassies and consulates worldwide—thank you for your dedication and hard work. Without you, this incredible program would not exist, and our world would be less bright and hopeful.

At America House in Kyiv, Ukraine

At America House in Kyiv, Ukraine




Work is a constant conversation. It is the back-and-forth between what I think is me and what I think is not me; it is the edge between what the world needs of me and what I need of the world.
— David Whyte


I’ve never been someone who could or wanted to separate career and personal goals. My work is my passion and deeply personal. As I started 2018 as a first time mom, I spent many sleepless nights (literally, pacing around the house with a baby over my shoulder!) pondering my goals and intentions for the year.


I'm deeply in love with my daughter and excited to be a mama. I also love the work I do, unearthing what makes people tick and diving into cultural changes. I don't want to "balance" these things as if they were separate components of my life. These are all part of me, and I want them together, in conversation with each other, in a dance that build off each other, in a journey that pushes me to grow as a creative and as a mother.

Here's my 2018 goal: to continue to build my consulting practice and kick off production on my next documentary—and do so by drawing strength and grace from my new role as mother to a mighty little girl. With my next documentary focused on matriarchal communities, this new intertwining of my creative and personal lives is particularly powerful for me.


A key aspect of my goal is to change the script on how we think and talk about working mothers. Working on The Big Flip for the last 5+ years means I've spent a lot of time talking to lots of people about motherhood and work. And I realize, I don’t want to be trapped in the same old conversations about sacrifice, compromise and guilt.


Page from izzy's bujo journal


Instead of sacrifice, I want to discuss how motherhood has fired me up and reinvigorated my commitment to doing good work. As a parent, time is precious, and I want to spend it doing work that thrills me, that makes this world a little better, a little brighter for my daughter, and with people I want to be part of her life.

Instead of compromise, I want to talk about the new perspectives and creative opportunities that my little girl has opened my eyes to. I feel a ripening and maturation in how I work. Instead of jumping right into action, I take more time reading and conversing. I listen more, write more, question more. So that when I do act, the intention is sharper and clearer. All of which adds complexity and depth to my work.

And I'm done, done, done with the topic of guilt—I want to start a new conversation around the unique experiences that working mothers bring to their children. I love stories of other creative parents and the magical childhood memories they gift to their children—the field biologist whose boys spent a summer in the rainforest with her on a work expedition; the photographer on assignment with a baby in a sling; my own fond memory of helping my father with an ocean-themed mural commission at an amusement park. Other mothers can bake cupcakes. Me, I shall bring my daughter stories of warrior queens in the desert and a mountain goddess who created a kingdom of women.


I’m not saying that sacrifice, compromise and guilt aren’t part of the story of a working mother. I’m just tired of how they’re often the only things we talk about. I’m ready for a new conversation.



So next time we meet, don't ask me about sacrifices I've had to make to my career. Instead, ask me how being a mother is tranforming my approach to work. Not that there aren't sacrifices. But I'd much rather think and talk about all the ways being a mother has fired me up, and injected a new sense of purpose and thoughtfulness in the kind of work I do.

Don't ask me about the compromises I've had to make to my work. Instead, ask me how motherhood is opening up new perspectives. Not that there haven't been compromises, but it's so much more exciting to talk about the discoveries and new delights that parenthood opens up. 

And please, do not ask me about whether I'm going to continue to work, and who's going to take care of my daughter if I do. Instead, ask me what kind of adjustments my husband and I have had to make to our lives and our work with the addition of a child. Because while there have been adjustments, my husband and I embrace the responsibility of parenthood equally, and I will not let anyone make me feel guilty for doing work that helps sustain my family and make the world a better place for my daughter.

It really comes down to this—don't ask a working mother what you wouldn't ask a working father.


So what should you say, if someone were to ask that innocuous but loaded question about whether you plan to go back to work, and who's going to take care of your child if you do? My natural instinct is to breathe fire when someone asks me something annoying like that. But thanks to a few other friendlier working moms, here are some suggestions on what to say to encourage more constructive dialogue.

  • Interesting question. Why do you ask? (Keep turning the question back to the person, so they start to think about their assumptions.)
  • (If they know your spouse) Funny you should ask. Have you asked my husband/partner that question?
  • (If they don't know your spouse) Before I answer, I'm curious—have you asked a working father that question before?
  • It's fascinating, how often I'm asked that question, yet no one has asked my husband/partner if he planned to go back to work. Rather, the question he gets is whether his wife—me—plans to go back to work. What do you think this says about us as a society?
  • Your question reminds of an interesting Pew Research poll, where they ask people whether they think children are better off with mom at home or at work. What's your response to that question? (After they answer.) Did you know that over 50% of Americans believe kids are better off with mom at home than at work, but only 8% believe that kids are better off with dad at home than at work? What do you think about the gender disparity in the results?

Here are a few other questions to ask yourself, working moms, and have your answers ready.

  • What are the different ways motherhood has had a positive impact on your attitude or approach to work? Talk about these the next time you get tired of talking about sacrifices and compromises to your career.
  • What are some elements of your work and/or passions that you're excited to share with your child? What are some unique or magical experiences that you dream of sharing with your child, to give them a taste of what you love about your work? The next time someone asks whether you feel guilty about leaving your children when you work, celebrate these unique gifts you'll be giving your children.

Personally, I always feel better when I start from a position of strength. Sometimes, a slight shift in the frame of reference can change the tone of the conversation, allowing you to come out of it feeling energized and empowered instead of defensive and resentful.

This is my intention for 2018: show my daughter, by example, how to embrace her place in the world as a woman with a purpose while being a mother full of love.

Izzy Chan is the director of The Big Flip–Stories from the Modern Home Front, a documentary feature about the rise of female breadwinners and at-home dads. Click here to learn how you can bring the film to your community for an inspired discussion on gender equality at home and at work.


FILM FRIDAY: "Black Panther" Marks a Huge Cultural Shift You Don't Want to Miss


As a culture geek, I have many reasons to be excited about "Black Panther." A key one is my belief in the power of film to move hearts and change minds.

Bias is really a lack of imagination. Inability to imagine another's experience. Inability to imagine a better alternative. Inability to imagine others to be more, to be better. Inability to imagine ourselves to be more, to be better.

That's why films and storytelling are such important tools for fighting bias. They introduce us to characters we learn to care about and root for. We learn to empathize with someone else's hopes, dreams, fears and suffering. We feel empowered to expect more. We focus on our common humanity rather than our differences. Stories create alternate worlds that show us possible futures that are better, more splendid and more magnificent—pushing us to question the status quo and hope for more.

This is why "Black Panther" (directed by fellow American Film Showcase alum Ryan Coogler!) is a big deal.


If you are reading this and you are white, seeing people who look like you in mass media probably isn’t something you think about often. Every day, the culture reflects not only you but nearly infinite versions of you—executives, poets, garbage collectors, soldiers, nurses and so on. The world shows you that your possibilities are boundless.

Those of us who are not white have considerably more trouble not only finding representation of ourselves in mass media and other arenas of public life, but also finding representation that indicates that our humanity is multi­faceted. Relating to characters onscreen is necessary not merely for us to feel seen and understood, but also for others who need to see and understand us.
— Jamil Smith, Time Magazine


By the way, I highly recommend reading the full Time article—it's thoughtfully written with rich historical and cultural context.

The film is also revolutionary in how it portrays women—strong, complex, and beautifully dark-skinned.


Every single woman in T’Challa’s life is either dark-skinned or brown-skinned: His sister. Momma. Bodyguards. It’s a huge deal! And perhaps the biggest deal of all is Nyong’o, a dark-skinned woman, playing T’Challa’s love interest.

I know many people in real life that have mothers, sisters and friends with skin darker than 100 percent cocoa, and who are the same hue themselves, yet wouldn’t be caught dead getting romantically involved with a dark-skinned black woman. Loving dark-skinned black women is not seen as lucrative, beneficial or valuable when it comes to amassing cultural, social, economic or even political capital.
— Clarkisha Kent, HuffPost


"Black Panther" breaks from casting norms in Hollywood, where light-skinned black women (think Halle Berry) are often preferred. (Clarkisha writes passionately about colorism in her HuffPost article about the film—another great read.)

Of course, you can always fight bias with the sledgehammer of reason instead of stories. Speeches, essays, books and documentaries (like Ava DuVernay's powerful "13th") often fight social issues head-on. But that's when you're also more likely to encounter resistance—reason invites argument.

Stories and characters, on the other hand, draw you in, make you care, and slowly melt away bias by creating empathy. That's why there's immense power in a blockbuster film like "Black Panther." Mainstream audiences who don't want to sit through a lecture about race but want to enjoy an awesomely-made superhero movie will now get a powerful lesson in race hidden in their entertainment!

(By the way, the Director of Photography for "Black Panther" is Rachel Morrison, who recently made history by being the first woman to be nominated for an Oscar for cinematography!)

Here's the official trailer. Are you excited to go see this film? Tell us why!

The Big Flip–Stories from the Modern Home Front is a documentary and movement that champions stories that expand our expectations of what men and women, boys and girls, should do and can do. . Click here to learn how you can bring the film to your community for an inspired discussion on gender equality at home and at work.

Redesigning Fatherhood: How Brands Can Turn Their Vision of the Modern Dad Into a Reality

The Author's husband and their four children.  Photo from   The Big Flip

The Author's husband and their four children. Photo from The Big Flip


It's time to rethink how we work, and how we live. 


By Bonnie Wan

Fatherhood isn’t what it used to be. My own dad came from a generation of fathers as nouns—figures to be respected, revered and, at times, feared. They were tireless workers measured solely by their career success and ability to provide financial stability, rather than by their caregiving.

My husband, on the other hand, is part of a new breed of dads for whom fathering is an active and engaged verb.

As the stay-at-home parent of our four young kids, he is the emotional center of our family and the CQLO (chief quality-of-life officer) of our lives. He also happens to be a trailblazer of modern fatherhood, challenging traditional notions of masculinity while expanding the definition of fatherhood. I’m proud that his example is showcased in the documentary film The Big Flip (www.bigflipdocumentary.com) alongside that of three other fathers as lead parents.

Photo from  The Big Flip

Photo from The Big Flip


But public opinion and culture have yet to catch up. Fifty-one percent of Americans still believe kids are better off with moms at home instead of at work. And only 8 percent feel the same about dads, according to the Pew Research Center.


Even the acronym for a stay-at-home dad, SAHD, sounds like “sad” when said out loud. These are deeply ingrained values and cultural views that are hard to overcome. Even I struggled in the early years of parenting with shaking off the belief that I was more equipped to be the primary (aka, “better”) parent.

The truth is that good parenting isn’t a question of gender, at least not scientifically. The American Association for the Advancement of Science has found that “the neural underpinnings of the so-called maternal instinct aren’t unique to women … but can be developed by anyone who chooses to be a parent.” In addition, as Live Science has found, “taking care of a child reshapes a dad’s brain, causing it to show the same patterns of cognitive and emotional engagement that are seen in moms.”

But while millennial men are eager to be deeply engaged fathers, “the workplace is keeping men from achieving their goals as fathers” (Lisen Stromberg, Work Pause Thrive). Our expectations for men to be “all in” employees who exhibit high levels of competitiveness and ambition continue to limit men and women alike. There’s much ado these days about gender equality and the need for more women in leadership and the workplace.

But to realize this vision, we must champion the other side of the equation—to see, celebrate and support men as equally capable caregivers.

Photo from   The Big Flip

Photo from The Big Flip

So, this Father’s Day, as a way of honoring my husband and active, attentive dads everywhere, I’m calling on companies to redesign their policies, workplaces, products and services in support of modern fatherhood.

In recent years, big-name brands have stepped up to the plate with “dadvertising” that captures this shift. Cheerios proudly showed the world #HowToDad in 2015, and HP featured real conversations between fathers and daughters as part of its effort to reduce “unconscious bias.” Getty Images launched a new stock-image collection to redefine masculinity, showing men as involved caretakers and caregivers. Target and Dove are also paving the way. But not all brands get it right. Amazon was petitioned by a relentless and vocal group of dads before renaming its Amazon Mom program as Amazon Family.

Yet while words and images have a very real impact in shaping our reality, they aren’t enough. It’s time to radically rethink how we work and how we live so that our realities can match our emerging ideals and intentions.

The opportunity to lead is now. The number of stay-at-home dads has doubled since 1989. And the number of dual-income households has exploded. All of this results in the convergence of roles between mothers and fathers.


According to a 2015 Pew Research Center Study, 57 percent of dads say that parenting is extremely important to their identity. Yet 52 percent of working dads find it hard to balance the responsibilities of work and family (something working moms have struggled with for decades). As long as men are held back from full and equal participation at home, women will continue to feel limits at work.


Tech companies like Netflix, Spotify and Facebook are designing the way forward by creating work cultures with paid parental leave, workplace flexibility, on- or near-site daycare, childcare/tuition subsidies and returnships (for both men and women).

Consumer-facing brands have the chance to win families over by re-envisioning how we eat, cook, shop, invest, commute, entertain and set up home, with dads at the (shared) center of it all. Because when we empower dads to “lean in” at home, we liberate both men and women to feel unconstrained in the roles they play and the interests they pursue.

So this Sunday, let’s celebrate Dad by replacing outdated clichés of disconnected dads with the full spectrum of what vibrant and modern fatherhood looks like today.





Repost of an original piece by Bonnie Wan on adweek.com in 2017. 



Bonnie Wan: "The Most Important Brief I've Written"

Bonnie gives a talk about her life brief at the 3% Conference in New York in November, 2017


The brief. It’s the essence of a brand, distilled to a single page. It’s the starting point for every project, whether it’s an ad, a product or a brand experience. And ultimately, it’s a North Star for future direction and a springboard for action. 

As a veteran advertising strategist, I’ve spent over 25 years writing briefs for world-class brands. Then, in a moment of personal turmoil, I stopped and wondered, why not write one for myself?

I wrote my first life brief in 2010. Married to a wonderful man and being a mother to three, I had just returned to a senior role at the agency I loved. Yet as my sense of achievement grew, my sense of fulfillment faded. Strained by the pressures of dueling careers and the challenges of raising a young family, our marriage skidded close to free fall’s edge. By April of that year, I fell deep into a crisis of meaning. So I did what I’ve done for countless clients. I wrote a brief.

I took stock and asked myself four vital questions: If we could change one thing, what would it be? If we could have more of something, what would that be? What do I fear? What do I crave?

What emerged was clear and surprisingly simple: More time with our kids and with each other. Work with greater purpose and a progressive education for our kids. A creatively inspiring home for our expanding family anchored in a vibrant and value-driven community. And finally, to explore the world, exposing our kids to the many facets of humanity.

Action is a byproduct of clarity. Once the brief was written, we saw our lives with a sharpness and clarity that had not existed before. And once it was clear, it was impossible not to act.

Change was scary and not without risk. We left California and moved to Portland, where I began commuting to San Francisco while pregnant with my fourth child. This move made it possible for my husband to pause his career and stay home with our three kids plus the baby, a decision recently featured in the documentary "The Big Flip."

Creatively and courageously, we made it work and, within months of writing it, manifested everything we envisioned in our life brief.

Here are six things I’ve learned to help kick-start your life brief:

Find your quiet. Tuning into you requires tuning out life’s distractions. The good news is that it doesn’t require a summer sabbatical or even a weekend getaway. Our most mundane moments can be our most meditative. Take advantage of mindless routine to let your insights and ideas bubble up. 

Start with questions. Creative briefs use questions to stimulate ideas. The same applies to the life brief. Here are a few questions to play with: What’s your ambition? What makes you leap out of bed? What’s your enemy? What do you fight for or against? What’s your edge or superpower? If you could be remembered for only one thing, what would it be? Write the answers down, especially the stuff that makes you squirm.

Interview your fans. It’s hard to see for ourselves what’s obvious to everyone around us. Make a list of eight to 10 people who know you best, from different corners and stages of your life. Ask them the following: What three things make you you? What (situations, people or things) energizes you? What (situations, people or things) drains you? What’s your superpower?

Look for patterns. Life is a tapestry. It’s easier to see the patterns when you step back. As you review the feedback from yourself and others, highlight the themes, recurring words and ideas. What are they telling you?

Sharpen your words. Words matter in briefs. When used well, they capture the essence of an idea while evoking emotion and inspiring action. Getting to the heart of your life brief takes time and practice. Your first attempt will probably suck. But once you get a draft down, you can experiment with words to help you drill deeper, get sharper and be braver. Be honest with yourself. Don’t stop until you nail what you truly want.

Let go. Allow your brief to realize itself. Focus on what matters instead of how to get there. Clear intentions are enough to unlock and reveal the path forward. And when you release yourself from self-doubt and limiting narratives, you make space to see opportunities you would have otherwise overlooked. Changing your story changes your life.

Over time, our life brief has expanded and taken on new iterations. With every evolution our lives follow suit. After moving to Portland six years ago, we moved back to the Bay Area, with our latest chapter unveiling a different version of the same yet expanded brief. 

Through it all my husband and I have become co-creators and collaborators in life, growing the awe and admiration we have for each other and for our life together. We’re doing work that lights us up, stretches us and makes us better.
BonChipPortraitTestWeekend - 1.jpg

We’re each carving a path of fulfillment, not just achievement. Most importantly, we’ve become more present and patient parents—as well as more generous and compassionate friends.

The life brief has become a new year’s ritual, an annual reimagining of what’s possible while reconnecting to what’s true.

I have shared our brief with others and now teach a workshop about it at Goodby Silverstein & Partners, encouraging purposeful, creative living for our employees. In doing so, I hear about the fears and limiting thoughts holding people back from living with intention. It’s no surprise in the era of social media, where envy, inadequacy and regret have become commonplace.

It’s my hope that the life brief can help free people from the shackles of comparison to craft a life anchored in what matters most. In the book, "The Great Work of Your Life," author Stephen Cope observes, "In knowing what truly matters, we are liberated from our striving to be somewhere else or someone else." 

The life brief is a practice in reimagining what’s possible while reconnecting to what’s true, freeing us from envy, confusion and regret. In answer to the common debate question about if whether people can have it all, I say, you can’t have it all, but you can have all that matters.



Repost of an original piece by Bonnie Wan on campaignlive.com in 2016.

Uncomfortable Moments and What I Learned from Being a Big Flip Mom

Uncomfortable Moments and What I Learned from Being a Big Flip Mom

“Most surprising to me was that I haven’t lost some of the daily feeling that I might be missing out when I’m not with the kids. I thought there would be a transition period, and then everything would feel easier.”

A home-grown interview by JANE RUDOLPH, Ph.D.  |  Jane Rudolph is an Internal Organization Development Consultant and has been a Breadwinner Mom for two years.

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Why The Big Flip Matters to Business, Institutions and Employers

Why The Big Flip Matters to Business, Institutions and Employers

Dr. Suzanne Doyle-Morris specializes in strategic career development and leadership coaching for high-potential executive women, and helps companies think through unconscious bias in the workplace.

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