Your Life Is One Continuous Mistake, Just Like Everyone Else’s with Sunni Brown (Episode #154)
|Sunni Brown is an intrepid and inspiring “creative” who is zooming through our world, project after project, sparking bursts of hidden potential everywhere she goes. She was named one of the “10 Most Creative People” on X (formerly Twitter), and she has been featured in every major U.S. publication: The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, TIME Magazine, and CBS Sunday Morning, the latter of which has celebrated her work twice! And so will you, once you’ve enjoyed her infectious positive energy.|
About Our Guest:
Spending some time with Sunni Brown is like stumbling upon one of those middle school friends who was endlessly exciting, funny, and fearless about just putting themselves “out there.”
And then somehow, they never seemed to lose track of that joyful exuberance.
In my experience, people like this almost never come from privilege (and Sunni did not either) so ego, harshness, and petty complaints are rarely in the mix. Instead—even in the tough times—when we are with people like Sunni there is always the potential for things to circle quite quickly back into wonder, celebration of a hard lesson, and then moving on with full steam.
Sunni is most celebrated for her fascinating, fun TED Talk about Doodling, but that is only a tiny part of her zone of genius.
In our conversation today, we get some amazing pearls from Sunni about things like:
- Recognizing those rare, precious moments when we are in flow with others and learning how to create more of them.
- How to soften the barriers to connection and stay really present with others, in order to make the most of opportunities for radically wonderful collaboration.
She makes a great argument for the fact that creativity is not something people have or do not have. Instead, Sunni points out that “creativity is a bi-product of a way of being,” and that there are endless ways of choosing to be creative moment to moment. It’s not a rarefied condition that only some people have. It is the result of living with more curiosity, wonder, and openness: things that anyone can do!
She’s found a way to enjoy the attitude of living life as one continuous mistake, teaches us to appreciate and accept a struggle, and gives us the courage to fall into unknown territory and experiment there.
Sunni’s openness to everything from others, without expectation, reminds us of a landscape of wonders and good humor available to others if we just drop our judgment and follow where the good energy seems to come from.
Want to solve a problem? Sunni shares how we can open up to our ability to be a “visual thinker” and find no end to divergent ideas that might
We talk about our favorite books, interviews, TED talks, and quotes that inspire us to find our happiest, most creative selves.
Bottom line… Chatting with Sunni felt like an hour being able to look inside the black box that is us!
And after hearing this talk, you may be inspired to—as Sunni says—“Do the work you are invited to do, by life!”
Here are some of the many inspiring connections to other content that we talked about:
00:00 Intro & Welcome
03:01 Life Motto
- Life is one continuous mistake.
- Things are consistently unpredictable and the ground is always moving under our feet.
- Dr. Lynda enjoys being wrong and learning from her mistakes.
- Dr. Lynda’s parents encouraged her creativity.
- Sunni grew up without strong parental presence and developed a sense of figuring things out.
- Curiosity is native to both Dr. Lynda and Sunni.
11:50 1+1 = 11
- Sunni thinks of collaborative research as a third entity.
- We are constantly co-creating with the world.
- Collaborative literacy is a fluidity of interaction.
- Collaboration shifts the focus from “me” to the team and fosters an environment for everyone to succeed.
16:40 We can’t be in a Rush Through Life
- Seth Godin appeared on the Conspiracy of Goodness Podcast – Episode 134 and spoke about people thinking about what’s next rather than focusing on the task they’re doing.
- Digital interventions can help facilitate collaboration but most times they’re a distraction.
- Getting people to be in their bodies and actually look at each other helps foster collaboration.
- Sunni uses activities to support people connecting.
- As a facilitator, Sunni uses open ended questions, respectful listening, and storytelling as tools to create collaborative sessions.
- Dr. Lynda spent countless hours developing mind maps with her children when they were growing up.
- Creativity is a by-product of a way of being.
- Dr. Lynda recommended Rick Rubin’s book, The Creative Act: A Way of Being, and in the book, he describes creativity as a natural state of being.
- Creativity is a function of receptivity and curiosity.
- Getting out of our own way and not judging or critiquing ourselves too harshly is key for creativity.
- Flint Sparks who appeared on Episode 143 of The Conspiracy of Goodness Podcast is one of Sunni’s teachers and he encourages her to always explore the contract she has with the people around her.
28:51 Something We All Have in Common
- Doodling is a universal activity.
- Most books have a throughline to our humanity.
- Dr. Lynda is a ‘doodler’.
- Sunni was teaching visual facilitation and observed people all over the world doodling.
- Doodling awakens peoples’ imagination and creativity.
- Doodling can be important for people who are neurodivergent and have different learning styles.
- Sunni observed that people looked down on doodling and assumed that because a person is doodling they’re not paying attention.
33:45 Visual Thinking
- Dr. Temple Grandin, on Episode 137 of The Conspiracy of Goodness Podcast, spoke about the importance of visual thinkers in the workplace.
- Sunni trains people to think visually.
- Sunni uses symbols, icons, colors, fonts, and images to help students spatially, conceptually, and creatively render the world so that they understand a subject matter better.
- People sometimes think they have to be artistically inclined to benefit from visual thinking and that’s not the case.
37:12 Sunni’s Books
- Books have pulled Sunni from the brink many times.
- 3 books that have been a huge turning point for Sunni were:
- Sunni publishes on substack and enjoys writing small pieces where people can see themselves in others.
- Sunni was surprised when her book was translated into 25 languages.
- Gamestorming and The Doodle Revolution are Sunni’s first two books.
- Sunni attributes the success of her books to timing, luck, hard work, and great PR.
- Sunni is currently working on a new book called “A Good Life is an Inside Job”.
40:40 Deep Self Design
- We understand things most when they are coming apart.
- Xin, in Mandarin, means heart and mind. Sunni sees these as connected.
- Deep self design is the most elegant way of befriending ourselves to ensure that we can do the work that life invited us to do.
45:14 Zone of Genius
- The emergent capacity may be inherently proportionate to our conditioning.
- It’s not an accident that Sunni’s passion is related to the nourishment and restoration of others.
- We can find the root of our genius in the challenges we have faced.
- We can make something out of our trauma.
- Sunni refers to avoiding our life’s calling as ‘cocooning’.
47:48 Human Contribution
- It’s common for people to be fearful about ‘singing their own song’.
- Everybody has something that is unique and signature to them.
- If we are too humble, we may resist sharing our gift with the world.
- Not sharing our gift is akin to cheating other people.
- Assuming the best in people calls forward those behaviors in the person.
- Nipun Mehta recently appeared on Episode 138 of The Conspiracy of Goodness Podcast and spoke about building equanimity with reference to difficult people or situations.
01:05:39 The Benefits of Zen
- American Zen is deeply pragmatic and essentially an enquiry into your perceptions with reality.
- Zen alleviates suffering in very real practical ways.
- Zen encourages us to stay in question and drop pre existing narratives.
- Zen is a compassion practice.
01:08:58 What Do You Wish People Knew?
- I wish people knew how powerful they are.
- We can choose our interpretations of life and our interpretation of ourselves.
- We are not subject to our scripts or our history.