Evidence and Ideas for Change There’s never a bad time for self-reflection
Sarah Rosen Wartell
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Just when lots of folks might already be quitting on their New Year’s resolutions, guess what? I’m just setting mine. I’ve spent a bit of time thinking about the year ahead, and I’ve set five intentions for myself. And to hold myself accountable, I am sharing them with you. (Full disclosure: I plan to give myself plenty of credit for any progress I make, no matter how modest.)

LEARN. I want to better understand the various ways artificial intelligence (AI) is being used across society. Even as we enjoy the efficiencies and new products this technology brings to our lives and the economy, many of us have a deepening concern about AI’s simultaneous potential for harm and how it could magnify inequities. Those harms must be understood to be avoided. But can we also use AI for good? Can new technologies help us close equity gaps, advance mobility, and increase shared prosperity? I’d like to seek out and learn from those trying to use this technology for progress and figure out how Urban’s analytic prowess can help accelerate these solutions. (Are you one of those innovators? If so, reply to this email and help make me smarter on this issue.)

LISTEN. The world today feels so divided and contentious. And in this moment, I believe organizations have a critical role in creating safe spaces for conversations about how today’s divisiveness affects us, how we see (and don’t see) each other, and how that influences the work we do and our workplaces. This year, I want to do more listening and better demonstrate the values we hope to embody at Urban. I also need to get out of my admitted bubble and take time to better understand the experiences and perspectives of others who don’t look like me or think or vote like me—both here at Urban and outside of it. My life is spent too frequently with people with whom I’m comfortable. I’m going to continue to work on getting comfortable with being uncomfortable.

LET GO and LIFT UP. I tend to micromanage. And I am a perfectionist. But by trying too hard to achieve my envisioned outcome, I may lose the chance to let someone else’s better idea take us further. In one of my recent newsletters, I told you about Freeman Hrabowski, a person who inspires and challenges me. His mentorship is characterized by bathing people with confidence. So many leaders have thrived nurtured by his faith in their potential. My colleague, Marge Turner, does the same. In 2020, I’d like to be more like Marge and Freeman and lighten my heavy hand. To start, I will pick some projects where I will be very intentional about letting go. If my partners and I can agree on the direction, I aspire to trust that the creativity of others will take us further than any map I might draw.

LEAP. Finally, I am going to try something different: meditation. Research shows the benefits of taking time to be still, empty the mind, and become more aware of patterns in our thoughts and emotions. Truth be told, I remain a bit skeptical. When I try to meditate, my mind is quickly filled with recent conversations and to-do lists. But I am not giving up yet. Stress takes its toll, not only on my health but also on those around me. I owe it to family, friends, and colleagues to find ways to handle what life has in store.

We are looking ahead at a year perhaps unlike any we have known before. We will be surrounded by division, passion, and fury. But I hope to also find peace and progress through these intentions. And in listening to a great new podcast my chief of staff Liza Getsinger  recently  recommended to me: Finding Fred. We all could use a little Mr. Rogers right about now. Check it out!

What are your 2020 intentions?