Wayfinding: Your Path To Transformative Growth With Annette Mason

Graphics - Episode Art - VCP 240 Annette Mason - Banner

Embrace the journey of integrating your mind, emotions, and physical self. This integration leads to personal and professional growth, as curiosity, resilience, and intentional living have transformative power. In this episode, we have Annette Mason, founder of Trilogy Design Works, introduce wayfinding for personal and professional growth, discussing the importance of intentional living in life’s highs and lows. She shares her journey from the corporate world to becoming a sabbatical coach and founder. Annette discusses the role of wayfinding, communication, and connection in fostering personal and organizational growth. She also shares powerful book recommendations, cites famously successful experiences, and more. Tune in now and start taking the path toward personal and professional fulfillment!


Listen to the podcast here

Wayfinding: Your Path To Transformative Growth With Annette Mason

It is my honor to introduce you to my guest, Annette Mason. She is the Founder of Trilogy Design Works, where she pioneers transformative leadership skills building through immersive experiences focused on communication, connection, and resilience. With a deep commitment to building essential life skills, she introduces wayfinding for personal and professional navigation. She co-designs sabbaticals, fostering individual and team resilience. She's the curation of insightful leadership experiences.

Annette advocates for leaders of all styles. She creates a dynamic space where leaders discover their authentic selves fostering growth and resilience in an ever-evolving world. Trilogy Design Work is a for-profit good model that provides in-kind services and support for under-resourced students. She's also a fulfilled mom, wife, and transformation advocate. She lives everywhere. I see you everywhere. I'm thrilled to have my friend, Annette, here on the show. Welcome.

Thank you. It is a privilege to be here with you.

I say everywhere because it seems like wherever I see you, either on the West Coast, East Coast or traveling abroad. I saw you in London. It's always a pleasure when I get to run into you in the different places we are. As we do on the show, we try to uncover people's journeys to getting to where they're making an impact in the world and understanding all the twists and turns that have created their body of work. I'm anxious to uncover your journey through these flashpoints that have revealed who you are and your gifts into the world. I'm going to be turning over to you in a moment to share some of those moments I know that it's going to be insightful and very powerful. If you're ready, we'll have you take it away.

Let's go for it. We are a body of work and brilliance based on our defining moments. You and I first met at the beginning of one of my redefining moments when we were together at the mastermind retreat weekend with Dorie Clark in New York. That was August 2019. In a way, that seems like yesterday, and in other ways it seems like eons ago. You talk about flashpoints. Certainly, my life and my career have been a series of flashpoints for good and for ill. I am very fortunate that when I met you, I was beginning my second sabbatical, a five-month defined sabbatical.

It was named Clarity For 2020 and Beyond it was instigated by my husband observed, “I think your work is very meaningful to you. I think you love what you're doing, but I think it's soul-crushing. Why don't you take a summer sabbatical?” That hit me like a ton of bricks. I initially said, “No way, I'm not doing that. I've got work going on. I've got these client engagements and then there's the pipeline that I need to fill for the future.”

My husband is brilliant. It took me a couple of days to catch up with him. I realized, “He is observing something. He's seeing something that I'm not seeing. I'm pushing through it.” It's one of those things where your own persistence can also be your Achilles heel. I knew about this soul-crushing work that can happen and that would happen in corporate life. I spent 30 years in corporate life. I got some of the very highest highs in my professional life in corporate. I also had some low lows.

I was running my own company and my husband's observing this. it instigated his idea of taking a sabbatical. It was my second one was a real transformation time for me. Here we were together in New York with about a dozen other people. I felt lost in the room in that I felt like I was sitting on 30 years of beautiful experiences from strategy, mergers and acquisitions, and innovation and yet I'm feeling lost because I don't know where that's going to take me. I hear all these people in the room who are pretty clear in needing help with where they want to go.

It feels untethered in a sense of not knowing the direction, but also knowing that you're sitting on a mountain full of experiences that you could tap into you probably didn't know that, but you should be tapping into leverage going forward.

It feels untethered in a sense, not knowing the direction but also knowing that you're sitting on a mountain full of experiences that you could tap into.

What was beautiful was that was the kickoff of my five-month sabbatical. That discomfort of being in a room where everybody was pretty clear with where they were trying to go was a way for me to open up even more, be more reflective and more curious about what the next five months were going to hold. Fast forward a little bit, four months into it, I was using a personal and professional development plan that had been mostly designed at the beginning of the year.

I added pieces to it to help deepen the purpose-seeking work I was doing. Four months into it, I woke up and I was like, “I've got it. I have great C-Suite experience, both presenting and being in a C-Suite. I recognize gaps we have in our communication, our meaningful connection skills, resilience and our personal wellbeing.”

I realized that we all usually get into those responsibilities by our technical prowess and not our life skills. I'm like, “If we worked on those life skills,” travel and seeing the world is a fantastic way to work on life skills because many of us like to travel and explore. We're curious and empathetic. It takes courage depending on where you're going. The a-ha was that can be a real natural incubator to be working on life skills.

When I played devil's advocate with myself, I thought about, “What is it that would be evidence-based for someone to say, “I get that idea why you and why can you be my leadership guide and take me on this journey.” I realized I had grown up as a global citizen, meaning I was born in one country and my first memories are other countries and other cultures. Not only did I have that personal experience, but I raised two now adult sons who also grew up to be global citizens. Meaning, they did their own independent adventures living abroad and soaking up the perspectives you can only get in being in other places.

I want to pause for a moment here because I think you shared many great insights, but I want to expand and go a little deeper. I want to know more about your experience as a child. Tell me more about what brought you to these different places and maybe what was the container that you were put in by your parents and what did they do and how did they create that experience? I'll also start by saying this is why you and I connect so well I do believe in these ideas that with the right intention, you can create the most profound experiences through these journeys. There are a lot of questions, but please start with those childhood moments.

My very first memories begin on a day when I was out on the water with my mom. We were in a bonker boat in the Philippine Islands. Some Filipinos were taking us to an island that was an island of shells. I remember getting out of the boat and hearing the crunch, and being like, “Oh my God.” I’m both excited but also not wanting to break any shells. Being on the water and the shells, it's amazing to think of the little youngster in me who was 3 to 4-ish and how alive I felt, and how that memory sticks with me to this day. I love being around the water to this day. It is my happy place where I can go for calm.

The reason we were over there is my dad is an engineer by training and by profession. That took us to the Philippines and Okinawa. It's funny, there were a couple of times in my life that there was a major culture change, but it wasn't going in and out of this country. I started school in Los Angeles, California, and then midway through second grade, I moved from Los Angeles to Orange County, California.

Public schools in LA is very open and very not conservative to conservative Orange County Catholic School. We ended up moving from Orange County when I was starting high school io Seoul, Korea. Lots of different people dynamics. Lots of different cultures and different tones of how people are, the family orientation of the Filipinos, food, sharing, love and being extended family. It’s the same thing in Okinawa. There's a reason why Okinawa is one of the blue zones. Community and family are very much a part of that. I got to experience it and integrate it in growing up. As an adult, I've gotten to look through it in the perspective intellectually and the growing body of evidence that shows how those create a meaningful life and build communication, connection and resilience.

This is why I asked that question. I wanted to understand where this originated. I think oftentimes those early experiences have a lot of foundational origins for what we're doing now and clearly, that has had an impact. I know the answer to this. Do you go on to study engineering or did you not?

Oftentimes, those early experiences have a lot of foundational origins for what we're doing now and clearly that has had an impact.

My undergraduate is in Business. I studied Computer Science alongside of business. I was a little naive. I was excited to get out of school and begin my independent life. I finished in three years. I left one course short of a dual degree, but I had a very good Computer Science background. My first job ended up being in an engineering firm in an engineering organization, but without an engineering degree. It’s just by a Business degree.

That was the mid-eighties. I got to work on building databases. It was wonderful because I also saw the ability of technology to basically create more efficiency and more productivity because the databases I was building, I could do myself out of a job and it could be organized and run by people that could be clerks versus a college degree individual. I learned about corporate politics through some of that because at the time, this big organization had a bonus structure for people who were hiring college hires. While I was trying to create efficiency with the databases and the work I was doing, it was a disincentive to my boss to let me go as a college hire and hire administrator. That was fascinating. Being in that big organization did have its benefits. I moved on into finance and went back and got a master's degree from USC from their Engineering School in Systems Management.

This is going to show how the depth of your experiences and the eclecticness of it. That’s even a real word. I love your ability to play many and fields it has built you into a person who's able to connect with many different people because of your experiences. I think a lot of us, even the people who are reading probably discount how much their experiences are valuable because they think, “That was me. That was the past. That doesn't matter now.” The reality is it all has value.

That is a crucial point because my belief is that especially with Americans, we go through life fast. We don't juice the moments, our defining moments or our flashpoints. I mean that in both the highs and the lows. By not taking the time to unpack that. We may not repeat the things that help us be successful. We may, by not having an awareness of our lows, recognize patterns that are not serving us, and then we fail to break our own patterns. Understanding the flash points of our life and our defining moments is a very powerful way to reflect, learn and grow through it. That's part of the wayfinding that I do with people.


There's something about that word that lights me up because there's something about wayfinding that first people might think wayfinding is a term we use in the business lexicon for putting signs on how you find the way to the bathroom or the exit. If you take it back to its origins and where it comes from, it's where people find their way through the oceans and different explorers. They were wayfinders. I think you apply it to what we do as advisors, coaches and helping people to find their way. It takes on a whole new meaning and a way of thinking about how to first look within, but also to make sure that it's not an internal journey, it's also an external journey, exploration.

That's why we became fast friends. The whole idea of digital campfires, storytelling and sharing. Around a campfire, you are not trying to show off. You're showing up. I love that terminology. That's some of the terminology Chip Conley's using with the Modern Elder Academy back to you the wayfinding and the digital campfires were showing up. When you show up, you're revealing your true stories, some of the hurts and happiness. Those things that stand out the most to us usually have some super valuable lessons. We can glean some of those through personal reflection. It's the questions that others have for us that bring more insight and more learning to the story.

I want to get to like fast forward a little bit and get into more of the journey that you took post-sabbatical, but you've explored a lot of different communities. You've been at the hands of and at the side of many amazing teachers and people. Allowing yourself to learn from other people is one of the most valuable tools that you've used in this journey. You mentioned Chip Conley. He's one of those teachers who's amazing about the way he shows up. You've spent a lot of time with Seth Godin in his community, which is cool and amazingly insightful.

Amazingly insightful,a community builder and our friends Dorie Clark and Marshall Goldsmith many times through various ways through my career in mergers and acquisitions and some of the crunch of what politics and performance can do inside communication in a corporation. The introductions to the different leaders and different people who have influenced me. We share several of these. One thing that I think is a very common trait, not only are these people super well grounded and experienced, but most of them have a worldview, but they also have humility.

Some of them have always been humble, care for people and don't hurt them. That would be Garry Ridge. Some of them have been full of hubris at different times in their career and then have their own flashpoint or defining moment where they were like, “The ego's talking.” Chip talks a lot about that. I am a big fan of the way he is open and very experiential in his own story and elevates other stories to show how hubris hurts us and each other. Humility is the way to start integrating head and heart.

Humility is the way to start integrating head and heart

It's such a beautiful insight that you bring because this is where if you step into certain communities, you start to feel the impact of other people's hubris and how it can turn you off to them and to other people, then you start to say, “I've got to make sure that I'm not resonating that way. How am I ensuring that I am creating the right sense of authenticity as I'm coming into communities? Do I ensure that I'm open to connecting on a level that is real?” We have intentions, but sometimes our intentions get clouded by ego.

Metrics and what we think might be a success. I very much want to go back to something you said about that. I mentioned that three things I focus on to help people grow are communication, connection, and resilience. Starting with connection. A nice word to think about is staying curious. If we bring curiosity to the equation, true curiosity is about wonderment and usually that energy is felt. When somebody comes at you with a question where they're interrogating you versus when they're curious with you, one closes things down and one opens things up.

That's one of my favorite words. We are meant to be jamming on these things. want to learn more about your story and your journey being on sabbatical, coming back from sabbatical and what happened when you reentered society?

It was interesting. One thing that's important is reentry. I was super excited. I had the a-ha four months into it. In the fifth month, I was around people who could help me integrate and get ready to launch. Now we're going from December 2019 into January 2020. I have the a-has. I'm ready to start piloting exploratory leadership, travel and immersive experiences. I started booking things that were pilot projects and two Cs came up. Cancer shows up in my family and COVID hits while my mother-in-law is on the operating table at Duke Medical.

I am thinking game over. I'm thinking, “Universe, you're telling me I found my purpose and my place, but not really.” Now I look at what happened. My reentry ended up immersing me, you mentioned Seth Godin into a creative college of sorts for a few years. Who knew it would last a few years? I got a chance to be in the creative workshop, a book that Seth memorialized in the practice.

It taught me daily rituals and practices. I went from making bullet journals to making art sketch notes that people love that convey a lot of meaning. It gave me a longer window of time to develop and hone immersive journeys for leaders, how they could grow, how to communicate with leaders and how to also help develop a process for wayfinding of where you've been, where you are, and then mapping how to get to the future you're desiring and how to co-design sabbaticals that it taps on two real big problems in the organization these days that still exist.

Knowledge transfer and succession planning. Utilizing a lot of my experience in corporate life and a second Master's degree in Leadership, I have developed a resilience process where when a sabbatical taker co-signs and co-creates with their team, everybody grows. There's knowledge transfer. It's a pragmatic way to reality test a succession plan.

Graphics - Caption 1 - VCP 240 Annette Mason

There are many things you shared that made my head explode. First of all, you can take a person out of an environment, but you have to make sure you ch the environment also understands what the person's coming back into and potentially having some changes in that environment. There has to be almost a reentry process. That's important. That's where you come in and you're able to help them to see how in the process of you evolving, everything else is evolving too. On a side note, for the readers, the art that you draw and the cartoons are amazing and they're great. I have seen how they bring the points to the surface and help to articulate in a visual way of what's going on.

Readers is going to have to go check out your feed on Instagram and wherever you are posting. It’s truly brilliant. Keep on doing that. Thank you so much for that. This is crazy because I think about the journey into 2020, the COVID period and all the trauma you went through and the challenges, but also how there's beauty and trauma going hand in hand. It's your ability to learn, unlearn and be able to flex and form, which comes from your ability from all of your learnings as you've journeyed through life, which is to say, “I'm going to go in new environments.

I have to be able to figure out how do I adapt, and fit in into this new world by learning.” It's been part of your journey all along and now you're helping other people to see how to do that for themselves, which is cool. I want to ask you, for yourself, what have you learned that you haven't shared already that is like a big lesson, a big a-ha about your own personal development that you haven't shared already?

I mentioned briefly head and heart. I'll unpack it a little bit more. I was very academically and professionally oriented. Fortunately, I had two kids who helped me open up the world of curiosity, wonderment and joy. The thing that I lost myself along my corporate career was I got more into my head and I was in an environment where mostly engineers, scientists and technologists. Being improving a point is part of the success dynamics and yet at the same time the curiosity, wonderment and compassion need to be stoked and often aren't.

We lose creativity, innovation and ways to connect with what our customers and the world need. One very important lesson during my second sabbatical was the reflection on my highs and lows, my defining moments and getting from my head back into integrating my heart and understanding that my wholeheartedness was not a weakness but was a superpower and appreciating that the body knows. When we are having headaches or stomach aches, we need to pay attention to more than our nutrition. We need to pay attention to what's going on in our life. Where is the tension and the stress? My answer is I've realized that living life and making a contribution is ahead heart, spirit and body experience.

The curiosity, wonderment, and compassion need to be stoked and often aren't, and we lose creativity, innovation, and ways to connect with what our customers and the world really need.

Something of what you shared is cool because it's like the sabbatical idea is all about stepping away and getting in tune with what's going on because sometimes we forget about what is going on because we're in it. I wrote an article about how where are you holding tension because that's a clue as to what something has to change in your life. It's very much aligned with what you said. I think I said about the sabbatical, but also about anything in our, any time in our lives, sometimes we have to step away and say, “What am I feeling? What am I experiencing at this moment?” We sometimes go numb to what is going on. It's like going through the motions. That step away and tuning in allows us to become more intentional with how we want to move forward.

That is a key ingredient. Being intentional, whether it's wayfinding or setting a course for a sabbatical, defining our intention and getting clear is a very powerful way to begin whether you're beginning again or beginning something new.

Graphics - Caption 2 - VCP 240 Annette Mason

I have to hold space for our last question, which I ask every guest. What are 1 or 2 books have had an impact on you and why? you can feel free to break the rules if you want to have a third book that's okay.

I'm going to break the rules, and part of it was inspired by you. One of them is this book called What Do You Do With An Idea? It is a children's book written by Kobi Yamada, but I'm telling you it's a book for children of all ages. I love this book because it helps us understand ideas and that they come and go. it's our job to explore ideas and help bring them to life. Another writer Rick Rubin talks about, “If you don't act on your idea and somebody else does that idea's time had come.” That is a beautiful book. It’s worth sharing for kids of all ages.

Another book that helped me appreciate all the different currencies in life is The Soul Of Money by Lynne Twist. To appreciate money as one currency, but energy, you've used the word, time are very important attribute to having a meaningful life. The Soul Of Money opened that perspective up in a whole new way. The last one I'm going to share is The Long Game, which came out in 2020 and it's from our friend Dorie Clark. It helped me appreciate and not get frustrated with being in the pandemic and having an idea that I thought whose time had come and play the long game. Here we are in 2024.

VCP 225 | Work Life Bloom

I love everything you shared. I have that first book, What Do You Do With An Idea? I love it and I've given it to people as gifts. It's such a cool book and The Soul Of Money. I don't know if I've read it. I'm putting that on my list. The Long Game, I should be getting royalties by now. Dorie, if you're reading, please start sending me checks because that book's been mentioned here more than any other book. Annette, this has been a special conversation. Every time we have conversations I always enjoy it. This was nice to get to know certain parts of your story that we haven't had a chance to explore. I know people are appreciating all that you've shared and I want to thank you.

Thank you. This has been a real pleasure.

Thank you. Before I let you go, I want to make sure people know where they can find out more about you.

I love using the tools of LinkedIn because it's a great way to share, point out and give shout-outs to all the valuable ideas out there and connect people professionally. I'm on LinkedIn. My business is TrilogyDesignWorks.com. I'm on Instagram under @AnnetteMason1. I like to share ideas and travel there.

I know you've got a book in the works, but it's still early days. When that comes out, people will be lining up to get their copy. I know, I will be.

Thank you. It deals with many of the topics we talked about here.

Thanks to the readers for coming on the journey. I know you're relieving feeling ready to take a sabbatical to go out and experience life to its fullest. Thank you to everyone for coming on this journey with us. That's a wrap.

Important Links

Love the show? Subscribe, rate, review, and share! https://www.inspiredpurposecoach.com/virtualcampfire


There are no comments yet. Be the first one to leave a comment!