#9: How to craft a “No Matter What”

And why everybody needs one

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Four years ago, after a three month immersive learning experience at Stanford University, I began a 2,700 mile drive back to my job as CEO of a non-profit in Detroit.

I knew I had to use the travel time to become clear about what I had learned and how I had changed.

During my time away, I discovered the power of designing solutions through through the eyes of the people who are closest to the issue rather than through the eyes of the institution. I reclaimed the creative force inside of me that I had forgotten to recognize, nurture and develop over a 20 year period. I realized I needed to let go of many historic behaviors and mindsets in order to open up to new possibilities. These insights were profound to me. I didn’t want to them to be temporary moments of growth; I wanted these important learnings to be the new way I proceeded in life.

Over the next five days of travel, I made a pact with myself to always honor two things:

1) I would dedicate the rest of my life to helping others use human-centered design to create positive social change in the world.

2) I would never again squint to see myself.

I termed this pact my “No Matter What.” No Matter What, I would dedicate the rest of my life to helping leaders change the way they worked through human-centered design. And I would do it in a way that would allow me to bring my full creative self forward — rather than being bound up in a prescribed role that didn’t feel congruent with who I had become.

A No Matter What is the purpose which speaks to the deepest part of you.

Fast forward a few years, and the concept of a No Matter What has become a core tenet of Civilla’s culture. Every member of the team has articulated his or her No Matter What. We use our No Matter Whats as a compass to steer our growth as individuals and as an organization.

How to craft your No Matter What

A No Matter What is crafted through a practice of reflection on the contribution you want to bring into the world, followed by a series of personal decisions that help put it into action. When you combine your intent with meaningful actions, you are officially in pursuit of your No Matter What. Here a few steps to get started:

1) Begin with reflection

Find a quiet space to reflect and write your first draft. Set a timer for 15 minutes and give yourself the grace to get your thoughts down on paper, without judging the outcome — it will be far from perfect.

2) Evolve over time

Over the next few weeks, find time to return to your draft. If you’re struggling, try sharing it with a few close friends, family members, or mentors. Do they think it sounds like you? Take their feedback into account as you refine your thoughts, but remember — ultimately, this is your No Matter What. Keep working on the statement until it feels like it fits. You’ll know it’s right when it begins to stir emotion and pull you towards it.

3) Step into action

Start using your No Matter What as a reflection tool to evaluate your current decisions and actions. Are the people you’re placing yourself around, the way you spend your time, and the ways you’re pursuing personal and professional growth currently aligned with your No Matter What? If not, how might you start to change that? Use your No Matter What to inform your next steps and begin to guide the way.

— Michael + the team



Adam Selzer