Lessons Learned from 99U Local Chicago

A graphic recording of the event created by Ink Factory Studio

A graphic recording of the event created by Ink Factory Studio

Last week I went to a 99U Local event in Chicago. Having attended the yearly conference in NYC a few times, I was thrilled to experience a mini version in my hometown.

The entire focus of 99U is to help make ideas happen, get stuff done, and move past the ideas and inspiration into action. Needless to say, this focus results in a variety of lessons on all things productivity, goal setting, habit and behavior change, mood and collaboration.

Here are my takeaways from the 99U Local Chicago event:


Humans need predictability AND surprise to thrive.

Tania Luna shared a video all about the importance of surprise and how we can integrate it into our life and our work. Her tips included:

  1. Build your anchors - Stability and solid relationships allow for us to experience adventure and take risks without having fear. We can build our anchors through cultivating better relationships and maintaining small rituals and routines throughout our days.
  2. Reframe - Understand that your version of a situation may not be what actually happened or what is truly possible. Realizing this, you can reframe your perspective and outlook on yourself, your life and your work.
  3. Think like a surpriseologist - Build surprise into your day. Interrupt your patterns and routines. Surprise yourself or someone else. Do something different every day.

It's your fault if you don't spread joy.

Master Improviser Susan Messing shared the story of discovering her "hump" -- the thing that kept her from creating and projecting joy. As a takeaway, she shared a few table manners for creating joy:

  • Follow the fear - discover what you want in life by identifying the fears or "humps" that might be holding you back. Reframe this fear as excitement and take action.
  • Don't throw "shoulds" - we immediately lose trust with others when we use phrases like, "you should..." Instead, make suggestions. "I have a suggestion for you..." -- and don't be upset if they don't take your suggestion (because then it comes off like a should)!
  • Yes, and... - take a nod from improv and use this tactic. Instead of criticizing an idea or concept, use the phrase "yes, and..." to add specificity and detail -- this usually results in the creation of stellar ideas.
  • Commit and recommit -- If you fart, say you farted, then move on. Silly, yes, but this tip is all about being in the moment, acknowledging what happened and moving forward.