Michelle Zamora


This Way

This Way. “Guided mastery, think ambiguously, be optimistic, collaboration. If you’re in a boat with four other people and it’s foggy, you may as well be paddling in the same direction to get to solid ground.” Who could think of competing in a situation like that anyway. It’s the same sort of situation trying to navigate a really big, lofty design challenge. You can’t see where you’re going, but there are a handful or really talented, really passionate and creative people who are all on your team, and you’re all trying to go in the same direction. I’ve lived this experience in my personal life and in my work life, and I’m only grateful that both are true. I don’t think I’d be very happy if the two weren’t in line or at least somewhat in line with each other. 

The experiences I’ve had up until this very moment in life have given me the knowledge, insight, and confidence to go forth, keep paddling. And all those experiences would never have been possible if it weren’t for some key players in my life. Many probably don’t know the impact they’ve made on some of the decisions I’ve made. 

“This way.” If you didn’t grow up with nurturing parents or you never had that teacher that believed in you, or you weren’t guided masterfully in some way or another…how would you know what way to go. We all need some kind of sign (literal or metaphorical). 

The crap that happened in the past, happened for a reason, and I never would have had the guts to follow my own path if life had turned out differently—if I had made different decisions. But that’s an alternate reality kind of storyline that I’m not prepared to go down in this moment. 

The way for me, was design, creativity, working with my hands, working on projects…beginning something and finishing it. Each project, each life experience, each relationship, each mentor, each friend, each guiding figure in my life means something to me. And their direction goes into my work as much as my own thought babies. 

I think of myself as having a terrible memory…but what I do well is metaphors, thinking in examples. It even goes beyond just thinking in them, I live them. My journey to Europe by myself could be directly applied to the journey I took with designing and developing the Makerspace—I took a leap of faith, because I believed in it, and I thought I could do it. That’s always the road of no return for me. If I set out to do a thing, chances are I finish them…even if it means breaking my body to do it (the time I walked 28 miles to Santiago de Compostella in Spain). 

This way. That’s what the yellow arrows told us. Go, this way. No one really questioned it even though technically anyone could have painted a yellow arrow on a tree in any direction…as a pilgrim, you go the way of the arrows…you trust the arrows.

Walking the Camino de Santiago was a lot like making a makerspace. You trust the signs that are put in front of you, and you act. That’s how we build things.

There’s no possible way I could have made it to Santiago with inaction. The same goes with anything in life, you have to do to learn, you have to do to make anything. 

So we’ve gathered my memory is no good but that I’m great at saying one thing basically IS something else. Another superpower I’ve picked up along the road is being able to take a lot of content from different perspectives and sources, dump it out onto the kitchen table and make sense of it all. Pull stories from it, find meaning, gather insights, pinpoint the diamonds in the rough. It’s my favorite part of storytelling and the most overwhelming and chaotic. 

How do you decide which incredible story to tell? How do you pick one sound bite out of all the amazing things that person just said?? Along the same lines as following the arrows, you just have to act. Pick one. Go in that direction. If you do, start compiling work, find out it doesn’t fit, then move it aside…doing is better and more effective than stressing about which one to pick. 

Looking back on my journey and process…I can only imagine what it would be like working with a team of creatives all paddling in the same direction. How much WORK we could get done, hopefully the best in our lives ;) 

Like I told Devin this afternoon, I love what I do, what we’ve all done together. But contracting is a different kind of learning curve, and I’m ready to scale what I do. I’m ready to make impact on a larger platform. Maybe I’m not “ready” but it might also be my MO to say yes even when the real answer is no. Hey Michelle do you have the bandwidth to finish these two projects on this timeline? Hey Michelle can you babysit my daughter this Saturday night? Hey Michelle, do you want to help me build the makerspace? 

Yes, the answer is yes. Because learning by doing hasn’t yet guided me in the wrong direction. It’s only grown my knowledge, wisdom, strength, endurance, creativity as a designer and as a human. Going for it, has given me the confidence to mentor based on personal experience, the humility to admit when I’m wrong, the patience teamwork requires, the open-mindedness and faith going without seeing takes. 

Michelle ZamoraComment