top of page





  1. the art of drawing solid objects on a two-dimensional surface so as to give the right impression of their height, width, depth, and position in relation to each other when viewed from a particular point.

    "a perspective drawing"​

  2. a particular attitude toward or way of regarding something; a point of view.

    "most guidebook history is written from the editor's perspective"---Oxford Languages

What if our best future already exists?
by Shannon Mullen O'Keefe
originally published on LinkedIn

What if our best #future already exists?
I’ve been thinking about this.
The concept of retrocausality.  
That is, the idea that there could be “backwards causation.”  What if (as this concept suggests) an effect can precede its cause in #time?
This would mean that a later event affects an earlier one.
OK. I know. This sounds more than a little 'Doctor Who.' (For that reason, I'll leave the ins and outs and philosophizing about the possibility of the actual concept –in the discipline it belongs in –to the physicists.)
But I love the idea of it as a jumping off point for #imagination
For all of us.
In business.

In our lives.
If the effect already exists – and we want to make our best possible future that effect – then our #opportunity seems to be to explore what it looks like as it exists out there already so that we can educate ourselves about how to cause it.
After all, if it already exists we can probably learn from it.
If this idea is as intriguing to you as it is to me, you might take advantage of an opportunity to talk it out with a friend or a partner (or your team even.) Maybe even get specific about the horizon you are looking at... 5 years, 10 years? More?
Then describe what you see in detail. What does it look like? What does it feel like? What’s different about it?  What #Values underpin it all? Who is there?
Remember, as far as we know, (in a thought experiment like this anyway) it's real.
To make the experiment a little more actionable, try rewinding from what you see in that ideal future to create the cause in the now. Link it to the present. To what made it happen in the first place.
What caused it? 
If you back away carefully you might more clearly see the path that took you there.
The steps along the way.
What and who did you invest in? What did (or didn’t) you do?  What did you keep? What did you let go of along the way?
Try this 'retrocausality' imaginative experiment to see if it works for you (or your team.)  
Let it inspire you, if it does.
In a larger team, you might even break out into smaller groups, and then compare the futures.  In that case, ask yourself, what do you see in common across the teams?  
Maybe you will uncover themes to learn from.
Maybe there will be some clues in the conversations about #actions to take now, that will lead you to that more ideal future for you or (your team.)
So even as we grapple with the present, with so many somber and sobering needs in the moment that demand our #leadership, care, compassion and direct moral action, we can also continue to imagine and create the best versions of our futures together.
“Our destiny is fated not only by great powers beyond our becoming horizon but by the very way we shape and hold the everyday #conversations of familiar life.”– David Whyte
Shaping time

Photo © by Shannon Mullen O'Keefe


Is any worthy problem solved within the plane of its original conception?
by Shannon Mullen O'Keefe
originally published on LinkedIn

Is any worthy problem ever solved within the plane of its original conception?
Albert Einstein is attributed with saying: “No.”
But what does it take to shift planes?
An HBR article by Francesca Gino reminds about the importance of #creativity. It is essential for #growth and adaptation in organizations and can result from encouraging innate #curiosity.
She asks: "When could you not stop yourself from #learning something new?"
“I just had to know” – the innately curious person says. 
The artist Simone Aaberk Kærn 'just had to know' about the sky. 
She literally shifted her plane (in a plane) by getting her pilot's license. She wanted to explore the “interconnected things in the sky–how things merge there.”

“Art predicts things that will happen,” she said.
Stephen Gill, a photographer, excavated the universe of a fish during a lockdown –he expanded his plane significantly by looking at something microscopically… When you view his photographs, you might think you’re viewing the moon or mars – but, it's a fish, on a slide.  He invites us onto a miniature plane.
Jane Booth, a painter I follow, creates time-lapse videos of her creative process. The afternoon light and shadows move over her canvas as she sits there and thinks about her work. 
What plane is she on?
Víkingur Ólafsson, the pianist, reminds that Mozart created some of his best work as “the first indie musician,” after he refused to “bow down to the pressures of the aristocracy." "He always played his own game..." On his own plane?

When could you not stop yourself from #learning something new?
Do you have your pilot’s license?
What project might you see differently if you put it under the microscope?
Whose expressive possibilities inspire you?
Who looks at things differently? (Are they on the inside (or the outside.)
What’s the last problem you surfaced (before it became real?) 
Who is the first "indie musician" on your team? Do they know you value that?
If you had a time-lapse video of your creative process, what would it look like? Who is the star?
Do you have a creative muse?
Who inspires you to paint the #future?
“The important thing is not to stop #questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing. One cannot help but be in #awe when one contemplates the mysteries of eternity, of life, of the marvelous structure of reality. It is enough if one tries to comprehend only a little of this mystery every day," said Albert Einstein, too.
The marvelous sky. #curiosity #strategy
© by Shannon Mullen O'Keefe


I wonder how leaves decide when to let go?
by Shannon Mullen O'Keefe
originally published on LinkedIn

“I wonder how leaves decide when to let go?”

I've been thinking about this delightful musing by Ella Frances Sanders (The Sometimes Newsletter, No.165)

What about us? How do we decide when to let go? 

From a leaf’s point of view, it's complicated.  What do they have to look forward to?

A blissful ride on a wispy breeze and then--disintegration?  Geez. No wonder a few of them hang on.  They take on a whole new form, in what’s next.

This is the thing about letting go.  

The space in front of us is often ambiguous. Even so, by December, most of the leaves have moved on.

So we might take the advice of the trees and embrace our seasons of being.

“Uncertainty precedes #creativity,” we have to “tolerate negative space,” and perhaps even create it.  Letting go of something can mean “what comes next is the space to create something.” It isn’t a “safe space,” it's a “brave space.”  “What 10% of our patterns can we let go of?” “What 10% might we gain from doing this?” Said John Michael Schert (#ConcreteLove) when he deconstructed #leadership with dance .

But, some of us don’t want to let go.  When we're stuck Elaine Kasket reminds: “#commitment is an act not a word (Sartre)," in order to move forward we can take committed acts in the direction of our #values .

Though the musician Tom Waits, says, I'll lose everything but I'll “Never Let Go" of your hand. “He’ll ring the bell backwards” before he does that.

What's worth not letting go of?

And how about our #cultural #values ? On our #wellbeing, Brigid Delaney asks in The Guardian, “But what does letting go mean - will our society allow it?” In order to rest “We’ll have to learn a whole new way of being…Rest cannot be rushed.”

What do we need to agree to let go of together?

Leadership reflections:

Has the next season arrived?
What is it that we’re letting go of? 
What might be letting go of us?
What beliefs might we let go of in order to welcome new #possibility?
What values ground us so letting go might be ok?
Are there ‘leaves’ on the team deciding today? Do we want them to stay? Or, is it okay for their own #growth -- that they’re on their way?

“We are well-advised to welcome with a largehearted embrace [] the people we will have been when our atoms give way to our afterglow,” says Maria Popova

To become, we need to let go.

Of course the ultimate act of our #life will be letting go. 

“I bequeath myself to the dirt, to grow from the grass I love;
If you want me again, look for me under your boot-soles.” says Walt Whitman.

In the end, in order to let go, maybe we need a little belief... just like a leaf.

Leaves deciding. #Leadership #lettinggo

© by Shannon Mullen O'Keefe


Business leadership and time travel?
by Shannon Mullen O'Keefe
originally published on LinkedIn

Seconds are something like 9,192,631,770 transitions within a caesium atom. So give yourself some credit for making your way through those transitions (in that last second.) 

I've been thinking about how we time travel, one second at a time moving forward and in other ways.

Beautiful and endlessly inspiring Betty White left us with an example, actually.

There are print magazines on shelves celebrating her 100th birthday in January.  

If you hadn’t heard the news of her loss and you saw the magazine, that’s what you know to be true. So there are multiple futures (times) happening, celebrating 100 years, mourning her loss at 99 (and combinations in-between, depending on what you know.)  

It is interesting to think about this in the context of business leadership.

Peter Drucker: The best way to predict the #future is to create it. (i.e. write the story, ship the magazine.)


Drucker: Don’t try to innovate for the future! #Innovate for the present. (i.e. even if you write the story, something else can still happen.)

This is the beautiful dance of leadership….imagining and inspiring the best #possible future and managing the immediate present. They’re both simultaneously true!  And our immediate present can always derail our best possible future, but, yet again, our best futures are necessary to inspire us to feel like we have a cause and also because we can close the gap in the last lap. We can achieve our best futures.

If you are an F1 racing fan you witnessed Max Verstappen achieve his dream by passing champion Lewis Hamilton on the final and most important lap of the year to win the world racing title recently. It was a nail-biter! Each team imagined that final moment all year (and Max for his entire life.)  And the race came down to a series of unexpected events, including a crash.  Max had “fresh tires,” and closed an entire season’s (an entire life's) gap in that last lap!

#Leadership reflections:

What do you most want (hope for?)
What future inspires you?
What are you creating now that matters to that future?
What are you innovating for now?
What do you need to print and ship (even though you might not be sure?)
Does your team have fresh tires?
What’s right in front of you now (that needs attention?)
What will it take to close the gap in the last lap?
What if you lose? What will you win anyway?

The future is always there in its brilliant possibility – and also each transition within a caesium atom matters to the end result. 

Remember we time travel in endless ways that matter everyday.

Drucker: “Yet surely this is a time to make the future -precisely because everything is in flux. This is a time for action.”

So, create and inspire the future. Write the story. Print the magazine. But put on fresh tires, just in case.

Maybe you will close the gap in the last lap?

(In that last transition within a caesium atom even...possibly?)

A place to time travel.

© by Shannon Mullen O'Keefe


Is what is essential, invisible?
by Shannon Mullen O'Keefe
originally published on LinkedIn

Is what is essential, invisible?

Antoine de Saint-Exupéry said yes.  “It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.” 

What if we think more about the #power in invisible?

Win​​d? An essay in LRB about Arles, France, reminds of the influence wind has on us.  Winds like The Mistral matter to the community. 'Wind roses,’ guide everyone. In other places winds like the Cape Doctor, Chinook, Santa Ana matter too. Though invisible, they each have personality.  We feel them more than see them--a wind’s mood matters. 

How telling that we name ​​them. 

And the ‘carousel of time,’-- that marks our lives.
T.S. Eliot ... 
April is the cruelest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring​​
Dull roots with spring rain.
Winter [keeps] us warm, covering
Earth in forgetful snow. . .

Poetry reminds us that we feel seasons. Things, visible and invisible, seem to add up to a shift that lets us know a new time has arrived. And we feel it as cruel or stirring--warm–hopeful--the same way we know the mood of a wind.

I recently hiked a wetland after ‘forgetful’ snow. A rabbit and a coyote left their footprints – a story– on the trail, off the trail, into the woods. . .

As leaders, we can be tempted to manage obvious, but what matters as much is what the hearts around us feel rightly – even though we can't see it outrightly.  

Things like the prints we leave behind…the winds we -- or others -- stir up–the poetry someone might write about the seasons of culture we create…matter.

#Leadership is a lot about managing what is unseen, and real. Answers are in the power of the invisible.


Do I see what others around me see?
What do I see?  What don’t I see?  Who sees me?

Where do my feet go? What tracks do I leave (even virtually?) What story is left by me? 

Do I make well-worn tracks or new paths? 


What is essential about us (but invisible?) Can we name it?

What weather must we create together to deliver our best to our constituencies (customers, stakeholders?)

What weather do we make together now? 

What key to our #strategy is in what the people here see?

Have we named our winds? Are they Cruel? Stirring? Rainy? Warm? Moving? Lovely? 

Is there a wind rose?

Have we agreed on how to level with each other on stormy days?  Do we stir things up too much, not enough? 

Are our expectations of each other visible (or invisible?)

In the end, what is invisible --not seen--is indeed an essential insight for a leader. 

Consider Peter Drucker’s often-repeated advice. 

“The most important thing in communication is to hear what isn’t being said.”

So, call to mind what isn’t there (but is.) 

The unseen. The invisible.

Be purposeful in your tracks. Name your winds. Mind your seasons. Meet the ghosts. Hear what people (might not) say, today.

Then make it visible (and manageable.)

Wind. #Leadership
© by Shannon Mullen O'Keefe


Is life a series of collisions with the future?
by Shannon Mullen O'Keefe
originally published on LinkedIn

Is life a series of collisions with the #future?

Apparently, that’s what the philosopher Jose Ortega y Gasset, thought. “The futures we imagine will always collide with the reality of the circumstances in which we find ourselves.” And so we’re always making sense of this, according to him. We can stay as we are, caught up in everything as it is, or we can #imagine new #possibilities.

But, if our brightest futures are always colliding with us as we try to make sense of our lives as they are-- do we ever make it to our brightest futures? 

Well, he says, “every act of #hope is a testament to our ability to overcome our circumstances.”

So, even a little spark of hope might go a long way to help those around us to imagine something beyond the present that might be a better future for all of us.

What I like about what I know of Gasset’s philosophy is that he reminds us that the futures we aspire to force us to wrestle with ‘the weather of life’ you might call it. Our rainy days. Things that make our car windows a little blurry on our way. 

So our opportunity is to #embrace it. Perhaps as #artists do. Margaret Heffernan points this out in her book UnCharted, "Working in the interstices of #uncertainty is how they forge their identity, making future works and worlds that they can’t see before they get there--and which they may only dimly understand on arrival.”

I often cite Anne Lamott, too. Her advice for writers (as for leaders): She says: “Writing a novel is like driving a car at night. You can see only as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way. You don’t have to see where you’re going, you don’t have to see the destination or everything you will pass along the way. You just have to see two or three feet ahead of you.”

So, when the future is colliding with some ‘weather,’ in the present, just a little light in the distance might help. “Give people as much predictability as possible,” management professors Huggy Rao and Bob Sutton said in a Stanford leadership webinar last year. Good #leaders create periods of safety....”

So, as leaders, make sure just the “headlights” are on. (And no high beams on a rainy day. Any of us who drive a car know they just reflect off of the raindrops, anyway.) 


What can we easily tackle today that will make a big difference for us tomorrow?
What current assumptions are holding us back? Which of those can we make a difference about now?
What is our simplest solution to our biggest challenge (or current problem?)
What about this rainy day might mean good luck for us?
What relationship(s) matters most now? What are we doing to nurture them?
What does the future expect of us?
What doors haven't we opened yet?

So on those rainy days, when the future collides with a messy moment in the now, try aiming at something just ahead. Perhaps for the moment, even just some blurry red taillights a little ways off in the distance will do . . .


© by Shannon Mullen O'Keefe

bottom of page