Returning to Rituals in the Age of Change with Dr. Caitlin O'Connell


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Dr. Caitlin O'Connell is a scientist, author, and storyteller. She holds a PhD in ecology, holds positions at both Harvard and Stanford, is an award-winning author of non-fiction, children’s books, and graphic novels, AND is a renowned expert on elephants.

What’s that got to do with Pivoting, resilience, adaptability, human connection, or even just networking, for that matter?

I had no idea. We were connected through a mutual acquaintance and, if I’m being honest, I only agreed out of politeness. I’m so glad that I did. This was the most unexpected, dare I say wild, conversation of the season, and quite possibly my favorite.

Dr. O’Connell was just gearing up for a huge fundraising effort for her nonprofit organization, Utopia Scientific when the pandemic wiped out all possible fundraising events for the foreseeable future.

In her words, she was forced with a decision: Implode, or explode?

And boy did she explode, in the most creative way possible.

In this conversation, Caitlin and I discuss everything from the bone conduction properties of elephants, to how hard it is to take our own advice, to the value of pressing pause, and how critical travel is in developing empathy, perspective, and understanding of both ourselves and our place in the world.

And of course, we talked about Dr. O’Connell’s new book “Wild Rituals: 10 Lessons Animals Can Teach Us About Connection, Community, and Ourselves.” I’ve just started it, and it’s wonderful.

Now an asterisk.

Upon listening back to our conversation, I noticed that Caitlin and I both advocated passionately for some things that are only afforded to people of privilege. Pausing during a pandemic, to think critically about the future, was not an option for people who didn’t have savings or financial security. Travel has always been prohibitively expensive - particularly the kind of air travel we discussed, to far off lands and foreign cultures.

So, I wanted to underscore once again the critical role of luck, in this case the luck of privilege, in the ability to Pivot success during a pandemic.

With that said, this conversation is truly magical and I know you’re going to love it.

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