This Q & A is with Karen Walrond, Corporate Attorney Turned Photographer, Author and Speaker on Intentional Living, Creativity, Connection and ‘Thriving’. Karen is innovating her field of work as the author of the bestselling book, The Beauty of Different, championing the message that our differences make us beautiful and through Chookooloonks award-winning photoblog is inspirational source on intentional living, authenticity, gratitude and creativity.
1) What was a pivotal momentum of reinvention for you?
It was actually heated argument that I had with a client. I was working as an in-house attorney at a relatively large company, and I received some information that indicated an employee may have broken the law. When I confronted him about it, he became really belligerent, yelling at me that I didn’t understand how business worked, standing over me, and blocking the doorway to my office. I was really shaken by it — it took a few hours to calm down — but eventually, when I did, I realized that there was nothing unusual about the argument that I had: that as a lawyer, part of my job meant that sometimes I was going to get into conflict with people who didn’t want to follow the law. And while the conflict in this case was pretty extreme, if it was going to be that difficult for me to handle that sort of conflict, maybe it was a sign that I should consider other options for my life. And so, I began planning my exit strategy, and left the company (on good terms) about 5 months later. I’m so glad that I did — while I’ve maintained my law license (I worked too hard to earn it not to!), I’ve never looked back.
2) Who has been a valuable mentor or sponsor?
My dad, actually. He’s a PhD in petroleum engineering, and spent his career working in the same industry that I did when I practiced law, and experienced undeniable success as an executive on one of the world’s largest oil companies. He’s always ready with good advice on how to handle my career and my professional life.
3) What is your biggest goal right now?
Well, I’ve recently become Co-Director of Collaboration and Development of The Daring Way, an organization that trains and certifies helping professionals in Brené Brown’s empirically-based research on vulnerability, courage, shame and empathy. This is a departure from my previous corporate life working as an attorney in the oil and gas industry, so right now, my biggest goal is to do The Daring Way proud in this really exciting new role! In addition, I’m continuing my own work in authenticity, self-esteem, gratitude and thriving, and am in the middle of writing my second book on these subjects, so finishing my manuscript is a close second.
4) What time do you typically wake up? What do you do every morning?
Normally I wake up just before 6 a.m. I go work out — either on a hike-and-bike trail near my home, or at the gym — and when I get back just after 7, I wake my 12-year-old daughter up so she can start getting ready for school. We both shower and dress, and I make us both breakfast, before we race out the door. I drop her off at school, and then head to the office!
Once I arrive at the office, I make myself a cup of tea (rarely coffee), and journal for about 15 minutes, to get my mind settled before I start my day.
5) How do you unplug? How often do you unplug?
Journaling is my most frequent way to unplug — I doodle a lot in my journals, especially at night, listening to music or in front of the TV. I was never a big journaler as a child or teenager, but during the past 8 years or so, I’ve filled dozens of journals. I try to journal every weekday morning — just doing morning pages — to settle my head, but then I doodle in the evenings a few times a week as well. I’m no sketch artist, but because the journals aren’t meant for anyone’s eyes but my own, I can draw whatever I’d like without fear of judgment. It’s incredibly freeing.
Also, as a photographer, spending time with my camera always feels like unplugging, even when I’m shooting for work. I shoot just about every day. Slowing down to compose a shot in my viewfinder is almost like meditation.
6) What cause do you most want to advance?
Anti-discrimination, in every form — gender, sexual orientation, race, you name it. My first book, The Beauty of Different, explores how whatever it is that makes you different might actually be a superpower, and I truly believe this to be true. Furthermore, I believe that diversity and inclusivity isn’t just the right thing to do, but that they are the birthplace of innovation, creativity and connection. The more we value each other’s differences, the broader our perspectives become, and the more likely collaboration will result in something truly inventive. I’ve spoken about this to groups around the country for years, and I’ll likely continue to do so until discrimination is no longer a problem.
7) What is your “keep me going” quote?
I’ve always used the phrase “look for the light” as my mantra. As a photographer, it’s what I do — photography literally means “drawing with light” — so whenever I’m taking a photograph, examining the quality of the light — what it’s doing, how it’s falling, that sort of thing — is imperative, equally important to the subject matter.
But also, as someone who is passionate about connection and anti-discrimination work, “look for the light” has metaphorical meaning for me, as well, because because when we look for the light in each other — that unnamed spark that animates us all — that’s where resonance and connection happen.
Finally, gratitude plays a huge role in how I move through life, so “look for the light” reminds me to notice the good in my life as often as possible.
8) What is your secret indulgence?
Okay, honestly? LEGO. I love LEGO, especially building the limited edition modular buildings. I know, I know … it’s weird, but my husband knows that if I’m having a particularly stressful time, a glass of wine and a brand new LEGO kit will set me straight. My most recent build was the Ghostbusters Firehouse, which he got me for my 49th birthday. It took 14 hours!
9) Who on the list of prior Honorees would you like to meet?
I’d really love to meet Kimberly Bryant, founder of Black Girls Code. As a black girl with an engineering degree myself (Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering, Texas A&M University ’88), I love any person who makes it a priority to encourage young women to enter STEM professions, especially young women of colour.
And of course, Paola Gianturco feels like a sister from another mister — a photojournalist who documented women’s lives in 55 countries to help us find resonance, while also founding an organization called “Grandmother Power”?! Oh, we have to meet — preferably with our cameras in hand!
Check out Karen Walrond’s full 40 Over 40 profile here!