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  Anchors to Rockets

Transform What Holds You Back Into What Lifts You Up

Use When

You need to define obstacles or surface what you feel stuck on, then use as a starting point to for opportunity.


Anchors to Rockets help train our brains to scan the world for ideas and new paths toward success. This is a drill for reframing our challenges to see leverage points by focusing on what we can control.

Steps For Large Group Format (20 minutes)

  1. Print your Anchors to Rockets poster and supply Sharpies and Post-its to participants
  2. Invite participants to list what is holding them back, what would they eliminate in their life, what barriers do they face, what feels like an anchor?
  3. Give participants three voting stickers to select the inputs that most resonate with them.
  4. Collect the Post-its with the most votes and divide participants into small teams and ask each team to consider how they might reframe the anchor to a rocket.

Steps For Small Team Format (30 minutes)

  1. Use a Sharpie to draw a vertical line down the poster to split into two or three sections.
  2. Invite participants to list what is holding them back, what would they eliminate in their life, what barriers do they face, what feels like an anchor?
  3. Ask each participant to identify one anchor they want to address. Then move this anchor to the Rockets section and use a Sharpie to draw a boarder on the Post-it.
  4. Taking turns, have participates share their anchor and consider how they might reframe the anchor to a rocket.

Anchors to Rockets is shorthand for a mindset shift.

You don't have to use this drill in the poster format. With practice, you quickly start to hear anchors and can simply ask, "How might we turn this anchor into a rocket?"

Let's use an example from a workshop participant I met at SXSW.

This participant tells me how she drove two hours to listen to my talk at SXSW and that she loves everything about Looping, the creator mindset, and inviting serendipity.

But she’s still stuck.

She tells me she how she wants to launch a career as a designer. But her small town has limited clients and competition from established designers.

We stand in the empty hallway and I say;

“Sounds like you have a strategy gap. Let’s try a little exercise called Anchors to Rockets.”

Too often, our challenges feel like insurmountable anchors holding us back. Sometimes, these anchors are just assumptions. Other times, we lose sight of what we can control.

Turn Anchors into Rockets

First acknowledge the anchors; new designer, limited portfolio of work, small town, few clients, competing firms.

Let’s Clarify our challenge with the “How Might I?” format:

How might I launch my career as a new designer in a small town in a way that helps me build my portfolio so that I can establish a stronger position for myself?

Let's consider how we might reframe those anchors. What is within your control? What assumptions might you be making?

You don’t always need to come up with novel solutions. There is so much in the world to study, remix, and transform for your purpose.

You might have to look to new territories to find inspiration in unexpected places. Or look to where someone has already found ways over, around, and through similar challenges.

What if we stole ideas from the city?

Some cities may call it by other names, but I know it as Design Marathon.

Design Marathon is a day-long event inviting local nonprofits to pitch a design need to local designers who then form small teams to tackle the need. It is a fun, community building day of creative philanthropy.

The Design Marathon concept transform anchors into rockets by reframing competitors as collaborators. As a new designer, she can add work to her portfolio. And as a small town, she is likely to rally support and press around a unique event.

By reframing her anchors, this upstart designer gains the spotlight and invites serendipity by creating a meaningful event for her community.

The nonprofits and design firms may both have small projects ideal for new designers. Perhaps some of the work started at the Design Marathon will inspire follow-up projects. Events like this create the necessary collisions for serendipity to surface unexpected opportunities.

Anchors to Rockets 24x36.pdf