Planners’ Picks — July 4, 2023

Planners’ Picks

A collection of resources from CSN planning committee members worth mentioning

Considering today’s date and the holiday associated with it, this PP is all about independence and freedom, autonomy and observation. The planners of CSN hope you have a great holiday weekend full of relaxation, recharging, and celebration. Enjoy this abbreviated newsletter upon your return to work.


:: Image of the Week

It's not what you say to everyone else that determines your life; it's what you whisper to yourself that has the greatest power.

:: Resources on Independence, Freedom, Autonomy, and Observation

Closing Time

“Closing Time – Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.” – Semisonic

I had the pleasure of seeing Semisonic open for the Barenaked Ladies in Milwaukee on June 7, 2023, and have loved their music for decades. One of my favorite bands, Semisonic, released the hit song Closing Time in 1999. It became their major hit and they still end their shows today when out on tour. At first, one might think this song is about leaving a bar at the end of a long, entertaining evening. However, the lyrics go much deeper than being out with friends, enjoying music and drinks.

Writer and lead singer Dan Wilson wrote this song when he was having a child, and several reports say that the song is about giving birth and leaving a hospital for home. “This room won’t be open till your brothers or your sisters come” is one of many quotes in the song that reflect a delivery room setting; some other beginning’s end is the original pregnancy which is now over due to the new beginning of birth. “It’s all about being born and coming into the world, seeing the bright lights, cutting the cord, opening up into something deeper and more universal,” Wilson has been quoted as saying in an interview about the song.

But could there be another meaning to Closing Time?

The chorus of this song immediately brings me to the thought of cutting ties with things that are no longer serving you, starting instead something else that is more desirable at the moment. We all struggle to let go of projects, jobs, or people to whom we made a commitment at one point and later have found them not what we originally thought or need now. This is especially true in situations where we’ve invested something in them: time, money, feelings; we really have a problem with abandoning the sunk costs and moving on. The sunk cost fallacy is a psychological barrier that ties people to unsuccessful endeavors simply because they’ve committed resources to it.

But there are many times when we need to cut ties and move in a different direction. After all, every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end. Don’t be afraid to assess your situation regularly and redirect as needed so that your future self will thank you. Instead of sunk costs, think of the opportunity cost of staying in that situation instead of exploring something more fruitful. At every moment in time, we have a choice.

“You don’t have to go home but you can’t stay here.” Where might you go if given the freedom to? What new beginning is waiting for you?

Here’s a recording of Dan doing Closing Time in a more intimate environment than the Semisonic concert I attended on Milwaukee’s lakefront. I hope you enjoy the song as much as I have.  – Rich Gassen

(Originally posted online at

“The myth is that there isn’t enough time. There is plenty of time. There isn’t enough focus with the time you have. You win by directing your attention toward better things.”  – James Clear

What Are You Feeling?

Author Bruce Kasanoff says: “It may surprise you that I have made it this far in life only occasionally stopping to observe, “What am I feeling?”” Maybe you need to think less and check your feelings for the answers more often. Check out Bruce’s post on the subject.

Freedom and Personal Responsibility Go Hand in Hand

Freedom makes everything possible. Freedom is a blessing, but it’s also a curse. YOU are the captain of the ship — and hold all the cards. You set your course, make the difficult choices, and determine what you’re willing to sacrifice to achieve your goals. Every time you achieve success, you can take great pride in knowing that you earned it. Conversely, every time you fail, you earned that as well. The key is that you own your life — the choices, as well as the consequences. Frank Sonnenberg tells us more about freedom in this post from 2019.

Allowing Autonomy to Drive Motivation

Back in 2019, CSN explored the concept of intrinsic motivation using Daniel Pink’s book DRIVE. Check out some resources from a leadership presentation CSN members put on later that year – from session materials for self-study, to an innovative RSA video showcasing why autonomy is important for all of us to be creative and productive in our lives. Find out the Four T’s of autonomy too!

Changing Your Perspective Might Solve a Problem

Sometimes we need to take a different perspective in order to find a solution. We tend to look at things the same way all the time, and only see one side of a challenge or scenario. Ask for other perspectives or views, to open up new possibilities. Watch this short video for an example of a perspective you may have never had.

“A happy life consists not in the absence, but in the mastery of hardships.” – Helen Keller

The Good Life: Lessons from the Longest Study on Happiness

What makes for a good life? There are countless answers to this question from philosophers, religious types, and self-help authors, not to mention the opinions of family, friends, and neighbors. The research conducted over 85 years by the Harvard Study of Adult Development reveals a surprising answer for the source of happiness: other people. Or more precisely, our relationships with other people. The stronger our relationships, the more likely we are to live happy, satisfying, healthier lives. Marc Shulz, professor of psychology and Director of Data Science at Bryn Mawr College, and Robert Waldinger, professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, explored the findings of the Harvard study in their book, The Good Life: Lessons from the Longest Study on Happiness. In this audiobook summary from Next Big Idea Club, Marc shares five key insights from the book that teach you how to cultivate and improve the relationships that can lead to a happier, more fulfilling life.

This audiobook summary was created by Next Big Idea Club.

In the end, it’s not the years in your life that count, it’s the life in your years.  – Abraham Lincoln

This Summer, Design a Daily Recess

Toward the end of summer, have you ever felt that you wished you’d done more with those months? Life feels richer and more memorable when each season of the year feels special in some way. One way we can make this summer distinctive? Give ourselves recess: a daily, unstructured, creative time of play.

Research shows that children are far better able to sit still, focus, and learn when they’ve had the exercise, sunlight, freedom, and fun of recess. The same is true for adults. To keep going, we need to let ourselves stop. We need regular breaks that are unstructured, exploratory, creative, adventurous, and playful. Read more about this from author Gretchen Rubin, who recently released Life in Five Senses and is the host of the Happier podcast.

The 3 Levels of Accountability

When we give people contributor safety we transfer ownership and critical thinking to the individual over time.  The goal is to exchange autonomy with guidance in exchange for results. This follows a consistent pattern where autonomy is given based on three levels of accountability—task, process, and outcome.

Task-Level Accountability: At this level, you’re given singular, simple units of work that have a predictable pattern and outcome. The expectation is that you will gain eventual mastery of the task at hand, but these contributors need to be closely monitored and heavily mentored.

Process-Level Accountability: At this level, you’re given tasks that are grouped in a consistent format with some structural leeway. The expectation is that you’ll execute that process successfully without any micromanaging. But although you have partial ownership of the process, you have few (if any) decision-making rights.

Outcome-Level Accountability: At this level, tasks and processes aren’t monitored so long as goals are met and results are satisfactory. You’re expected to provide original contribution that pushes boundaries, and you’re given guided autonomy with ample space to innovate, create, and challenge the status quo.

All of these grow our psychological safety within a team or work unit. Autonomy is at its core a freedom-granting step where we show our trust for someone through their actions. More on accountability and psychological safety in the workplace at LeaderFactor’s website:

What to do in Madison – The Seasons Guide

At a loss for what to do? Check out this UW-Madison collaborative website, including the four seasons and some notable events for each one, with reference to music festivals, road-tripping, and nightlife among other things.

10 Receive University Staff Recognition Awards

Ten outstanding University Staff members, from departments and units across the University of Wisconsin–Madison campus, have been chosen for 2023 University Staff Recognition Awards. The employees received their awards at the June University Staff Congress meeting. The winners are recognized for achievements that include promoting the image of the university, demonstrating excellence, showing leadership, recommending innovative ideas, and creating a welcoming workplace.

Read the article for the ten names and summaries from nominations submitted to the selection committee.


:: Upcoming Events

Gratitude Encounters with Kevin Monroe

Want to take your gratitude to another level? Join Kevin Monroe for a Free Gratitude Encounter™, a 60-minute guided exploration, and expression of gratitude. People describe these as energizing, heartwarming, reinvigorating, and soulful. Our encounters happen on the first Tuesday of every month.

What is that? A time to explore, express, and experience gratitude through a guided encounter. These encounters prove to be heart-expanding experiences every time, so consider this event for yourself!

Upcoming Dates are:

Note: this is not a UW-sanctioned event, but CSN planning committee members will be attending.