A Red Crayon in a Sea of Blue

Oprah calls them “aha moments.” Those moments when time stands still, your eyes grow large with newfound awareness, the figurative light bulb above your head becomes illuminated, and you swear that you hear the “ding ding ding” sound associated with solving the big puzzle on a game show. I vividly recall the “aha moment” that set in motion a chain of events that would eventually lead me to Banyan Communications.

Three years ago, I was in the midst of a challenging season in my life. I felt extremely disheartened with the work I was doing as a behavioral scientist at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. I was on a team that collected and analyzed large amounts of data and most everything that I did professionally felt like a chore. I literally dreaded Mondays and counted down the days until Friday.

During a strategic planning meeting our team completed a short personality assessment to help us learn more about each other. The assessment assigned people to one or more color groups. I don’t remember the exact descriptions of each color group but the blue and green groups generally represented people who enjoy analytic tasks, numbers, order, and structured work while the red and yellow groups represented people who enjoy creativity, social interactions, less structured environments, and a variety of activities and projects. When we shared our results it became clear that everyone had high scores in the blue and green categories and very low scores in the red and yellow categories. Everyone, that is, except me. I was bleeding red and yellow. And that was it – that was my “aha moment.”

I suddenly realized why I was so disillusioned. I was in the wrong place. I was a red crayon in a sea of blue markers. I instantly felt an extreme sense of joy because before that moment it never occurred to me that suffering through the days wasn’t my only option. Now I knew a secret – if my teammates could find joy in our mountains of data (who knew?) then I could also find work that would excite me! Getting there was going to require me to seek out opportunities that complemented my innate interests and drivers.

While I have always been drawn to creative endeavors it never occurred to me that I could combine my training in public health with my creative pursuits. I always felt that I had to lead a double life – a scientist by day and creative person by night. My life as a double agent came to an end within a year of that faithful “aha moment” when I volunteered to work on a project that involved health communications. I knew immediately that I was on the right path. Later, when I learned about Banyan Communications from a colleague, I felt like I’d found a playground for red and yellow crayons.

Ironically, my prior work experience greatly benefits the work I do at Banyan as a strategist because I have a deep understanding of the methods, data, and contextual issues surrounding the problems we address. I use that knowledge to inform creative solutions to challenging problems.

Examples of questions I ask myself and my fellow Banyanites on a daily basis include:

  • “What is the best way to reach this specific audience?”
  • “How do we translate this research and data into meaningful messages that will increase health knowledge and encourage change?”
  • “What is the story we want people to know?”

As we answer these questions and develop creative and innovative products, we create “aha moments” for our clients. As I know first hand, these moments of clarity have the potential to lead to action and create change.

Few moments are greater than that.