Right before I am about to do something new for the first time, a little voice in my head tells me I will mess it up.

That I don’t have it.

My heart starts beating faster and I feel a toxic sludge spreading through my body.

I was recently at a Zoom training session with the Groundlings Theatre & School, an improv program based in Los Angeles, and I noticed it happening again. Our instructor introduced us to a new exercise that sounded hard. And it was a contest. My shoulders slouched. My mouth went dry. …


Even with the sugared margarita numbing my body, I could feel the sting on the shin of my right leg.

My friend had just kicked me under the table of the restaurant where we were hanging out. Hard.

Our husbands sat with us, mute and munching on chips and salsa, each crunch louder and more awkward.

Emboldened by the tequila, I had just told her how many front-page stories I had clocked at my newspaper job, the one where she and I were colleagues. And it was a lot. In my early 20s, it was a delicious marker of success…


Everyone is beautiful.

They are beautiful in a way I can’t understand.

I’m on a Zoom call with aspiring and working entertainment professionals from around North America, but most are clustered in Los Angeles. I’m in Des Moines, Iowa in my finished basement, with it’s lacquered wood paneling from the early 2000s and a little boy’s basketball hoop perched upon a door in the background.

I’m asking myself: How did I get here?

I’m learning comedy from the L.A.-based


This is a fort. Credit: Lisa Rossi.

To my fellow parents:

Every time they slurp up your soup,

Climb into your lap while you are ordering some groceries,

Collapse face-down on the floor because “screen time is over for the day,”

Believe me when I say: You are crushing it.

Think about it.

You are doing the impossible.

You are their everything right now.

You are the one in your home that is supposed to have the answers to all the questions.

When will this be done?

Will it hurt you?

What if you get it? Who will take care of me?

You are taking all of…


Dan Rossi, who has been a sea life volunteer in Boston, gives a presentation during the early days of Family School on turtles.

This article was written as a result of conversations between Lisa Rossi and Tim Regan-Porter.

Family School started as a happy accident.

It’s a project I launched to match family volunteers to children living in social isolation. It started with my family. Adult family members were given a simple ask: Get on Zoom and teach on a topic you are passionate about — and have direct knowledge — for 30 minutes. It’s for children who miss live, in-person learning experiences from teachers, which include my own, ages 6 and 9.

It quickly gained volunteers and children beyond my two boys…


Meetings should be magical.

Hear me out. Seventy-one percent of senior managers said meetings are unproductive and inefficient, according to Harvard Business Review. Sixty-four percent said meetings come at the expense of deep thinking.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. I was troubled by all the problems with how we gather, so I studied and experimented my way to better collaboration. In 2019, I launched Bonfire Strategy with the goal of helping teams unlock breakthrough ideas through managed collaboration.

The truth is that you can’t keep doing the same thing and expect new results.

Take time to design your in-person meetings and you will get better results. Photo by Lisa Rossi

Here are some most…


I recently attended a storytelling dinner. The rules were simple:

Come to the dinner table with a story of someone who has changed your life. When you are moved to tell it, do so. Do not clap for other stories. Instead, respond with respectful silence.

Stories trickled out about teachers, family members, daughters, friends — so many people who had given gifts that led us all to sit around that little table at that moment. I was struck by how many people told stories of people who may not have had any idea the impact they had made.

The friends I’ve made through comedy and storytelling have made a big difference in my life this year. I’m pictured here with my improv troupe, Alley Cat Comedy.

The dinner…


Sitting in a Starbucks table in downtown Des Moines, a woman asked me what it was like to be an entrepreneur. She was thinking of taking the plunge herself.

I sputtered out a fake answer while this story flew through my head. I didn’t get a chance to tell it, but I’d like to tell it now.

I started a business because I saw a need for better collaboration and innovation in my community and my heart burned to solve it.

But damn.

It’s scary.

It’s wake-up-in the middle of the night scary, dry-mouth-before a presentation scary; it’s the kind…


Exactly one year ago, I was laying in the grass of the iconic oval at Stanford University.

The sky was perfectly blue. (It was most days.)

The temperature: A delicious 75. (Again, not uncommon.)

And the grass was so thick and decadent. And oddly without bugs.

My friends and I had just gathered to celebrate new beginnings. We had just concluded a residential academic year of study and development focused on solving some of journalism’s biggest problems, invited by the John S. Knight Journalism Fellowship program at Stanford. …


I wrote earlier about why building better conversations is an important building block to a healthy local news eco-system.

For those who want to try it themselves, here are some of the lessons I’ve learned this year as a John S. Knight Journalism Fellow at Stanford.

Chatpool: An app inspired by marriage counseling and a Buddhist monk:

The Chatpool team looked to this book as one of its inspirations for designing a debate app that rewards understanding of the opposing side’s argument.

I joined a team of other Stanford students this fall to build an app called Chatpool, which we designed to foster more civilized conversation between people at odds. We were inspired by the idea of how a conversation unfolds in a carpool. What happens when there is disagreement? Because you are in the same…

Lisa Rossi

Rossi is the cofounder of Bonfire Strategy, a company that offers training on empathy and innovation.

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