12/16/2013 12:19 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Today in the Mind of Tracey Durning


Tracey Durning is a former network news producer and filmmaker (she executive produced the feature film Freedom Writers, starring Hilary Swank) and is currently a social entrepreneur/philanthropic advisor. She's the founder of 49 prince street, co-founder of Oceans 5 and manages Planet Heritage Foundation. Follow Tracey on Twitter: @traceydurning

What can light up your creativity/inspiration instantly?

TD: Working with great collaborators. For me there's nothing more exciting or fun than collaborating with smart, passionate, innovative, open doers around social issues. I love problem-solving, but problem-solving with a great team? It's amazing. I think strategic collaboration is the secret sauce to progress and a really fulfilling personal path towards that progress.

What's one good question you ask a lot?

TD: "Do I/we know this is true?" I do it personally and professionally. Personally, I'm always questioning whether my mind is telling a story or not (do I know that person meant that or is thinking this?). "No" is almost always the answer so I can just let a thought, as well as any stress that might accompany it, go.

Professionally, I ask the question a lot because I find that sometimes folks come to a conversation with a very distinct set of biases that aren't always entirely based on updated, unagenda'ed facts. They're based in fear or perhaps listening to others who might also have similar biases. So, as a former journalist, I'm always looking for as much unbiased clarity upfront, then I move onto action items next.

If now is a good time, what would you let go of?

TD: Dwelling on mistakes from the past. I tend to beat myself up over mistakes I've made for way too long. It's pointless. Learn from them and let it go. Meditation has been a really helpful thing to deal with this. In fact, I just returned from a meditation retreat led by Sharon Salzberg and it was so important for me to be reminded and go through the process again of: one breath, in and out. You only need to think about one breath. Nothing more. And if your mind wanders, that's okay. Gently bring it back to the next breath. It's amazing how impactful that very simple (or maybe not so simple) act is.

If you could experience for a day the life of one other person, whom would that be?

TD: I guess I'd have to say the Dalai Lama. To be at that level of peace, joy and Love (for all) would be pretty spectacular I gotta say. To just feel and experience that for a full day? Wow.

What do you know to be true?

TD: I can only speak from my own experiences, so I'll stick to the first person on this:

1. I know that having a community of people around me that I love, I can be totally vulnerable with and they'll always tell it like it is is absolutely essential to my happiness and well-being.

2. I know that my reactions are about me, so I'm always trying to do the work to understand, manage and learn from them.

3. I know that Loving with no expectations + deep, daily gratitude = awesome amounts of joy right down to my core.

4. And I know that having a great time and laughing a lot through life is key. I do serious work, but I sure try not to take myself too seriously. I'm a pretty goofy person at heart.