Jennifer Duberstein

"On Adaptation and Opportunity" by Erik Michielsen

Wikipedia defines Adaptation as "The process whereby a population becomes better suited toward its habitat."  It is also noted there that as part of adaptive behavior, "flexibility deals with the relative capacity of an organism to maintain themselves in different habitats: their degree of specialization." 

Adaptation is a fundamental theme that continuously occurs in Capture Your Flag interviewees.  It occurs in very interesting and diverse ways, all keeping the fundamental flexibility above. 

The flexibility and adaptation is less about survival than it is about identifying and seizing opportunity.  Whether it is an incremental step in a path toward shaping a fulfilling purpose or an actual immersion into that state, it is indeed a powerful and actionable force. 

There are many "Adaptation" themed Capture Your Flag video chapters from which to choose (Click here to view them all), though the below four showcase how interviewees progress by making changes and tweaks to position themselves for opportunity. 


It began with a blog.  Cathy Erway decided not to eat out for two years.  Then came a book deal and there came a challenge.  How to turn A blog ripe with recipes and anecdotes into one girl's coming of age story in New York City.  Erway charts her course and a memoir, anchored by food in so many ways, results. 


As a college student in New Haven, Connecticut, Louise Davis volunteered locally to build a program teaching health education to teenagers engaging in high-risk behaviors.  Into her senior year, it dawned on Davis that the potential exists to build the program into something larger across communities nationwide.  Six years into building national non-profit Peer Health Exchange, Davis highlights the necessary mindset shift from maintaining one local community program to building an infrastructure to support a nationwide location network serving 100s of schools and 1000s of students annually. 


Intellectually rigorous and time and energy demanding, law firm Prosauker provided attorney Jennifer Duberstein a launching pad into a sports law career upon graduating Northwestern Law School.  After years serving an array of clients, Duberstein leaves behind the firm to go in-house at a large corporation.  There, the pace slows and Duberstein finds time to contemplate broader life issues amongst a new colleague mix.  


Writer Mark Graham did not expect or aspire to be a New Yorker.  It just happened.  When the opportunity landed, launching Graham from his childhood Detroit home and into the Big Apple, the unknowns were many.  More over, one known was clear: Graham expected to stay in the Detroit, Michigan area indefinitely, surrounded by family and friends, and that was now changing as he moved to New York.  Different cultures, different economics, different expectation, same Mark Graham.  Acclimating to a new career, lifestyle, and location, Graham stays true to himself while learning the ropes so many writers have wove before him.

Nothing about the these adaptive stories shouts easy or obvious. Each took work, thought, and time to assemble.  And they did assemble.  Adaptation begets opportunity when the intent remains true to a core passion to make a difference.  Habitat, specialization, and opportunity know no limits in the variety of definitions that may apply.  This is true with finding one's particular place at one particular time to make it happen. 

*** For a complete list of all "Adaptation" chapters, click HERE ***

- Erik




"On Establishing Trust" by Erik Michielsen

In assessing, naming, and aggregating roughly 100 common character shaping elements across Capture Your Flag rising leader experiences, “Establishing Trust” seems an appropriate topic to begin sharing my thoughts with you in 2010.

We are motivated and supported by those around us.  Trusting relationships offer clarity and openness that lead us to act more sincerely and receive more honest feedback when making decisions.  Clarity removes obstructions.  Without obstructions, we each can then use the tools necessary to inform, make, and follow-through on our decisions.


When I polled several friends about what matters most in establishing trust, “Follow-Through” was most frequently cited.  Is it surprising that follow-through then creates the bonds with others that lift them in their own ways, emotionally, spiritually, intellectually, and professionally?  Certainly our many world religions and their underlying emphasis on faith will not think so.

What role does establishing trust play across the Capture Your Flag interviewees?  Childhood is a great place to begin.

Today, Jennifer Duberstein is an attorney for Major League Soccer in New York City.  Her path into professional sports started to take shape with a childhood embrace of sports – at age five she was reading the sports page – and an ongoing interest in how sports enriches society and community.  Jennifer shares the importance of building trust through the teamwork, group preparation, project settings, and shared goals playing sports provides participants.  As a result, participants learn how to better communicate and manage relationships in different settings. 

As a teacher for Teach for America in New York City’s Bronx borough, interviewee Andy Epstein shared how his experience building trusting relationships with young children in a classroom setting facilitated a better collective learning experience.  Like Duberstein, Epstein mentions practice – repetition – in creating open sharing environments.  Listening to students, asking them questions, and engaging them daily not only proved effective teaching, it also proved personally gratifying.  


Interviewee and “Start With Why” author Simon Sinek said it well in our conversation connecting authenticity to trust when he shared, “What authenticity means is the things you say and things you do you actually believe.  We are social animals and trust comes from the feeling we have when you get a sense of somebody.”  He continues, “We are good at figuring people out.  It is what makes us successful as a species.   So when you are authentic, when you only say and do the things you actually believe, people will trust you.” 

Stand-up comedian Matt Ruby shares Simon’s approach and has learned to embrace it while developing his career as a comedian.  Several years performing stand-up five nights a week has taught Ruby the importance of being unscripted, spontaneous, and in-flow with the audience.  This openness invites interaction between the comedian and the audience, not only creating conversation and engagement but also, as a result, creating trust between the parties.  The support boosts Ruby’s willingness to explore new topics and fail if necessary.  The crowd’s trust provides Ruby the extra rope to extend himself, not hang himself. 

What about giving that extra rope to a 19-year old kid you have hired to reprogram your entire business’ website?  At age 19, Joe Stump had this opportunity not once but twice.  The first experience involved completely redesigning the website for Affordable Computers (  The second opportunity situated Stump squarely in the middle of big time Silicon Valley Internet life at Care 2 (  Establishing trust in relationships often involves a comforting feeling, a shared acceptance.  It also means taking chances by supporting a Joe Stump or a Matt Ruby and seeing what they can do.  Stump undoubtedly had the education and training to program at high levels. The trust instilled upon him by company management opened the longer-term doorways for Stump to apply that aptitude as a leader.  

Establishing trusting relationships pushes us to stretch farther when setting goals.  Real estate developer Brett Goldman has spent nearly a decade at Triangle Equities in New York City learning from his boss about the marketplace.  Goldman has been entrusted with more responsibilities, become more confident in his actions, and as a result created more trusting bonds with partners and clients. 

Before a shared experience can occur, pieces must be put in place to enable a connection.  For Jennifer Duberstein, this meant joining a team.  For social media and Carrot Creative co-founder expert Mike Germano, this means joining a social network and communicating through that medium.

In our interview, Germano provides insight into how trust is not earned by simply connecting with another person, but the ability to learn more about another’s interests, connect with those commonalities, and build trusted bonds through them.  Openly providing information about oneself not only puts others at ease in that you want to participate, but also it provides the necessary pieces to make a connection. 


It is apropos that in my first note writing about what Capture Your Flag interviewees have shared about building trust, I should reference our very first interviewee, James McCormick, and our March 26th, 2009 conversation about how he, as a legal career advisor with Empire Search Partners, builds trust in his relationships.   

In addition to being honest and engaged, McCormick shares the importance of effort and time in developing trusting relationships.  A long-term focus when building connections goes a long way to enjoying and embracing the incremental steps that make for fulfilling relationships regardless of their origin. 

Understanding how interviews use and apply common themes, including "Establishing Trust" to connect passions to purpose and shape a sense of fulfillment is an ongoing goal to which Capture Your Flag aspires.  I look forward to hearing from you and continuing progress toward bringing out the best in interviewees and learning from experiences, individual and collective.

*** For a complete list of all "Establishing Trust" chapters, click HERE ***

- Erik