Krista Tippett is not conventional. She has worked as a journalist and assisted high-ranking U.S. diplomats, but she also attended Divinity School at Yale University. She has lived in Berlin but settled in Minneapolis. A National Humanities Medal recipient, she hosts a radio program on spirituality, where she attempts to avoid mentioning God.
Tippett, who leads the public radio conversation and podcast, “On Being,” in many ways defies expectations. That extends to her work life, detailed in a recent New York Magazine profile. But despite her idiosyncrasies, or perhaps because of them, Tippett seems to be riding a huge wave of success, largely because of her own philosophy and the outlook of the team she’s put together.
So perhaps we can all benefit from an exploration of her outlook, parsing out the nuggets that work for us. Here are some of the best work-related moments from the New York profile, and how they can color our own behavior.
When Tippett graduated from Brown University, she was awarded a Fulbright scholarship in West Germany. That’s when she started freelancing as a journalist. But later, she became an assistant for U.S. diplomats — a complete 180 in careers. Anyone who’s ever worked as a journalist knows that they are always the outsider looking in, and Tippett somehow transitioned from being that outsider to positioning herself within the circle of power.
Though this radical career shift may seem volatile, it was, in fact, “the proximity to power that led to her interest in probing the moral, spiritual, and theological questions that have come to define her work,” according to the profile.
This means that a career change can be the catalyst for self-realization and that people should not be afraid to try their hands at different fields, even if they seem like polar opposites at first glance. Exposure to different roles can shape your ideas about the world and what you want to do in it.
When Tippett approached American Public Media about a show exploring spirituality, the circumstances weren’t ideal. She was eventually awarded a spot, but it was just that.
“The show aired at obscure times and Tippett was low on the fund-raising totem pole (below ‘Marketplace’ and ‘A Prairie Home Companion’) and many in the APM newsroom doubted everything she was about,” according to the profile.
That was in 2003. A decade later, after finding success with her show, Tippett founded Krista Tippett Public Productions with a three-person production team. Today, her office in Minneapolis supports 23 employees. Tippett does all of the fundraising herself (and always has) according to the profile. She just had to find other people who got her message so the show could grow.
When Tippett came up with the idea behind “On Being,” she clearly knew it had potential. But others were skeptical — even the people she worked with. Her story shows that what matters is believing in yourself and finding the other people who will believe in you. Then, all the naysayers can wash away as you build your own thing to last.
Most of us work in offices where we’re expected to conform to proprieties. Dress a certain way. Sit in a certain position.
But not Tippett. At her studio, she wears loose, comfy clothing and does not have on shoes indoors. “She often curls her stockinged feet up under her thighs, like a cat,” the profile offers.
Her employees, many of them millennials, have followed suit. “A handful of her staffers appeared, in pajama pants and ‘On Being’ sweatshirts, clutching pillows and bags of organic popcorn for movie night in a conference room downstairs,” reads New York. They have converted their workspace into a comfortable, after-hours hangout, where employees can discuss ideas and watch a movie.
This emphasis on wellbeing is reflected in every part of Tippett’s office.
“The On Being Project is now housed in a comfortable, bright office in downtown Minneapolis, just near Loring Park, with a beautiful library (rolling ladder included) along one wall and lots of soft places to sit, many with sheepskins strewn over chairs,” according to the profile.
All of this suggests that we are at our best when we are comfortable in our workspaces and feel camaraderie with our colleagues.
“This generation coming up, we’re trying to become more whole, trying to create families and workplaces and communities that are nourishing for human beings to live in,” Tippett told New York.
Send Tippett an email, and you’ll get an automated message:
“I’m in year two of my vow to forsake hurry as a way to move through my days,” it reads, followed by a poem by Rubem Alves.
This piece of mindfulness and positivity isn’t necessary — according to the profile, Tippett tends to reply the same day anyway. But it’s an opportunity to spread optimistic and healthful thinking, and Tippett takes advantage of it (at the risk of being called out-of-the-ordinary or unprofessional).
How she has let go of expectations to defy the norm and create a space that’s all about wellness should serve as inspiration for all of us — even if we’re not ready to commit to a whimsical auto-reply just yet.