Bonnie Wan: What Do You Really Want?

“You can’t have it all but you can have what matters.” -Bonnie Wan

Do you know what you truly want from your life? 

“You can’t have it all but you can have what matters.” Bonnie Wan  

That’s her motto and mantra. In her interview she talks about where she grew up, her journey and her inspiration. 

As the creator of “The Life Brief,” Bonnie Wan has crafted a strategy for helping everyday people live with greater clarity, creativity, and courage. 

“The Life Brief” has grown from an agency talk into a workbook, keynote talks and workshops. Wan has shared her work in a Masterclass on Advertising & Creativity, on Katie Couric’s Katie talk show, and on HuffPost Live. Bonnie Wan is author, speaker and teacher of The Life Brief, a practice for creative and courageous living. 

Bonnie is also Partner and Head of Brand Strategy at the world renown advertising agency, Goodby Silverstein & Partners, creators of “got milk”, the Budweiser lizards and decades of culture driving creative campaigns. In addition to overseeing clients such as BMW, Comcast, Frito-Lay and HP, Bonnie’s work also includes innovative, award-winning campaigns fighting child sex trafficking, cyberbullying, gender inequality, racial injustice and college-campus rape. Bonnie has spent the last three decades building brands, making meaning out of messes and obsessing about human behavior. 

In 2010, during a personal crisis of meaning, Bonnie wrote a creative brief for her life and The Life Brief was born. The resulting Life Brief saved her marriage (not once, but twice), catapulted her career, centered her parenting and opened up doors for serving others. Ultimately, The Life Brief has kicked off ten years of adventure, packed with unexpected twists and unimaginable gifts.

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Emy DiGrappa (00:00):

Hello, my name is Emy DiGrappa. Each week we bring you stories asking our guests the question why, we learn about passion, purpose, and the human experience brought to you by Wyoming Humanities with the generous support of the Wyoming Community Foundation. This is, What's Your Why?


Today I'm talking to Bonnie Wan. She is author, speaker, and teacher of The Life Brief, a practice for creative and courageous living, I can't wait to talk to her about that, but she is also a partner and head of brand strategy at the world renowned advertising agency, Goodbee Silverstein and Partners. And welcome Bonnie.

Bonnie Wan (00:58):

Thank you for having me, Emy. It's so good to be here.

Emy DiGrappa (01:02):

When I learned about the advertising agency that you work for and that you were the creators of Got Milk, I thought, oh my gosh. In fact, I told my daughter, "That's like one of my favorite campaigns ever is the Got Milk commercials."

Bonnie Wan (01:17):

That always tickles me when I hear that. That campaign started running so many years ago. Our agency's about to celebrate its 40th anniversary. We turned 40 as an agency, and that is still one of the most iconic and memorable and hijacked taglines to exist in advertising. Just do it from Nike is the other one, but I just laugh every time I drive down the street and I see a t-shirt or a bumper sticker or a billboard that says, got plumbing? Got dental work? It's probably one of the most adopted and hijacked taglines of all time.

Emy DiGrappa (02:02):

I think you're right. I think that's very true, and I was thinking about that when I read that and I was thinking, yes, how many times has it been reworked?

Bonnie Wan (02:12):

Countless times.

Emy DiGrappa (02:14):

What is your favorite that you have all created?

Bonnie Wan (02:18):

That one sits pretty high up there because it's such an example of human insight, driving creativity and innovation in a really unexpected creative campaign. And that's at the heart of, I think what our agency does best is really look for deep human insights. And up until that campaign, if I may tell the story, milk sold itself on health benefits. Milk does the body good, it makes for strong bones, prevents osteoporosis. And as we know, human beings don't plan very well for their health. So I think what really turned it, when Jeff Goodby and Rich Silverstein started working with the California Milk Processing Board way back when was, our strategy department did some focus groups and they asked people before coming to the groups to stop using milk for a period of time. And what they found was really interesting. When people came into the focus groups, they were frustrated, they were angry, they were downright mad because all of the ways that they used milk with chocolate chip cookies, with brownies, with their cereal, they weren't allowed to use.


And so it gave the strategists and the creatives the insight that, wow, people don't really think about milk until it's gone, until it's missing, until it's run out. So that became the basis that drove the whole campaign. And I love the writing of the tagline because it's grammatically incorrect and it's why it sticks with you. And it gave us so many stories to tell of when people ran out of milk and they were just hilarious and we exaggerated them and made them wildly entertaining and it's some of the best storytelling I think I've ever seen in advertising.

Emy DiGrappa (04:30):

What a fun job you have. And also just having the creativity and innovation to drive campaigns like that, which are huge. And it made me also think of what is the milk industry thinking right now? Because now there is soy milk and almond milk and coconut milk and oat milk. What are they thinking about that?

Bonnie Wan (04:54):

Unfortunately, we no longer have the Milk Board as a client so it is a new era and modern problems to solve for sure. The beverage in industry has exploded. There's alternates to milk as you named, and then so many other beverages. People in this generation of kids really aren't drinking milk as they used to be. So these are all fun things that business problems that we get to solve every day and we get to solve a lot of social problems. Some of my favorite, most recent campaigns are the things that we do against social issues like balancing equity, gender equity in history books for middle school age kids, using innovative technology to do that, we created an AR app where kids can go through California's most used middle school US history book at which only tells stories of men who changed or shaped history. And the AR app allows you to use your phone and swipe over these stories of famous men. And it brings up a story of a famous woman and an often an underrepresented woman of color, who also shaped history. But because history is biased, we can use technology to hack that inequity without having to reprint millions of textbooks.

Emy DiGrappa (06:28):

It's interesting that you say that because my sister and I did a Hispanic through history dance program all over the US, this was years ago, and we had a dance company. And when we did research, it was really hard because there wasn't a lot of history on the contributions of Hispanics in the US. And it was daunting to me that the first missions in the US were actually in New Mexico, and none of that was ever... When we were following, when we'd create our programs, how do we talk about this? And we were working with a very educated Hispanics, she was a scholar and that's all she did was study Hispanic history. And we would go through books and books and books and it was just mind-boggling to me. And we would get really angry because we were like, what? Not everything started when the pilgrims landed.

Bonnie Wan (07:35):

No, but you see how biased everything around us is. It's systemic bias. And I think what's interesting is how can we utilize technology and media to reshape some of those inequities? And her story is the project I was talking about, and we worked with a well-known woman historian who helped us mine all of these amazing rich stories of women who shaped US history so that we can design wonderful AR experience driven stories to override or balance out the history books. And our insight was that middle school is when young girls formulate their vision of what's possible for themselves in the world. It's at that stage of learning. And the insight that our strategist came up with was that you can't be what you can't see. And so when girls start studying the change makers, the revolutionaries, the visionaries, the innovators, and they can't see themselves in those stories, then it already limits them from that very young age of what they should strive for, how wide and expansive their ambitions should be.

Emy DiGrappa (09:02):

I like that you say that, and I don't think it's a matter of rewriting history, but writing history in a way that's inclusive of everyone who is part of history.

Bonnie Wan (09:13):

Exactly, creating more balance and exposure.

Emy DiGrappa (09:17):

Right, exactly. The other thing I read about your work is that it says you have some award-winning campaigns, fighting child sex trafficking, cyber bullying, gender inequality, maybe that's what you were talking about just now, racial justice and college campus rape.

Bonnie Wan (09:36):

Yes. Lots of good stuff.

Emy DiGrappa (09:38):

Those are huge. Those are big.

Bonnie Wan (09:40):

We also do them for a lot of corporate clients as well, but these are the meaty juicy, I think it's a way to balance out the way we show up in the world and the way we get to use our gifts as strategists and creatives and innovators and technologists and makers at the agency is to really apply them in service of the growth of our clients' businesses and brands, and then also tackling some of the biggest issues facing our times.

Emy DiGrappa (10:11):

And I think that is so amazing and so needed, and the fact that your agency really is looking out there into the world as creatives and saying, how do we creatively tackle this issue? How do we make it front and center in front of people? Which must be really challenging.

Bonnie Wan (10:30):

This is what I love, and when I talk in the life brief about creative and courageous living, it's all embodied in the world in which I grew up in my adult life. I'm not sure I'm fully grown up yet, but I get to play in this space of creativity and courageousness, which is Goodby Silverstein Partners, I've been there since 1998. And it's amazing because this is a world of misfits and inventors and rebels and rigorous deep analytical thinkers who've come together. And what I've found and learned through that experience is that any problem can be solved with creativity. Now, can advertising creativity solve every problem? No, but what I've learned being steeped in creativity is that so many of the world's problems, when they're matched with the right experts or the right people, the people with will and a sense of possibility, we really can innovate our approach. And that's why the life brief exists too, to help everyday people take that mindset and apply it to their own lives.

Emy DiGrappa (11:48):

Now that we're talking about The Life Brief, I want you to explain what it is and why you started it.

Bonnie Wan (11:56):

Well, what it is is it's all inspired by the work that I've done as a career brand strategist and creative strategist at this amazing agency in the industry and world of creativity. So a life brief is writing a creative brief for your life. And a creative brief in our business is a single page, very sharp distillation of what matters most, the essence of what a brand or a company stands for and where it wants to go so that you can apply extreme focus, but not just focus, but imagination to how you get there. And that's what the Life Brief does for people. It gives them a sharp sense of clarity of what matters most to them and what they want so that they can focus their attention, clarify their decisions, and really drive their actions towards that thing. Because it's easy in life to get submerged, overwhelmed, confused by all the things coming at us. And the work of getting clear, which is what strategists do for companies and brands, is sometimes the hardest work. And once you get that sharp clarity, then everything else flows from there. So the Life Brief aims to do what I do for companies and brands and do them for everyday people.

Emy DiGrappa (13:27):

Okay, so just dive a little deeper on that because is it a book? Is it a journal? Is it this brief like you explained, it's this one pager that you designed for yourself? What exactly does it look like?

Bonnie Wan (13:40):

Such a good question. It's a practice for me if I were to answer it in short. But yes, it comes in the form of an output, which is this one page thing, but you can apply it to any part of your life in any situation. But I call it a practice at its most essence or essential core because it's the practice of really tuning into yourself, listening to your truth, your unique truth, your innermost voice, and allowing that to come up and be an ingredient that you can mold, shape, and push in writing. And so the act of it is writing down your answers to the questions that come up for you. And I have a driving question, which is, what do you want? And the second driving question is, how do you want? And when I ask those things of people, it's not, what do you feel like or what are you hoping for?


It's not what do your parents want for you or your partner or your children or your boss, it's in your heart of hearts, what do you really want? And maybe something you really want that you haven't even allowed yourself to admit to yourself. And so it's a practice of getting in tune with your curiosity, with the answers to those questions, which many of us avoid. And to allow those answers to come up from deep within you out and onto a page so that you can be in relationship with it, you can mold it and shape it from there. And so yes, the output is a single page. It's really five declarations of what you want, summed up with a really sticky, sharp, what I call a handle or a name that tattoos inside your brain and hearts, because that's what we do well in advertising.


Got Milk, it's so easy to remember, it tattoos, it sticks, it's awkward, it's grammatically incorrect, and it's exactly why it sticks. We're really good at that. And that's the practice of then you don't have to look up what you want. You always have it with you, embedded within you. And what's so powerful about having that clarity and that stickiness is that action is a byproduct of clarity. It's easier to make decisions when you know what you want, when you're clear about where you're going, it's easier to take action. Your intuition and instincts kick in from there. And yes, I teach it through workshops, through talks, and a book that's coming out in very soon in January, 2020.

Emy DiGrappa (16:36):

So I wanted to start out with, when you talk about the Life Brief, I wanted to back up a little bit and say, where did you grow up, Bonnie?

Bonnie Wan (16:44):

I was born in Taipei, Taiwan, and I immigrated to Los Angeles when I was six years old, and I grew up there until I went away for college.

Emy DiGrappa (16:57):

Okay, and where did you go to college?

Bonnie Wan (17:00):

I started at UC, Santa Barbara, and then I quickly realized that that was too similar to the Beach South Bay area I grew up in Los Angeles and I wanted something massively different and really creative. I quickly transferred to NYU. God kind of just went to the big apple and took a big bite out of it.

Emy DiGrappa (17:26):

Oh my gosh. So you did have a journey. So from there you went into, what was your degree in? Marketing, advertising?

Bonnie Wan (17:35):


Emy DiGrappa (17:38):

So you've had this great journey, and then what brought you to the place where the Life Brief, because you've had this excellent career in advertising, what brought you to this place where I need to do this, I need to create this life brief for others so that everybody can go on this journey and find out what they want, what they really want in their lives?

Bonnie Wan (18:05):

There's probably two versions of this story. One is I started in advertising and I quickly learned and devoured, I think the craft skills of being a strategist. I loved it. This whole idea of studying people, human behavior, human motivations, what gets people to actually change what they think, what they say, what they tell others, and then more importantly, how they behave. So that was just a fascinating entry point into a career for me. And in 2010, I hit a real dark spot in my personal life, and I won't go into all those details, but I was in a moment of crisis. And as a reflex late one night when I was home at my childhood home, it just vomited out of me my first Life Brief, I realized in that moment of despair is, how do I get clear about what I want?


What do I really, really want when I cut through the bullshit? And so being a trained strategist, that's what I did. I got clear with my life just like I do for my clients. I got to the essence of what I want. And I sent that in a late night email to my husband who texted back rather quickly, Y-E-S, triple exclamations. And it was the first moment of alignment we had had in at least a year of fighting and debating and trying to raise three young children under five. And that kicked off a new approach to life for both of us and our family. And that landed and opened the door to a six-year golden chapter in our lives where we relocated. I kept my job, which was a moment of surprise and serendipity for me that I was able to, but I was able to relocate my family.


And we moved to Portland, Oregon and we shifted how we spent our time with each other, how the rhythms we had as a family. And then when our agency asked me to teach something to the agency and all of our employees, that was personal to me, I couldn't come up with anything until I thought, oh, maybe this idea of writing a creative brief for your life, which has really transformed mine. And it really took off from there. And I like to say, good ideas have a life of their own. So I think it's been 12 or 13 years now since that moment, and I've just been saying yes to everyone who knocks on the door about this idea.

Emy DiGrappa (21:04):

Oh my gosh, what a journey. And I love it. I love that you just got real with yourself and didn't wallow in depression and despair and-

Bonnie Wan (21:14):

There was enough of that. I don't want to [inaudible 00:21:18] story so much. There was plenty of wallowing and yeah, dark thoughts too. But I realized I was being blocked by a lot of limiting stories, a lot of other people's voices in my head. And wow, when I really dug deeper and allowed the clarity to bubble up, vomit out, as I say, it became a sharp pivot for where we took our marriage and our lives.

Emy DiGrappa (21:51):

That is so encouraging and inspiring. And if your book does everything like that for people, I think that that is such a moment when you need to just make a change, just pivot and have the guts to do it.

Bonnie Wan (22:09):

Yes, and I call it a practice because it's not only for major changes in your life, certainly it was in that first time. But since then, I've written a brief for every part of my life, from my parenting to how I lead, to my wealth brief. I have a wealth brief and it's really been a practice of clear decision making, but inspired action as well. So I hope my book really illuminates that practice for people and makes it really easy, digestible, accessible, because again, at its essence, it's helping people get in touch and in tune with their own voice so that you can carve a path that is uniquely yours. And that's what I hope for everyone. It's been amazing since our ability to do that as a family. It has really opened up again, that creative living idea that I keep talking about. Walking a path that is uniquely ours and sometimes that counters what everyone else around us want for us or think for themselves.

Emy DiGrappa (23:27):

How does it affect your parenting?

Bonnie Wan (23:31):

During the pandemic, raising four kids in the pandemic was a big new unexpected challenge, as it was for most parents. So we're definitely not unique in there, but I think overall it, Chip and I, my husband, we were on slightly different parenting pages. And when you are at odds with each other, that can make parenting really difficult, not just for the parents, but for the children. And so the Life Brief practice helped my husband and I get clear on what mattered most between us that we shared, what do we share? And we were going some rough spots with our son who was the first and becoming a teenager, and really grappling with what this pandemic meant for him and his life and at that life stage. And it was messy. And we were beginners at the adolescent parenting, so we didn't know what we were doing either.


And one weekend, or actually it started when I took a flight for business and I wrote down my own version of a brief, a parenting brief. It was my first real parenting brief. And I came home and I felt a little bit stronger, a little bit more centered. So I really invited and encouraged my husband to do the same. So he took two mornings of a weekend out, he went to the cafe and he really did his own writing and reflecting and deep digging. And he came home with a brief and I immediately ripped up mine and we adopted his. But at the center of that brief was to love our kids through accountability. And there were five great descriptive and declarative statements underneath it. But the easy sticky name for us was love through accountability. And that really held us strong. It reminded us each time a surprise moment hit or a meltdown or an argument that our belief was that we need to show up and stand in the messiness of the moment when a lot of times when I wanted to just duck under the covers, hide, ignore it, or be permissible, because that was the easiest thing to do in the short term, just get over the moment, which I'm sure you can identify with.


But instead, I stood my ground and stayed in the conversation, stayed in the room, and I think we both wanted our kids to know that this is what real love looks like, when your parents stay in the room, when your friends stay in the conversation, when things get ugly, when things get uncomfortable, and we hold each other accountable. That's what love is. And so that really helped us through some really hard times.

Emy DiGrappa (26:48):

That is excellent. I hope a lot of parents will listen to this because I even hear of parents getting divorced because of how each one raises their kids and they're not even blended families. And it's just how going through that adversity with your children and being on the same page and sticking together is so important.

Bonnie Wan (27:11):

It's so important and hard. If we aren't creating the space or we don't have a mechanism for how to do it, we're all navigating tricky stuff, especially in these modern times. Life keeps throwing us curve balls. And it is so important to be clear about what you believe, what you want, how you want, how you want, and that's the big one. How do you want to show up? How do you want to serve the moment? How do you want to serve this relationship? How can you love better? How can you serve in a higher way? These are the questions I think that I now get to invite other people to think through. But yes, bringing my husband and I on the same page really helped us navigate those years. We're still in them. We still have three teenagers and one preteen. So I think we're going to keep building on that brief.

Emy DiGrappa (28:12):

Absolutely, you will. And having that quiet time by yourself and reflecting and thinking and always being present is so important. And I know I've raised three kids, and it's always a challenge. And it's like you said, life is full of curve balls. The thing that you wouldn't even imagine in your brain is what happens next.

Bonnie Wan (28:42):

I know, you and I talked about this in an earlier conversation, and parenting is no small endeavor. It's not for the weak at heart. It is a constant series of curve balls. And the more kids you have, I think the more they throw at you. But it's a whole lot of fun too. And in terms of creating space, what I've found with this practice is the more you do it, the easier it gets, and it doesn't take a lot of time. So again, it's a practice of getting in tune with yourself in small ways every day. And eventually you can drop into that space very quickly. It's not like you have to go to Hawaii for five days or go on a silent meditation retreat or some long journey. If you do the practice in small ways every day, you start to really learn to know what you want your voice very quickly, and you're able to separate that from all the other voices crowded in your head.

Emy DiGrappa (29:59):

I do appreciate that. I feel like one of the things that you've learned in your journey as a strategist, is that you, like you said, you loved learning about people, what they want, what drives them, what changes them, how do people respond? What's the human characteristic that someone's going to latch onto if I say this word or that word? And you've had that training, and so it's beautiful that you've taken it and you've applied it to your own life in a wonderful way. You've gone through your own hard, tough times that made you go to that place and create a life brief. And so in your experience, you've been able to be a strategist in your own life in a sense.

Bonnie Wan (30:51):

Yes, yes. And the wonderful, joyful, actually challenge in writing the book was to really break down the steps into really doable, accessible steps and translate things that I know intuitively because I've been doing it for so long, but breaking them down in a way that anybody who's outside of advertising, outside of creativity have nothing to do with advertising, creativity, marketing, et cetera, who've never heard of a creative brief, that those people could also do this. And that was a joyful challenge. My editor at Simon and Schuster, she said, you have to help a blind horse get to water. And that became the phrase that I went through in constructing and writing each chapter and telling the stories is how do I help someone who has zero knowledge of this? How do I help them do this practice?

Emy DiGrappa (32:02):

I really congratulate you on that because I ski, but I'm not an expert skier. I'm an intermediate, my husband's an expert skier and-

Bonnie Wan (32:11):

I thought you were pretty darn good.

Emy DiGrappa (32:13):

He's always my ski instructor. I'm just traversing down the slope, just my own pace going back and forth. But he's straight down, or he's brilliant with horses, same thing. We have horses, well, we don't anymore, but when we did, "Emy, this is just, get on and ride." And I'm like, "You've been doing this since you could walk. You've been doing this since you were just knee high." So for me, it's like, I need the instruction because everything he does is music. It's like skiing is like walking to him, but I have to start from the beginning. I need to know, okay, I need to put my pull down here. I need to do that. I need to work the reins like this. I need to do this with the horse. But he's been doing all those things, and so they're just very rhythm and a part of his life, and he just bang, bang, bang so-

Bonnie Wan (33:14):

I get that. I empathize with both of you, actually.

Emy DiGrappa (33:19):

Empathize with me more than him. But anyway, because he wants me to, and I do, I grow along with him. But what you were saying about the things that you've done because of all your experience in practice and then you create this book and then the ability to teach people how to do it, I think is a different challenge.

Bonnie Wan (33:43):

It is certainly a different challenge and I've come to recognize that there are many different types of brains and learning styles. So when you write a book or when you create anything for mainstream and wide consumption, because the beauty of it is I won't know who's reading it and what they need to help guide them. But I have come to really appreciate all the various types of learners. And I'm sure I haven't written it to cover them all, but it was a very empathetic process. And I have to say that I tend to be like your husband, not very instructive. And so the book process, the writing process was a learning journey for me. I'm a pretty good communicator. I love to speak and it comes through me. It often channels and shows up in the moment when I connect to an audience, but putting in writing was a whole nother set of muscles I had to build. And I really enjoyed building those muscles. And I've come out the other side, one in awe of writers who do this full time, and two, a little proud to be able to say that I too am a writer now.

Emy DiGrappa (35:04):

No, I agree with you. The process of writing, speaking is one thing, like you said, but putting your thoughts on paper and painting that picture, it does make you appreciate when you read a good book and you visualize everything that's happening and the book, you just can wrap yourself into it and you're part of it, and that makes you just love and appreciate what that author did for you.

Bonnie Wan (35:33):

Oh, yes. Novelists in particular, they paint with words, and they are just masters of the craft of words. As a strategist and all fellow strategists know that words are our lifeblood. We also play with words. But what we do is we distill things down into a sentence, three words, at times one word. And so it's a very different form of playing with words. So writing a book was a whole nother challenge for me to blow things out into longer narratives when I'm so used to the art of distillation.

Emy DiGrappa (36:16):

Oh my gosh. That must have been an exercise in your brain, taking those three words and then taking them into a whole new way of making a story out of those three words.

Bonnie Wan (36:29):

Yes, it was again, a joyful challenge and process. The biggest tension I think between me and the great people, my lovely editor, Leah, at Simon and Schuster was needing more words. I kept giving them two little words, too few words, and they kept saying, oh, you're 10,000 words short, or 15,000 words short. I have never operated in a world where I have to count all the words.

Emy DiGrappa (37:02):

I love that.

Bonnie Wan (37:03):

I get paid for having very few words.

Emy DiGrappa (37:07):

So you've done both. You've written a book, but yet your other life is still as a strategist in an advertising agency, two very opposite ends. So that must have been such a growing and painfully growing, I'm sure, because it's like growing pains as when you have kids, you're going through awkward moments of how you get to the next place. How do you express yourself when you've learned to express yourself in this way, but now they're forcing you to express yourself in a different way?

Bonnie Wan (37:44):

Definitely suffered a lot of imposter syndrome going into it and self-doubt which is, I always like to say we're most vulnerable when we're in transition, and every growth edge is a transition, and life is full of them. Those are the curve balls. And when we meet them head on, as well as our doubts, our self-criticism, our dark narratives, and we face them and overcome them, it really is a high. And when I look back on the three-year journey that it's been so far in birthing this book, it is a real high to see how it has changed and shaped me, just like parenting, just like leadership, all of these things, they definitely make life worth living. Not easy, it's exhausting, but there's an elation to it.

Emy DiGrappa (38:46):

So I have to tell you, Bonnie, because when I pulled up and the first picture you see is you're sitting on your bed drinking a cup of coffee or maybe tea or whatever you're drinking, and I'm thinking, that is so perfect. She is so me, because that's the first thing I do in the morning is go get my coffee and read in bed and sit there and think about life. Think about what my day is going to look like. And I was like, oh my gosh, that is the perfect picture of-

Bonnie Wan (39:14):

Oh, thanks. I have to give credit to this amazing photographer and friend, Paige Green. She's one of the most brilliant, I work in a world where visual storytelling is amazing and epic, and she's just such a talented person in terms of capturing people in their element in supernatural ways, almost like a documentary does. But yes, those are my favorite, that's my favorite place. And it is coffee, not tea. Though it's more tea now than coffee. But with my dog, with my kids, it's the lucid moments when I'm in bed before I've jumped into the day when I have my sharpest ideas.


It could also be in the bathtub or shower or driving on a road trip, but those are the spaces when I find my ideas find me, my insights surface and bubble up naturally to the top when my brain is being occupied, not in a hard way, but in a soft focus. And that's what I really invite everyone out there to give just a few more minutes to that kind of time before you jump on your phone, before you jump on your to-do list, just to create a little more spaciousness for those moments and to capture what comes up from deep within you in those moments. And those are the ingredients for your life brief or whatever you want to call it, but capturing those ingredients as they come up and even tucking them away for another time. It's an easy way to do this practice.

Emy DiGrappa (40:59):

I love what you just said. Sometimes I feel guilty that I'm sitting there thinking and reading and just contemplating life or thinking about my to-do list or thinking about how I'm going to handle this situation or that situation and-

Bonnie Wan (41:17):

Why do you feel guilty? I'm curious.

Emy DiGrappa (41:20):

Oh, because I feel like, okay, I need to be up doing my to-do list, I have 10 things to do. I got to do it before this time. It's not that I feel guilty that anyone's causing me to feel guilty. It's me feeling like, okay, I got to move now. I got to, maybe get-

Bonnie Wan (41:40):

That's our culture. We had the opportunity to vacation in Europe last summer, and what I noted most profoundly is how much our culture in America is centered in productivity. We have such a hard time being because we feel so much pressure to always to be doing. But how do we shift those gears?

Emy DiGrappa (42:12):

It's very interesting because my son-in-law is from Argentina, and if you've ever traveled to Latin America, they take lunch and they literally take lunch. It's like they close down all the stores, everybody goes to a big lunch, they go take a nap. Stores don't open up until 2:00, sometimes 3:00, it's just a different pace. You just get over yourself because that is their life and that's how they live. And it's always so beautiful to just know that, okay, no one is doing anything right now. I mean, no one. It used to just crack me up. No one's doing anything. They're having a big lunch, they're with their family, they're going to take a nap, and then maybe they'll get around to opening the store up.

Bonnie Wan (43:05):

I really do long for that kind of pace. We experience that in various parts of our travels. And our favorite family vacations so far has been in Brazil. And my kids note that, wow, everything just slows down. And people really enjoy the simple acts of living or being, buying groceries, riding their bike to buy the meals of the day, or the ingredients for cooking, reading, and enjoying those things. And I really long for and cherish those ways of life. And I really do hope that we can get some of that in Western culture. I've just been seeing how the UK has been experimenting with a four-day work week, and I'm encouraged and hopeful about things like that in our western world and way of living. Not that Europe is Eastern or anything.

Emy DiGrappa (44:16):

No, but I have to say, coming from Taiwan, I think the Asian people are very productive, super smart, very productive. I went into Cal State Long Beach and I was just so impressed. They're very much driven about a high energy, a high level of intelligence and integrity, and you come from that, that's-

Bonnie Wan (44:43):

We do. I am a product of that for sure. My husband is always amazed at my work ethic and how deep I'll go, but I feel pretty burned out after three years of, and what's interesting is I've simplified my focus and attention to what matters most given the practice that I preach with the life brief. So really, my life consists of three primary things, my family, my day job leading at the agency, and then my joy work, which is the Life Brief. But even within those three areas, they're very full. They're very demanding. And it's no wonder that so many of my personal life briefs are centered in time. My original Life Brief was all about time, more time for our marriage, with our kids, for ourselves, and then very recently last year to take back my time because I realized I wasn't giving enough to my own nourishment and replenishment and self-care. So I think that there's a reason why. So probably my Asian upbringing and values and then this world we live in here in the States, that is so productivity obsessed.

Emy DiGrappa (46:11):

I agree. And I can't wait to read it. Before we end our conversation, I want people to know how to find you, how to find out about the Life Brief and when will it be out.

Bonnie Wan (46:21):

Okay, great. The book is launching January, 2024, but it will go on pre-order this fall. And you can go to the and sign up to get the updates. And what I have when you sign up for the newsletter, you'll get constant updates about the book itself, but also every two weeks is I send out a reflection and an exercise to help people with the practice. So that's a really easy, graceful way to tune into practice on your own time, and in your own privacy. And I don't spam people, it's all service work for me. I've also created an online course that can be found at and getting signups for the first course and class, which is really exciting. So, and you can search for the Life Brief course, or people can reach out to me at And if there's anyone interested in brand strategy versus life strategy, Goodby Silverstein Partners, you can reach me there as well,

Emy DiGrappa (47:44):

Oh my gosh, it's been so lovely talking to you, Bonnie. I really appreciate your time.

Bonnie Wan (47:48):

It's been such an honor Emy, thank you so much for inviting me and any way to connect more with the wonderful community in Jackson is my pleasure.

Emy DiGrappa (48:01):

Okay. I'm taking you up on that.

Bonnie Wan (48:03):


Emy DiGrappa (48:04):

Have a great day.

Bonnie Wan (48:05):

You too.

Emy DiGrappa (48:07):


Bonnie Wan (48:07):


Emy DiGrappa (48:22):

Thank you for joining us for this episode of What's Your Why? Brought to you by Wyoming Humanities with the support from Wyoming Community Foundation and generous supporters like you. To learn more, go to, subscribe and never miss a show.