I woke up one morning in March 2001 with a clear vision. I saw, in my mind’s eye, two light beams intersecting, with each beam representing a different field or culture. It stayed with me for less than a minute, but I felt that perhaps my whole life had led up to this vision.
When I reflect on it, my entire life had been spent at intersections. It’s hard not to be, growing up in Sweden with my father’s Swedish culture and my mother’s southern (North Carolina, to be exact) African-American and Cherokee cultures. The Sweden I grew up in was much more homogenous than it is today—quite different from New York City where I have spent most of my adult life. I loved fishing and writing, thanks to my father who combined both into a career. I wrote and published a fantasy novel in high school, and fell in love with quantum physics after seeing a diagram of the double-slit experiment.
I left Sweden for college, studying environmental science at Brown University. After college, my cousin and I started a company based on my aunt’s pain measurement tool, and brought some of the practices around this to Sweden. It was remarkable how quickly we became seen as experts by simply intersecting existing knowledge with a new geography. I applied for a doctoral program in Marine Biology, but one of my recommenders did not send his letter in on time. So instead, I applied to Harvard Business School. This was something I would have never considered a few months earlier, but a decision that ultimately led to the publication of The Medici Effect in 2004.
The book launched my global speaking career and, later, my consulting firm, The Medici Group. The Medici Effect and its follow-up, The Click Moment, have had an impact on industries, fields and leaders way, way beyond my expectations.