Cali Harris

Founder, North Star Rising

“Lead with integrity. Curiosity, always. Connect the unexpected.” These are just three of the five values in Cali Harris’s personal values framework. She believes that our values shape so many of our life decisions, from goal setting to getting unstuck. They are the key to creating a career we love.

Trained as a social scientist, Cali has spent most of her career in strategic partnerships, communications, and program design roles. She’s lent those talents to organizations like Techstars, a top-ranking university, and several social impact startups. She believes magic happens at the intersection of relationships and systems.

The last time we spoke to Cali, she talked about the potential of transitions and the lessons we can learn from those experiences in our lives. She shared some questions we can ask when we’re undergoing a shift of some kind: What are the parts of this transition? How have I been thinking about my accomplishments, and what may need to shift? How do I want to mark this moment of change?

Cali recently had a transition of her own: leaving her 9-5 and starting North Star Rising. She lives her life with a blue pencil, a lesson she learned from her grandpa, looking for the best in every person she meets and making them feel extraordinary. Her current focus is helping others get clear on their core values. Because in her words: “Values matter.”

What else matters to Cali? Motorcycling, bourbon, and salsa dancing, to name a few.

🤓 I geek out about…

…people who geek out hard about their own passions. You know, weirdos. The more obscure your Thing is, the more I’ll lose my mind with delight, asking & bugging you about that Thing. #weirdosunite

🎒 I collect…

…Kentucky bourbon!

💬 My friends ask my advice about…

…business growth strategies, how to salsa dance like you’re on Dancing With the Stars, the best secret camping spots in Colorado and southern Wyoming, and how to find the (and their) North Star.

🧰 How my weird obsessions show up in my work…

…as a point of connection with someone else. I believe we’re all deeply curious beings. We perk up at novelty. Our weird obsessions lead to faster and deeper connection with each other.

Let’s take one example: My bookshelf is organized by color. Yes, it’s aesthetically pleasing, but I organize it that way because it’s the easiest way for me to find a book. I’m a visual learner and remember-er. In our current world of zoom and video calls, I sit in front of this bookshelf to take calls. Inevitably, the color-arranged bookshelf sparks a conversation: Why is it color coded? That’s so weird! That’s so cool! Isn’t it hard to find books? Isn’t it easy to find books? I recognize that yellow book on the second shelf—let me tell you about how it changed my life… And so on and so forth. We connect the unexpected, and we’re immediately in a meaningful conversation. I love that this shows up in my work conversations—and wouldn’t have, were I sitting in a conference room or a coffee shop!

🌱 What form(s) of growth is/are most important for your company?

I believe personal character development is a powerful form of growth. Webster’s dictionary offers a (somewhat vague!) definition of character: “the attributes or features that make up and distinguish an individual” and “moral excellence and firmness.” I tend to think of personal character development as a dance between my learning, beliefs, words, and actions. To develop character is to adhere to my values while also being open to having my mind changed by new facts, perspectives, or stories.

How does that apply to a people-first company?

  • My growth: As the leader of my business, I’m focused on building my character. If I’m unable to act with integrity, that will surely seep into every corner of my business, corroding the values that drive my work. Fortunately, I believe the reverse to also be true: If I’m acting with integrity—full of character and curiosity—the company will evolve, shift, and grow in generative ways.
  • Product/service growth: Through my business services and products, which are focused on professional development, I help folks develop their character.
  • Community growth: I support the character growth of anyone I work alongside and hire. When I meet new folks, I remain open and curious to discover the shape of their character. I hold myself—and others—to compassionate accountability.

❓ A question I love:

If there was a global competition with three “feats” to pass, what would be the three things that you would win at above anyone else in the world?

🚶 I would walk/drive/travel 500 miles to…

I’d hop on my motorcycle for 500 miles (technically 593 miles from where I sit right now!) to White Sands National Park in southern New Mexico — it’s a place of magic and awe.

You can connect with Cali on Twitter.