Welcome to the pinksocks tribe! We’re a passionate group of people who have made a connection and declared we’re ready for something different in healthcare. We’re all about working together to activate solutions to help move us forward and out of the mess that healthcare has found itself in. Politics, bureaucracies, and legacy systems have unfortunately done the polar opposite of what each of us as humans want……which is to be connected! Somewhere along the way, and we can probably point to Meaningful Use as the easiest scape goat, we have allowed technology to get in our way vs. using it to help us do the thing that we all want – to connect with each other at a human level, to share in each other’s stories with compassion and empathy, and to work together as one.
The pinksocks tribe is a group of doers and makers. We’re creating and effecting change throughout each of our organizations and communities. The tribe is a collection of people from all walks of life and from every point on the healthcare delivery chain. We have said that it’s ok to lighten up and have fun and see each other as team mates working together toward a shared and common goal vs. the old paradigm of isolationism. The archaic days of silos and domains and kingdoms and fiefdoms – those days are over.
We all have to work together to pull this off. There’s a difference between having the socks and wearing the socks. Don’t forget the moment when you first received your pinksocks. Someone shared space with you and looked into your eyes and told you the truth – that you’re awesome. And, yes we are!
So, here’s how the pinksocks movement began. I went to Burning Man for the first time in 2010 to disconnect. To unplug. I found 70K people living in heart space without the construct of judgment or prejudice or fear. 70K people having 70K unique experiences. The art, the music, the people, the desert, the heat, the cold, the sunrises, the sunsets, the stars…..it was all mind blowing…..but more importantly it blew my heart wide open! What an amazing experience to find that we can all live as one and treat each other with love and kindness. If it can happen for a week in the desert, can it be replicated year round in the cities that Burners return home to? Ask a Burner, and we will say “Yes!”
Burning Man becomes “Black Rock City” the 5th largest city in the state of Nevada for one week out of the year. The city is self governed by 10 principles. One of my favorite principles on the playa is “Gifting”. A gift can be fresh water, a beer, a back rub, a bracelet or a necklace, pancakes, or bacon. The principle of gifting does not require quid pro quo. If you give me something, I don’t have to give you a gift in return. A person’s accepting the other’s gift IS the gift. Accepting with gratitude and love. Seeing, really seeing, the other person in that moment…..that’s the magic!
It’s from the principle of gifting that the pinksocks were born. When you wear a kilt, you have to wear fun socks. I was on a business trip to San Francisco trying to raise money for a healthcare tech startup from some bay area VCs. There was an adorable older couple from Israel whom I met at the hotel one morning over coffee. His name was Shlomo and he had one of the most awesome smiles. Full of loving energy and joy. He was crazy about the robot monkey socks I was wearing. I had a new pair in my bag that I hadn’t worn yet, so I gave them to Shlomo as a gift. And, I remembered…..I felt…..how amazing the connection between two people can be from gifting.
The next healthcare conference I attended was HIMSS in Chicago in 2015. There were over 40K attendees at HIMSS. And, as I prepared to go to HIMMS I decided that I’d pack my bag full of what had turned out to be the crowd favorites every time I wore them – the pinksocks with the mustaches. Every time someone came up to me and commented on my socks and asked me where I got them…..I reached into my bag and gave them a pair of pinksocks. When I gift the socks, I always look the other person in the eyes and say “I have a friend in Portland who owns a sock company. She’s awesome and you’re awesome. Every time you wear these socks they will make people smile. People will come up to you and ask you about your socks. That’s your opportunity to connect with another person, that had you not have been wearing these socks, you would have missed each other in the universe. Don’t miss that moment to connect and share space! Get off your bike, stay on the train or bus for another stop, look each other in the eyes and connect. That’s what we’re here for! Don’t miss it!”
One of the first people I gave the socks to at HIMSS was Eric Topol. Dr. Topol is a world renowned physician, scientist, and author…..and he has a huge Twitter following. I asked him if we could take a picture together with his pinksocks so I could tweet it, he said yes, and then he retweeted it to his followers and the next thing I knew people were coming up to me asking me what my story was and could they have some pinksocks.
I’ve been continuing to attend conferences and handout pinksocks. Some of the most important and influential people in healthcare have them…..even an astronaut who piloted the space shuttle on two missions has them! From patients to surgeons, administrators to entrepreneurs, the tribe represents all walks of life. The pinksocks are literally around the world at this point. Somewhere along the way someone assigned a meaning to the pinksocks saying that anyone that wears them is disrupting healthcare from the ground up. To me the pinksocks are a lot like Burning Man, whatever they mean for you is what they mean. For me, I enjoy the moment of connecting with another person. Seeing them smile and us both sitting in the space of gratitude and oneness even if it is only for that moment. My intentions never were about disrupting healthcare…..it was and still is…..simply about having fun and sharing a connection with someone else.
Isn’t that what we’re really doing with technology and digital health? We’re harnessing the power of technology to improve connection between a doctor and her patient, between a patient and their care team. Using technology not to disrupt but to improve. To bring the relationship back to what it should be…..a shared moment in time. To understand that we are all in this together. Patients, providers, payers, vendors all working together toward a shared and common goal. The pinksocks are our reminder that shared connection is what it’s all about. Have fun! Smile! Give hugs! Life, it’s happening right now! Don’t miss it!