A Community for Asking Big Questions

Courtney E. Martin

is a columnist for On Being. Her column appears every Friday.

Her newest book, The New Better Off: Reinventing the American Dream, explores how people are redefining the American dream (think more fulfillment, community, and fun, less debt, status, and stuff). Courtney is the co-founder of the Solutions Journalism Network and a strategist for the TED Prize. She is also co-founder and partner at Valenti Martin Media and FRESH Speakers Bureau, and editor emeritus at Feministing.com.

Courtney has authored/edited five books, including Do It Anyway: The New Generation of Activists, and Perfect Girls, Starving Daughters: How the Quest for Perfection is Harming Young Women. Her work appears frequently in The New York Times and The Washington Post. Courtney has appeared on the TODAY Show, Good Morning America, MSNBC, and The O’Reilly Factor, and speaks widely at conferences and colleges. She is the recipient of the Elie Wiesel Prize in Ethics and a residency from the Rockefeller Foundation’s Bellagio Centre. She lives with her partner in life and work, John Cary, in Oakland, and their daughters Maya and Stella. Read more about her work at www.courtneyemartin.com.

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September 16th, 2016

To stay curious and questioning in the modern world can be a lonely endeavor, and yet there is refuge and wisdom when we gather. Courtney Martin​ on restoring our moral imaginations, together.

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September 9th, 2016

The world as we know it is undergoing a profound transformation. Courtney Martin scrutinizes our most dearly-held defaults and finds an abundance of innovators challenging the traditional model of success.

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July 22nd, 2016

The final days of expectation can bring surprising clarity. Courtney Martin pauses in this suspended space, and marvels at the end of the wait for new life, in all its gritty wonder.

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July 15th, 2016

The tension we feel at this moment in our history can be an opening for catharsis. Courtney Martin engages with perspectives in the dialogue that provide opportunities for greater understanding.

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July 7th, 2016

Reckoning with the deaths of Philando Castile and Alton Sterling by the police, Courtney Martin pens an impassioned missive to her white children: to understand their privilege, redistribute power, ask questions, and always to hold each other accountable.

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July 1st, 2016

In journalism and in life, a generous understanding of people’s stories is crucial. Courtney Martin with more questions and counsel for imagining each other in all our complexity.

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June 24th, 2016

How do we avoid cliches and generalizations of entire groups of people? We must tell better stories and more of them by more people who deepen our understanding of the nuances rather than reducing them to a single narrative.

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June 16th, 2016

Blame abounds in times of crisis, but this can be a destructive endeavor. Instead, Courtney Martin advocates for emotional generosity to ourselves and each other, and for holding ourselves accountable for bringing about a better reality.

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June 10th, 2016

Sometimes our wildest dreams are not for ourselves, but for those we love. Courtney Martin pens a powerful message of hope for her daughters’ future, and for the future of women in the world.

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June 3rd, 2016

For Courtney Martin feminism is a living, breathing thing. But in an age of gloss and soundbites, how can the movement remain inclusive and sustain its influence?

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May 27th, 2016

The best ideas are often the simplest ones, but their inception is mysterious and complex. Courtney Martin on serendipity and community, rather than process, as the crucial elements of creativity.

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May 20th, 2016

Using a children’s book on death as a scaffolding, Courtney Martin makes a case for kids teaching adults how to work through grief and death in better ways.

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May 13th, 2016

Entering the home stretch of her pregnancy, Courtney Martin takes a closer look at the bizarre phenomenon from which we are all brought forth into the world.

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May 6th, 2016

Even with years of experience, the parenting journey is one of constant learning — about a budding life, and about oneself. Courtney Martin gives thanks for the grit and grace of new motherhood.

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April 28th, 2016

A heated political climate can bring a blaming instinct to the fore. Courtney Martin on pointing our fingers inward instead of out, and reimagining the capacity we already have to rehabilitate the American dream.

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April 22nd, 2016

More and more fathers-to-be are expressing hopes to have daughters. Courtney Martin explores the well-intentioned feminism behind this desire, and finds that focusing on masculinity might be even more radical.

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April 15th, 2016

How do we navigate the fluid dynamics of sex, gender, and identity in our children when we are drawn to the comfort of binaries? Pregnant with her second child, our columnist wonders out loud about her own inclinations and attachments while raising children.

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April 8th, 2016

We’re confronted with choices of wanting to do what’s best for our children and our communities. But sometimes they come into conflict with each other. What do we do then? Courtney Martin on the intersections of public and personal life as she makes school choices for her daughter.

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April 1st, 2016

The digital sphere is a frontier where we assert our identities, and, in times of trauma, express our grief. With an appeal to the humanity behind this instinct, Courtney Martin questions how our empathy might become more than performance.

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March 25th, 2016

Being a published writer, especially of books, is a celebrated marker of accomplishment in our culture. But is it the only way to leave our mark? Courtney Martin with some helpful advice for the struggling writer, or for uncovering a better channel for our creative drive.

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March 18th, 2016

Paul Kalanithi’s latest book spurs a pregnant mother to recognize the myth of meaning-making. Our columnist on reckoning with ambiguous endings, and the spectrum of imperfection on which we must all live and thrive.

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March 11th, 2016

The things a parent is willing to do for, and put up with, her child is beyond comprehension. A thriving, non-religious mother talks meaningful about the spiritual experience of raising a child.

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March 4th, 2016

What has your grandest adventure been? Between adventure and safety lies a world of possibility. Courtney Martin’s case for gutsy endeavors, big and small.

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February 26th, 2016

A mentor-mentee relationship, like any good one, requires commitment, openness, and honesty. Courtney Martin gives counsel on building relationships of mutual joy and learning with those in our lives whom we admire.

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February 19th, 2016

The big stage of TED can provide a platform for dreaming big, talking big, and a big ego. As our columnist prepares to present at TED2016, she looks to Pema Chödrön and the bigness of her own ideas to make a difference through the massive platform.

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February 12th, 2016

Cross-generational relationships may be one of our greatest untapped resources today. But, people in their “third act” of living are creating new encounters and meaningful differences among youth and our communities.

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February 5th, 2016

What happens when our sense of identity doesn’t line up with how others see us? Our columnist reflects on the complicated work of asserting our identity, which often means wearing the parts we’d like to shed with pride.

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January 29th, 2016

The uproar over the Academy Awards failure to nominate any actors of color this year is surfacing questions of the value of “diversity.” But, as our columnist points out, in trying to adjust our aperture of belonging, we must describe the fullness of one’s identity.

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January 22nd, 2016

The most romantic relationships just may be our platonic friendships. But, as we age, it gets more difficult to establish new friendships with those of the same sex. Our columnist celebrates the inimitable joy of platonic courtship and female attachment.

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January 15th, 2016

Courtney Martin delivers a host of solutions focusing on how you can make our government and our politics better again.

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January 8th, 2016

For a brief, unexpected moment this past Tuesday, politics let down its guard. And so did much of America. President Obama’s display of a emotion opens up our columnist to her own humanity and faith in politics… if only for a fleeting moment.

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January 1st, 2016

There is no norm when it comes to the prototypical family unit. And, family as we all know is at once our breaking point and our healing refuge. With the holiday season behind us, Courtney Martin asks us to embrace the family we have and resist the idealized version that never existed.

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December 18th, 2015

2016 is around the corner. What’s the question you’re putting to bed and what’s the one that’s just being born within you at this transitional time of year?

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December 11th, 2015

In periods of fear, the catalysts of panic can sometimes be ourselves. Courtney Martin on the importance of mitigating our own fight-or-flight response in order to retain our compassion and humanity toward one another.

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December 3rd, 2015

Becoming invested in too simple of a moral story about others can lead to dehumanized outlooks. Our columnist remembers her childhood home and the lessons she carries with her today.

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November 26th, 2015

Genuine gratitude isn’t necessarily about happiness or a soft, warm glow. It’s messy and gritty and physical. From appreciating the glowing moon to marveling at the strange miracle of the human body, a celebration of thankfulness.

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November 20th, 2015

What are the mysteries that remain once our well-crafted lives take a detour down uncharted narratives? A reflection on the messiness of a life less authored and more lived.

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November 13th, 2015

Being a mother is an act of transformation and discovery. Courtney Martin examines the gifts of obliteration of motherhood, and the maternal love that rushes in as responsibility beckons.

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November 6th, 2015

To turn down an opportunity seems counterintuitive. But how can we transform an excess of asks into opportunities for other people to shine? A column on living the less-harried life that “keeps us weighted down with self-importance.”

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October 30th, 2015

In the absence of a religious tradition, is there a fundamental need for prayer? Courtney Martin on finding comfort in praying to her late, burly grandfather rather than a god to whom she couldn’t relate.

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October 23rd, 2015

Courtney Martin reclaims the lost art of letter writing with this epistolary correspondence to Parker Palmer about purpose and how we can seize it while still acting with integrity.

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October 16th, 2015

It’s easy to mentally sanitize and romanticize the creative process, but the real work is done in the clutter and the mess of daily living. An enconium on imperfection, self-doubt, and the importance of pushing through.

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October 9th, 2015

We often think of “genius” as a belonging to individuals, not as something nurtured by community. Courtney Martin challenges this idea, thinking back on the writers group that continues to inspire her work today.

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October 2nd, 2015

The once thick, black line between personal and professional connections appears to be fading. Its replacement is a new kind of network rooted in our relatedness and built on the generosity authentic friendships.

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September 25th, 2015

What if we stopped focusing on scale so much, stopped equating size with success? Courtney Martin looks to a new better off where we invest in people and businesses within walking distance for a more stable economy and community.

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September 18th, 2015

Studies show that increasingly fewer people are friends with our colleagues at work. Longing for more authentic work lives, a new wave of workers are shedding their corporate personas, turning to freelance work, and curating their own working communities in refreshing new ways.

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September 11th, 2015

Success so often is identified by how children transcend their parents’ class and collar. Rather than continuing this cultural narrative, could the future of work in America be more than just pulling up our bootstraps and climbing the ladder?

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September 4th, 2015

The frenetic pace of life can be overwhelming, making ritual even more necessary. But it doesn’t have to be religious, or even spiritual in nature. Daily tasks can ground and center us, clearing our minds and helping us focus on the profundity in the seemingly mundane of this world.

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August 28th, 2015

Does destiny and fate truly exist? An age-old question, to be sure. Courtney Martin ponders that question and traces how each of our paths may be shaped by willful action and serendipitous encounters along the way.

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August 21st, 2015

In an age of iPhone and Instagram ubiquity, we capture and curate in ways unimaginable only a few decades ago. And this connects us in unexpected ways. But, it also can have a cost, one that pulls us out of the moment.