You are magic!

Today I am sitting at a coffee shop. I just finished my call with Marissa, the spiritual teacher/healer that I have been working with and talking to once a week. She has been a wonderful part of my journey. As have others like Laura, Dale, and Tara. I feel so blessed to have people in my life who have helped me grow tremendously, including family, friends, and those random posts on social media by people I’ve never met sprinkled with beautiful inspirational quotes and mantras 🙂  It takes a village friends. It really does. And we are all connected, so I see each person as an energy that is part of myself. And together, we are beautiful and magical.

I digress. Although today’s post is about magic, so perhaps I don’t digress as much as I think I do.

I’m listening to Stevie’s Gypsy. Damn that’s a good song. And she’s a godess. This morning I was trying to google her butterfly outfits so I can start sporting them! Ha. I think we should all wear more butterfly wings and capes. Seriously, why do we reserve those things for costumes and little ones? Maybe I’ll start a clothing brand someday devoted to bringing capes and wings to the masses. Hmmm, there is something deeply alluring about that.

Ok, now I really do digress.

I’m here to share a quick update on where we are. And to journal on what I’ve learned this morning so that I may solidify and absorb as much of its goodness as possible.

First, the update. Those last couple of posts were deep so it feels fitting to let you know where we are now with all that. On August 15, we left the office at 3:30pm and went swimming. We realized we had gone all summer without going swimming. What kind of summer is that? Life is too short to spend an entire summer in a city that has amazing public pools, and not go swimming. I was trying to work on sending an update email to our lead investor, and didn’t feel great about the news I had to share. It all felt heavy. Normally, I would have plowed through that task, made myself not get up until it had been done. Because difficult things need persistence. They feel hard. They aren’t fun. So you have to stay glued to your seat until they’re done. It’s not supposed to feel good, duh. WRONG. I got up, closed the laptop, and decided to heck with it. Life is too short to not feel good in EVERY moment (thanks Marissa for that lesson…). Writing this email isn’t feeling good right now and summer is passing by. So we got up and went swimming. About an hour later, sitting on a pool chair, R gets an email. It’s from a company we adore and it says to expect an offer from them by Friday. Woohoooo! Sometimes, you have to let go to get what you want… That was an important lesson.

On August 17, we got the offer. We had gotten others but this was the suitor we felt most connected to. And now a month or so later, we are deep in diligence and moving towards closing a deal.

That is the update folks. I share this because just a week or so before we got that offer, I had written a post about the need to let go just a little more. To mourn, to grief the “end”. And through that, again the universe answered.  We are thrilled with the outcome, and grateful.

Now onto today’s lessons.

  • This is the happiest time in my life. I can say that and “feed” that thought. Thoughts are alive. Why feed the ones that are negative (e.g. this is a tough time in my life)?
  • Freedom and happiness are feelings that come from within. We often seek external things to drive these feelings. And when those don’t work, we take it out on others. E.g. “I’m not happy because my wife is doing this thing that makes me unhappy.” “I’m not free because I have a child and am married, and society has always taught me those things mean I must not have any freedom.” All not true. I’m not happy or free because I AM not happy or free. On the inside. I have to fill my cup, and shower myself with love, to feel free and happy. I have to support others around me as they fill their cups, knowing that it will serve all of us for them to feel full.
  • How am I going to do this?
    • By paying attention to the times when I am seeking joy from anything external.
    • By paying attention to how I feel moment to moment, and honoring it.
    • By paying attention to my thoughts and feeding positive ones rather than negative ones.
    • By not thinking my way into things and rather asking myself how I feel moment to moment in my body, letting my feelings drive my actions rather than my thoughts. I.e. Does this feel like a [hell] yes or a no [thank you]?

Those are plenty to get me going. FOR NOW. I am going to keep working on this self-love stuff because it’s so damn important! So stay tuned. It has been the year of trusting. And I have made such amazing progress towards trusting. I now feel ready to add and move towards a new evolutionary goal, the one where I am overflowing with self-love.

Today I am also sharing a photo. R put this post-it on my comp a few days ago, and it’s such beautiful words I am greeted with every time I open my computer (which I normally associate with work and stress).

You are magic. We all are. Whoever the heck you are you sexy thang that I’m writing to in the abysss. Ha.

Hugs,

D

 

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Sacred Spirit…

It seems fitting to name this post after the music I am listening to… “Sacred Spirit – Chants and Dances of the Native American”.

I came on here today to write a prayer. I’ve decided that I’ve lost connection to my soul. And I’d like to reconnect with it.

Dear Soul,

I love you

I’m sorry that I’ve been away and haven’t visited as often

I’m here now and I promise to stay

You have been so kind and loving and nurturing

Beyond my wildest dreams

When I was younger, I used to say that I wanted to achieve greatness in life

And I would find it strange that none of my friends shared this ambition

You have shown me the greatness that lies within, my pure light heart

I am the light

I am the face you see in the moon

Today, I vow to reflect the light in the world

I vow to see the goodness in others and reflect it back

I vow to see the goodness in myself and to let it out

Unfiltered, beautiful, and beaming straight from the heart of light

Forget being vulnerable, forget being authentic

I will be real, as real as love, as real as the sun

I will speak from the soul

I will speak from my heart

I will speak from you…

Guide me

May I speak your truth

May I reflect your light

May I share with the world your message

May I be a portal for your wisdom

May I be a funnel for your love

May I take every step with you by my side

May I walk this Earth fulfilling your vision

Show me the way, dear Soul, for

I am Yours

You are Mine

We are One

All is Well.

 

Thank you to Tosha Silver for those last few lines in the prayer….

And from my reading this morning with Marissa, I got the Hanged Man card which I felt connected to. Just looked it up and this resonates, BIG time…

“If you are receiving a Tarot reading, The Hanged Man card is a strong message from the universe that the option of surrendering is always open to you. It might, in fact, be the quickest way to a complete and total victory.”

Lately, I have felt very connected to the concept of surrendering more, as mentioned in my last post…

 

 

 

 

 

I will miss it…

[Clouds of Pompei is playing… “don’t cry, hold your head up high, she would want you to, she would want you to, just don’t cry…”]

Yesterday I found out that we are officially broke. Out of money. And worse than I expected on this date. You can never estimate runway perfectly. Especially when you’re down to the last few months, down to the wire. And down to the wire we are. We got the month right and now it’s officially here, the rest must unfold…

I have been working REALLY hard to process all this. And I have made tremendous progress. So much progress that it’s surprising. I’ve probably been at it for a little over a year now in some ways. But not until the last couple of months, after my silent retreat, did I finally enter the cocoon to disintegrate and become transformed into a butterfly. I finally realized during my retreat after much searching, questioning, and leaning into the answers…that SR is no longer serving me and it is time to bid it farewell. It was not an easy realization to arrive it, nor an easy one to then accept, share, and act upon. But I have done all those things, day by day, step by step, I have put the universe’s plan in motion.

And today is no different.

Since I looked at the numbers last night, I have been taking deep breathes. Trying to continue to trust. That is my word this year, trust. “Trust in the Divine Plan” to be exact. I wasn’t willing to stop at one word. I felt the need to be more specific. And the phrase, which I put on a vision board earlier this year at a New Year Day meditation retreat R took me to, has kept me grounded every day over the last 7 months. So I have been breathing, trying not to be shaken, depressed, and hopeless. I have been breathing, trusting, waiting, knowing it will all be okay ultimately. In the past, when we have been close to the wire, it was as if my life would flash in front of me… I’d imagine announcing the end publicly, letting go of my team, closing the doors on our customers, disappointing our investors… It always felt beyond stressful. Having to tell people they no longer have a job is one of the hardest things I’ve had to do. Having to turn away bright-eyed little ones and the grown-ups supporting them is heart-breaking. I handled it last night in a different way, I took deep breathes…and then took some more…and brought my mind back to the exact moment I was in (which was date night, not the most convenient time for a work crisis and definitely not the right time to have clicked on the little email icon on my phone. Lesson learned.)

But today I can’t help but feel a deep sense of mourning.

“Just when you have surrendered, surrender some more…”

Those were the words of Gabrielle Bernstein’s last step of the 5 Steps to Surrender she presented on Oprah’s Soul Session once. They resonated with me when I heard them last week and today they come to life. Just when you’ve mourned, mourn some more. That’s how I feel today…

I’m less sad that it’s all ending and more just grieving that it has officially ended. I know something could come to fruition in the next few weeks, but I can’t help but feel today that it’s over. I have to go into work today and put into action the final plan. The plan of winding down, shutting down, discontinuing, bidding farewell. And it will come as a surprise and shock to the public. We have become an inspiration, a story that so many love to follow and feel uplifted by. And I hope they will continue to feel that way. Because I do.  Today I don’t feel disappointment and failure. I feel success. The kind that you can only dream of. But I feel like my kid is all grown up and heading off to college. The time has come for the empty nest. The time has come for me to surrender, to let it spread its wings and fly into the big unknown… And with that, the time has come for me – the parent, the creator – to also step into the unknown of my life journey. I feel a deep sense of gratitude for making it this far. And yet I can’t help but feel a sadness.

I will miss it.

When I went on my retreat, I visited the soul of our company. I know it sounds crazy but I did. It was a beautiful cloud-like creature that was child-like, like a young teen. It lived in a cloud-like hut with a giant stamp-shaped door that looked like our logo. 🙂 –  Perhaps someday I’ll write up a post with the entire vision I had. It was a remarkable experience. – What I realized in that vision is that SR will be okay. It will never die. It will live on in the memories of the thousands and thousands of children it impacted. For some, it may have even sparked a new interest or passion that shapes their lives and society’s. I’ve heard from many parents over the years that their kids now love history or are obsessed with drawing, all from a package we delivered. As long as we remember it, it will live on in our memories too. And I will remember it daily, that much I know. It has given me so much. It has changed my life. Through creating this company – as crazy as it sounds – I discovered the meaning of life. This wasn’t just any company, it was special from day one… I created it with my sister. Inspired by our childhoods and our nephews. To deliver joy, curiosity, and love to children everywhere. And the world noticed its light. It landed on national TV weeks after it was born when it was still an infant. – That doesn’t happen often, boy did the world notice. – And it landed on national TV again, and again, and again. It sparkled through all the years that I have had the honor of nurturing it. And as a culmination in its journey, just a week ago, I got to share it with the world on TV again in a very special way on an iconic channel that I grew up watching, QVC. It was another life experience for all of us, for it, for me, for my sister, and for all those who have been part of its story. They say it takes a village and a village has been behind us from the beginning.

Since I went to retreat and started the process of letting it go, it has grown from a young tween to a mature one ready for college. It’s off to do great things. I couldn’t be prouder of what we have built. I couldn’t be more grateful for the opportunity to have made it this far.

I will miss you dearest SR, and you will always be in my heart… Know that if you choose to come back someday – maybe years from now someone will want to license you and introduce you to a new generation of little ones 🙂 – I will be here ready to welcome you with open arms…

With all my love…

xo

Also, aliens are real. Mind…blown.

Apparently I’m depressed. It’s weird because I’ve been depressed before. In fact I was once clinically diagnosed with moderate to severe depression. I remember the moment perfectly. I had felt sad plenty of other times in my life. But this time felt different. This time felt like it had lasted too long. It wasn’t a day, a week, or even a month. It had been weeks, months, and I finally made a doctor appointment and went in to explore if I needed medical intervention. And the doctor gently told me she would ask me a series of questions to determine how I was doing. I gladly agreed. She began, I answered, she continued, I answered, and then I broke down crying. It became obvious in that moment that I was deeply and utterly depressed. Her questions were so basic, things like rate your level of appetite, energy, enjoyment, sleep or lack of sleep, etc. And I slowly realized with every question that I was down, like real down. Appetite? None. Energy? None. Sleeping? Wish I could do it all the time. Enjoyment? Can’t remember the last time. Etc etc. I realized before she finished what the diagnosis would be. Thankfully at the last couple of questions about wanting to no longer be alive and thinking about hurting myself, I said no, I don’t feel either of those. She announced “you have moderate to severe depression.” I took medication for a month. It was powerful. It worked. Then the external life circumstances that had caused this changed and the things that were haunting me got better. This time feels different, to some extent. It feels more internal, like not much could truly change it. This time I don’t want to take medication. Not being I don’t believe in them – true, it took a lot for me to finally agree I needed them, I prefer avoiding medication when possible – but because I feel like what’s stirring inside me is demanding to get out. Bottling it up further by taking medication will not serve me in the long run. I feel like my whole life has led to this moment. I feel like my whole being is demanding my attention. Silencing it with numbing medication doesn’t feel right.

So how do I cope with it this time around? And what exactly is it? I don’t know. I was at a brunch this wkend and a friend asked “D, are you depressed? You seem to me like you might be. I recognize the symptoms, I’ve been there.” I thought I was hiding it quite well. I’ve certainly been honest and authentic, but I thought it wasn’t so obvious. Apparently I was wrong. Last week, my sister R asked me the same exact question. So I think it’s official. And now I don’t know how to respond to the part inside me that wants to be heard.

I feel like it wants to talk to me for days on end, or possibly months. I only have minutes or hours of free time in my days and yet this thing inside is demanding what feels like a year of my attention. Like I’ve spent my whole life distracting it and telling it “We’ll talk soon.” And finally it’s breaking down, and saying “I can’t wait anymore. We need to talk now.”

I took a day off last week where I decided I would pay attention to it and what came out was fascinating. It feels like my whole life I’ve been keeping everything together and my soul/mind/body is utterly and completely exhausted. Tired of pretending, tired of feeling like I have to act a certain way, tired of caring about everyone including people I don’t even know, tired of asking questions and spending every second of every day looking for the answers, tired… tired… tired.

Self-love. I think that’s what I need. I think my self-love is beyond empty. I’m not sure I’ve ever known how to refuel it. I feel like I’ve spent my whole life worrying about others that I don’t even know myself. Damn.

I’m sitting at Starbucks right now and the sun is so strong that I can’t really think. Maybe I can put a Change Me Prayer into the universe inspired by Tosha Silver’s amazing writings. Here it goes:

Divine please change me into someone who can trust you have my back. Please help me be kind to myself and patient as the answers become clearer. Please help me trust the answers will come and help me see the ones already here. Please allow me to blossom into the person I am destined to be in the Divine Plan and be willing to let go of the things that no longer serve me. Please change me into someone who can fuel her soul with so much self-love that it pours onto others, not pours onto others from an empty tank. Please change me into someone who can follow her heart completely with courage and gentleness.

At a loss so will sign off for now. The CMP is a good exercise. I’ll return to it. I have a feeling it can unlock a lot of what’s buried inside.

[Re: the title. It speaks to my existentialism. My obsession with understanding why we’re here and what life is about has often taken a lot out of me. Recently I’ve become convinced aliens exist. I heard a first-hand account of a close friend who saw a spaceship in Colorado as a teen and I believe him. This realization makes the concept of “universe” feel perhaps more real and also “different”. I always equated God to the Universe. Now the word feels more in line with how we use it in science. Anywhoooo…]

xx

 

I just had 5 slices of bacon…

Today I woke up and had no desire to get sit at the office. Instead, I went to satisfy my craving for french toast at a pseudo-diner, which is how I had so much bacon (I surprised myself…). I’ve been working on making my little office a more homey and welcoming place, but I’m still not there yet. I think the biggest impediments right now are the carpet and the walls. And also the chairs. They look like very serious office chairs, with arms, tall backs, black leather, and everything. Not the kind of place where you feel very creative. Or inspired.

Recently my sister and co-founder R has been working with a spiritual coach (who told her to start doing what you feel inspired to do every day vs what you SHOULD do, which is why I’m having breakfast out :). How cool is it that R is doing this?! I believe some may call her a psychic? I’m not sure. Regardless I THINK what they do on their calls is a meditation, exploring R’s nightime dreams, tarrot card reading, etc. It’s kinda super duper cool because my whole life I’ve felt like some of us in my family are a bit psychic. As a kid, I thought it was mostly by brother, partially because he actually owned it. He would always want to play games where he had to guess a number in your head, your zodiac sign, or what you’re thinking. And this never stopped in adulthood! He still does this and still sometimes calls or texts random messages about feelings he’s getting or things he saw in the future. And get this: he’s been spookily right about things in the past! So he’s a bit hard to ignore in that way. 🙂 As my little sister R got older, I started to notice that she can be surprisingly on” too. And that she is a strong contender. This was surprising. I think all three of us at some point must have googled “how to hone your psychic powers” , read a little about it, maybe even bought a book or two (I know both me and my brother separately did this), but the fact that R secretly went as far as hiring someone to talk to every week about this is super duper cool!! I always thought she might have a gift but had NO idea she was pursuing any of this! It was always something we laughed off. As for my own psychic connection, I’ve always felt in some way connected to the supernatural. As a kid, I have been visited by “ghosts” on multiple occasions. In all cases, what surprised me was that they looked like completely normal people, nothing like the ghosts I had seen in shows or movies. I also always got the number 11:11. Like always. Back then we wore watches so it was a little more fun. 😉 As an adult, I would ask for signs, crazy ones, and actually get them. One time it happened so clearly that I vowed I would never ever second-guess if this stuff was real again, it was just too powerful. Here is the story of that time that I emailed to my dad on July 9, 2012 (for the record, I NEVER email my dad so that’s how big this felt):

Dad, today I got a sign from above that I’d like to share w/u… I look for these from time to time, and they’ve been a big part of the decisions I’ve made in life. Two days ago, I was having a rough day. Starting a business from scratch is v.difficult, and I was questioning if I should just go get a job. I get offers for very well-paying jobs frequently and could easily take one, but I’m trying to force myself to pave my own path in life, grow something now while I’m young, become my own boss. Mom had called me and said some unsupportive things about my choices in life these days and I was having a sad day. Rich [my brother] of course invited me to a beer after work to cure everything!  On my way to meet him, there were lots of birds flying and I said “great, all I need right now is a bird to poop on me.”  Then I thought, “wait, they say it’s a sign of good luck when this happens…the last (and only) time a bird pooped on me was 18 years ago when I was 10, and I think I’ve had an amazing life since then, so it’s true, it must be good luck.” Then I made a deal with God. I said, “God, if at any point in the near future, a bird poops on me, I promise to take it as a positive sign that I’m making the right choices in life and that I should keep following my heart.”  And then I felt silly, and thought “can u imagine if this really happens? what would be the chances?  Funny donna, making strange requests in ur own head.”  
Now, only two days later, I was eating lunch at a spot in Boston near Harvard where I’ve eaten many times before, and a bird dropped a big flop right over my head, hit my face, my chest, everywhere…  Everyone at the cafe was startled at my big smile, and all I could think of was “Thank you”….. 
🙂
xoxo

 

The funny part is I also remember negotiating with the powers above exactly how much time they had to send me this sign. I decided that just asking for bird poop was going to take forever, considering the last time I got it was 18 years ago… I didn’t have that long to wait. So I said “If this happens in the next 3 months, I’ll take it as a sign.” Then I thought how silly I was for putting constraints on the powers above, like THEY could be told what to do, puh-lease, who did I think I was? And literally two days later, I got poop galore and it literally felt like the heavens above opened up. I felt the bright light of the sun shining on me and where I was sitting. While everyone around me was startled and worried they were next, I literally looked up at the clouds and the bright light beaming from them and laughed like crazy. N was the only one there who witnessed it and she still loves to tell the story.

I didn’t mention this to my dad but part of what my mom had said to me that day was also “Look at you, you’re dating a woman. You don’t have a job. What’s going on with you these days?” It was like I was the biggest loser ever and had suddenly gone crazy in life. She made me feel like I should literally be wondering if I have a brain tumor messing with my sanity. Instead of celebrating my joy at finding love and at having the courage to take the plunge to start a company, I was left completely unsupported and criticized. In the back of my mind, I could also hear my dad’s voice yelling at my sister “What are you doing with your life? You’re going to fail at this, you hear me? You’re going to fail!” It was a pretty aggressive and very mean statement. I’m pretty sure we might have had a big cry about it, but of course R knew exactly what to say in that moment to stay strong. I know my parents have always tried their best to support us and I know a lot of their disapproval has come from fear. As immigrants and war refugees, they literally lived lives of fear. We were raised to be scared and distrustful of everyone and everything. I won’t get into my dad’s life story but suffice it to say he had a difficult upbringing that he can’t talk about for more than a minute because his eyes start swelling (eldest of 7, grew up in poverty, lost his dad when he was 9 and had to take care of his mom and 6 siblings, raped by bosses as a child/teen, lived in a war-struck country and saw body parts on the streets, etc etc). Safety was not a commodity to be taken for granted. Tragedy could strike at any time. I remember the first day my dad drove me to my new college door room in Boston and told me “Don’t trust ANYONE. You hear me? Not even your high school friend and new roommate. NO ONE.”

This is the mindset of fear that we were raised with well into adulthood, in America. So being supportive of us starting a start-up instead of accepting “normal” stable jobs? No, I wouldn’t expect it. Supportive of me applying to colleges I couldn’t afford? No. Supportive of me applying for a job in NYC that would mean I’d have to move away from them after college? No. Nevermind that it was Wall Street and a job that kids spent their entire childhoods working up towards, a job that other parents literally hired coaches for to prep their kids when applying (I know that now because I’ve written a book to help students considering this career path and I get contacted by parents weekly, and from ALL OVER THE WORLD!). Not only did I not have the same private education for it, coaching prep, or connections, but I also didn’t have anyone encouraging me to go after it. Oof, it was a lonely road of resilience for everything I went after in life. I remember once I got the banking interview, after much hard work and networking against my parents’ support, my mom gave me her blessing to move to NY if I got it. I walked into that interview BEAMING. I even shared it with the recruiters because it felt like such a big deal. How much of my soul and mind were always occupied by fear and disapproval? Sure, as an adult, I’ve gotten stronger and needing less of it, but our very survival is tied to our parents’ approval. We learn since infancy how to make them smile and laugh, make them love us, make them approve of us, so that we may be fed, clothed, protected, and taken care of. In our very nature is the need to earn other people’s love and approval. It’s how we survive.

My mom was always the first to come around and lend her support. I appreciate that about her. Eventually, she sees that the things I’m pursuing are worth it and she sees that there’s a slight chance I may actually get them and she says “Ok, go for it!” and she celebrates the victories. My dad’s approach has usually been to not get in the way and rather sit back silently disapproving until I prove him wrong. I am grateful that he never got in the way like other dads, particularly Middle Eastern ones, may have. In this way, he was tremendously “supportive” but the criticism and waiting around the corner to say “I told you so” when you fell flat were paralyzing.

I know now that all this disapproval came from my parents because they wanted to protect us, they wanted our lives to be “easy”, not difficult. They wanted to shield us from the things that may be difficult to achieve or pursue. And they certainly wanted to protect us ultimately from the things they did not know or understand. They didn’t understand the American culture. They didn’t understand what moving away to college meant so they were against it. They did not understand what moving to NY and working on Wall St meant so they were against it. They did not understand what moving to Hollywood to pursue acting would have in store for me, just that it meant no stable job, so they were against it. They did not understand what starting a company and trying to raise money for it meant, so they were against it. They did not understand what marrying a woman would mean for the rest of my life, just that it looked hard as hell and that society wasn’t making it any easier, so they were against it. You can see how overall their fear and disapproval came from love and from wanting to protect me and shield me from “bad” people. I can appreciate that.

But let’s for a moment ponder what it would have been like to have parents who approved and celebrated these choices?! I can’t really imagine it so I’ll leave that exercise up to you but I’ll share one story.

I was talking to a friend’s mom once about her daughter. She was a bit sad that her daughter was still living in their small hometown in Texas. The mom was a well-traveled person who was born abroad. She told me that she encourages her daughter to move abroad and travel if she’d like to. She would love for her to explore and have new experiences, and would wholeheartedly support her in any way she needed. I was shocked. Every time I planned a trip abroad (including applying to study abroad in London), my mom would go around telling people “Why do I have to have the crazy daughter who wants to travel?!” Let alone me moving anywhere. With that came a lot of daily grief weighing me down. So it was strange to hear this woman tell me that she wants her daughter to spread her wings and fly. Assuming she wouldn’t nag and pass judgement if her daughter DIDN’T want to move, it seemed like knowing this would be so empowering for a young person. So I’m not sure what families who don’t live in fear look like, but this gave me a glimpse into it.

Ok that’s enough for now. Longest post ever! Thanks for reading this far. It’s nice to go down memory lane with you.

Only through exploring how we got here can we figure out how to get to where we want to go…

xo

 

A part of my soul is dying…

Image result for miss potter movie location

I just realized the cause of my restlessness. There’s a part of my soul that’s already dying.

I have been on a quest for meaning lately, trying to slow down a bit and figure out what’s next. This has been mostly in a work context, what’s next for the company. And yet I’ve continuously felt a bit lost, confused as to how to approach this chapter. My CEO coach said to me “What if you could spend some time sitting with this uncomfortable feeling of not knowing how to begin tackling this next chapter?” Not spend time on not knowing what’s next, but time not knowing what even comes before that. Oh it’s uncomfortable alright. I keep wanting a guide, a list of exercises, a book that tells me exactly what to do, how others have done it, pivoted, revitalized their companies, etc. I keep trying to come up with my own “plan” complete with goals, a timeline, and deadlines/check points along the way. Once it’s all done, I’ll write about it, share it with other founders so that they too can be spared this confusion. But alas, none of it feels right. And so I am to “sit” with this feeling of complete and utter discomfort, this feeling of helplessness, this feeling that the word is moving and I am standing still, this feeling that I must be moving too, in any direction if with no destination at all.

But I just realized that part of this is personal. My cousin is in Hvar, Croatia, today. He reminds me of my younger self, when I felt on top of the world. I would travel anywhere and everywhere with a sense of wonder and joy. I had my partners in crime, my best friends, my soul siters. And here I am today sitting on a gorgeous Sunday afternoon feeling purposeless. I might as well not be here and the world wouldn’t feel the loss. I’m not adding any joy to it, I’m not contributing a piece of my soul, for part of it is dying and I have nothing left to give.

My little one is napping. On some level, I feel like my whole day revolves around her and maintaining our household. She is beautiful and precious and yet I feel like she is a parasite taking away my soul to create hers. I mean that in the most loving way. Yet I cannot help but feel a sense of grief for my own loss that I must mourn. I was creating a list of “exercises” I need to do to help me creatively tackle the question of “what’s next”. I suddenly had an impulse to write down “Visit Renee”. Renee is an old friend of mine, from my college days. We’ve shared some pretty spectacular adventures together, including a visit to an old psychic lady in Ireland, and she’s a soul sister. We are in contact only every few years so this was a very random thing to end up on my list. In my effort to “execute” on my list, I pinged Renee and of course she’s doing smtg amazing and the stars are aligning. She’s in a huge empty house in Oregon hiking, boating, and spending her days pondering the same question as me. This is a surprise because she usually lives in NYC and visiting her would have been easy. What are the chances she is on a similar spiritual journey? This is meant to be.

And yet today I realized, I can’t really go visit Renee in Oregon. As much as it sounds like the stars are aligning – for some very strange reason, she ended up on my list (alongside things like meditate and talk to customers) AND she’s going through a very similar and unique chapter – I don’t even know where to begin to go visit Renee. I have a child. I’m a mom. I’m a parent. I’m a wife. How do I leave the family for a week to disconnect and go road-tripping through the American north west with an old friend? How do we create lives where these types of adventures are more commonplace? We’d all probably be more sane. A decade ago, this couldn’t have been more perfect or easier to plan. I would have found a way to put this on the calendar, packed a bag and jumped a flight. Thrown out the trash on my out, made sure the rent was paid, and out I would have gone. But today, holy shit is life different! And on some level, I feel like I can’t even begin to understand the loss that my insides are feeling. I can barely talk about this with my partner and my lovedones. Where do I begin to describe the complete loss of freedom that I’m experiencing without hurting anyone? Is it even possible to have a life as a parent/wife where you don’t feel a tremendous loss of freedom?

Imagine someone is sitting in the middle of a huge field of grass, it feels so open and so vast. It smells amazing, the air is clean and crisp, the breeze light on your skin. The world is full of possibilities waiting to be discovered. Then one day, they build a fence around the property. No big deal, it’s thousands of acres wide, you can’t even see the fence through the trees, across the river, and up on the mountain, which are all still within the property. You don’t need to go to the neighboring towns; you’ve visited them all before, spent countless days and nights there already. “What fence?” you say. A year later, they build a smaller fence, this time around the large grass patch only. “Well now I can see the fence, that’s a bit of a bummer. But hey, it’s still okay, the field is huge and vast. And I can see the land beyond it, remember what it feels to dip my foot in the water of that cold river, remember what it feels like to climb to the top of the mountain. I’ve had my fill of those and am fairly content just sitting here on the grass. I’m sure if I really wanted to go over the fence someday, I could find a way. Afterall I can still see the river and the mountain, I just can’t get to them as easily, but they’re still there and a part of me.” A year later, they build a fence around the house. “Well I sure miss swimming in the river and hiking up the mountain. I wonder if I can arrange to do that somehow, get permission, find a way to experience those things again if only for a few moments. I haven’t even noticed that I can no longer sit in my favorite patch of grass. I’m still mourning the loss of the river and the mountain. Besides, I still have beautiful grass right here in my backyard. Sure, it’s much smaller but I’m with the people I care about most and that’s all that matters.” And life goes on.

One day, you wake up and you realize that slowly life has built walls and fences around you and you hadn’t really noticed. Holy shit, you are a prisoner. A prisoner of life.

Fortunate to be near those you love and yet mourning the pieces of you that you no longer have. Including your family… you parents, your siblings, your childhood friends, your college friends, your old colleagues, etc. All replaced with a wife and child and “wisdom”. They are amazing and you are lucky to have them but is it possible for your soul to not feel so damaged, hurt, lonely during the journey? Is it so wrong to miss those places, those people, your youth and innocence?

Today I am mourning the piece of my soul that is already dying. There is no way to revive it. I will NEVER be able to re-experience life as a 23-year-old, young and carefree living in Midtown Manhattan, feeling like I’m on top of the world. No matter what we do. I will never re-experience those first few years of meeting my wife, when we had already had our first fence built around us,separating us from the neighboring towns, but still had access to the river, the mountain, and the large open field.

It probably didn’t help that this weekend we hosted two guests from out of town, a 21 and 26 year old cousins living in NYC. I think I’m feeling the aftermaths of getting older and having a family. It’s painful in a way that I’ve never experienced. Aging and growing up is a bitch.

Here is the list. Non-redacted. Because who gives a shit if anyone reads it.

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Slowing down

Slowing down is feeling good. I think I’m finally starting to understand what it means, but it’s still so hard to do. So far, it means going where life takes me without feeling bad about it. For example, this am, my little one is sick and kept wanting me to hold her. So I did instead of rushing out of the house “to go to work”.

Babies do that. It’s cute. She is otherwise super independent and puts herself to sleep (my mom was surprised when on a trip to nyc, I literally dropped her in her pack n’play, said good night, and closed the door). But when she’s sick, she wants to be held. It’s interesting because it goes to the core of our vulnerability as humans. Babies have a way of showing you what we’re like in our most “natural” state. On some level, I’m guessing that feeling of needing to be held when we’re not well doesn’t really go away when we’re adults but we’ve created a society that ignores it on some level. I was surprised when I moved to this part of the world as a kid and learned that sick people are avoided in this culture. I never grew up thinking this way. But if you’re sick here, you don’t get hugs or affection. Instead, you’re told to “stay away from me”. Ouch. I get why. I’m a lover of science. But still, where is the humanity left in the world? On some level, something about that way of thinking doesn’t feel right to me. The worse is when people blame others for getting sick, “You made me sick!” Who the fuck would want to make someone they care about sick if they could control it? Com’on people, where is the compassion?

I digress a lot here. It’s fascinating. Welcome to how my mind works.

I gotta go. Some umbrella at this coffee shop just flew off and hit me. Ouch. Need a minute to recover…

Until next time.

 

I just went public…

I just bought the domain to this word press blog. Let’s see if that changes how I write. This blogging/journaling here is a bit confusing. No one reads it so I really only write it for myself. And yet I felt this need to be able to just go to the site.com to view it whenever I want to access it. So I bought the domain. But a part of me wonders, what if it somehow gets found and some people start reading it? Now or in the future. The internet is a vast place. All sorts of things can happen. It’s really a great reflection of our universe, massive and never-ending. I wonder what it feels like to be a hacker who knows how to really take the rocket and take off into cyberspace, to places others have never visited before. My experience of cyber space is so limited. I’m going to keep writing assuming no one is reading and we’ll leave it at that.

By the way, two things to share (it might end up being more than two as i’ve learned in the past…):

  1. I kinda have a thing for domains. I like buying them. I like owning them. One of my favorite things is to hop on one of the domain-buying sites, usually GoDaddy, and “window shop” for domains. I start going down rabbit holes, thinking of random ideas and seeing what related domains are available. In each session, I end up stumbling on ONE that I like and buying it. I’ve never gone to great lengths to get one; i just register available ones. But I did win an auction once for an awesome domain (or so I think) for $10. I own a couple of 5-letter domains with vowels in them and they’re not half bad. Bought those back when I thought I was going to start a social shopping app. They’re the acronyms of two phrases: I Need Your Opinion Please (inyop) and Which One Should I Pick (wosip). See? You can pronounce them. You can probably deduce from those phrases how the app was meant to help shoppers. I still think it’s a good idea, but social networks are tough to build so I didn’t pursue it.
  2. The founder of TripAdvisor once shared some really good advice with me. At the time, when I was thinking of launching the social shopping app, I wondered how he build trip advisor. He was speaking in one of my hbs classes so I asked: When you first launched, how did you deal with the classic chicken-and-egg dilemma where users won’t come to the site if there are no reviews and reviewers won’t leave a review if no one is using the site? His answer: He realized that there was a wealth of review content already out there on hotels, mostly through articles, travel books, blogs, etc. They populated hotel names, addresses, photos supplied from the hotel, and then “reviews” from articles/publications/books. As people started to leave their own personal reviews, they started to clean up the site and delete that old content. I thought this was brilliantly simple and made a lot of sense. It can be applied to a lot of other ideas. There’s always a “starting point”, an MVP that gets you going.
  3.  I watched Hidden Figures last night. The story is obviously amazing and I’m glad it’s finally being told. I had never heard of the women who helped land a man on the moon, and it was difficult to watch the racism in the story. More difficult knowing that MUCH of it still exists today. Maybe we don’t have “Colored Restrooms” or separately labeled coffee pots. Sure, the blatant labels are gone. Great, give ourselves a pat on the back, we removed some signage… But so much of the internal thoughts and fears are still there. White people still avoid blacks and a lot of the judgment still appears superior. And blacks still feel the judging eyes on them in anything they’re doing (and definitely fearful when a police car pulls up, like it did in beginning of movie). Let’s be honest: IT STILL EXISTS. Goodness gracious, what is it going to take to make this a problem of the PAST? So fucking sad. I really don’t know how we can redraw the lines, start over. Sometimes I wish we could reinvent the world and start over. Get rid of all the biases, against skin color, gender, any differences. Imagine a world where…

Maybe what we need to do is found an island or planet with a new society. That’s the entrepreneur in me wanting to “start” a new world. We’d have to be super fucking picky about who gets to live on the island to begin with, because their biases are bound to become the foundation of this new world. I vote for all the mindfulness gurus to be the first inhabitants. 🙂

Okay major digression there. LIKE MAJOR. What I really wanted to share was: did you know where the word computers comes from? COMPUTERS comes from human computers, people who used to literally compute, run long-ass mathematical calculations. Who fucking knew?! It’s a word we’ve become so accustomed to hearing and using. “Do you have your computer with you? I’m bring my comp. My computer needs charging.” etc. etc. But we’re actually referring to a profession, people who did math for a living! So kewl.

Okay, i think that’s enough for today team. Gotta go back to saving the world. by the way, when that movie ended, i realized “holy fuck, some people did something with their lives”. some people were firsts… first woman to attend a college… first african-american woman engineer… first judge to do xyz… first person to orbit earth… first person to walk on the moon! first first first… trail-blazers… pioneers… leaders… life-changers…. leaders of living beings… amazing inhabitants… what am I doing with my life? it makes everything we’re doing seem so damn tiny. We gotta dream bigger, dream for the MOOON (and since we’ve been there already, you really shld be dreaming past the moon actually ;).

Today i’m working on launching our product in stores. Fucking amazingness. Retailers have been super excited about our product. The imposter in me doesn’t totally get it, “do they really like it? what do they like about it? hmmm, do they do this with every vendor they come across? do they say this to everyone?” etc. etc. Ummm, the simple answer is no, they really like it. The CEO of a multi-billion dollar public company doesn’t ask to meet with you, and then meet with you again. And to be fair, it’s CEOs with an “S” so it’s not even one crazy outlier. And YET, the imposter in you is one dumba$$ who can’t stop talking. Anyhow I’m excited to bring our products, my babies, to families across the country and eventually the world. I can’t think of anything more special than selling a product that kids grow up with. Something that becomes a part of their childhood, their formative years, their very identity. It’s so special and such an honor to be able to create this for them. And can you imagine these products, this brand, outlasting me? That would be cool too. I love the idea of creating something whose essence is evergreen. The details may evolve, but the spirit of it could be relevant for generations to come. Here’s to this launch being a home-run…

*I swore a couple of times just to remind myself that this is my site, for me, no one else, and I don’t need to be p.c. I just need to be me. Nice.

 

 

Did I ever mention that I have a baby girl?

During the one year absence from writing, I’m pretty sure I forgot to share some important news…

I have a baby girl! And get this, she’s now a whole year old! Yup, it’s true, this past Sunday, she went from being 0 to 1. Nuts to think a year went by, but at the same time she evolved so much every day that I can’t say I didn’t feel the change/growth happening. I felt it. And when I look back at the year, it doesn’t necessarily feel super fast.

In any case, she is adorable. I know all parents say this. But let’s for a moment pretend that’s just a biased assessment, tottttaaally possible, I think there’s one thing no one would disagree on: she’s a ridiculously easyyyy baby (which means she’s adorable). At least so far. I might totally be jinxing the situation by saying this and she might totally being a crazy toddler, but I’ve know that all along so I can still acknowledge the now. Ever since she was born, she has slept through the night, woken up at a decent time (ok, 7:30 still feels early but is liveable), never cries. No, like never. Unless she falls and hurts herself but that seems pretty fair. She loves people, lets everyone hold her, just stares at them until she’s memorized their faces/their scents and then finally looks up and says her first and only word “hiiiiii”. Can you think of a better first word than that? Hi. It’s brilliant. You can’t get too far with “Mama” or “Dada”. They’re kinda pointless. Especially since your parents are usually right in front of you and you don’t really need to call their names. But “hi”, that opens up a world of possibilities. Anytime someone asks her any follow-up questions, she switches up the tonality of her “hi” and usually gets by. Exchange goes something like this:

Baby: Hi!
Friend: Oh hi there. How are you?
Baby: [Big smile] Hiiiiiii….
Friend: Hiiiiii…
Baby: [Big smile] hi hi hi

You get the idea.

Anyhow, we’re so darn lucky that she’s been such an easy baby. Apparently this is how they get you to have a second one. Then that one ends up driving you bonkers. Trying not to fall in the trap yet but it’s hard to decide to have an only child with no siblings. Parent guilt big time.

Ok, that’s all for today. I’m a mom. Now you know it. I still have a really hard time saying that out loud. Regardless, I don’t feel like a mom AT ALL. Sadly, we’ve made the word “mom” have this almost boring / negative association. So I don’t really relate to it. What happened to motherhood being cool and awesome? Gotta bring that back, or just bring it if it never existed.

Peace out homies.

See, now would a mom have said that? Probs not. But deep down inside, I’m still that 10-year-old playing dodgeball in the playground and smokin’ the shaaaat outta anyone on the other team.

I used to be able to do a mean one of these to dodge the ball (and could also catch those really hard balls that the strong boys threw, straight in my belly. Sometimes it hurt so hard, I couldn’t breathe, but I didn’t show it. And who cares, it meant they were out. Neeeeext.)…

Star Jump

Image result for dodgeball through my legs

 

 

What’s going on…

OMG this coffee shop is freezing. Not sure how much I’ll get through. Sure my hair is a bit wet still since my shower this am and that’s probably not helping. (My hair has this unique quality of staying wet for hours on end, practically all day really… thank you Mediterranean heritage.) But wowza! Brrr.

Anywho i have so much to share, so little time! Where do I begin…

Last Monday, we had our usual team meeting and then on-on-ones. After the team meeting, I can’t remember what prompted the thought but I told R that I think we need to do a serious strategy meeting. Not a regular strategy meeting where we set goals for next few months/weeks and make sure we have the best execution plan. No, this needed to be a much higher level strategy plan like WTF is going on? How are we really doing? I think I got the thought in the shower that morning, it hit me like a rock. Like whoooa, wait a minute, we’re moving along but we are faaaar from thriving. Something really big needs to change. Thankfully, R was very responsive. Sometimes, she can try to tame me down, telling me to stay focused, that we know what we need to do and to keep working on our goals. (I have a tendency to constantly be questioning what we’re doing so I do sometimes need to be reminded that we decided to do xyz already and to stick to it). But in this case, that was not here response. She said right away: “You’re right, when can you catch up? How about this afternoon?” That made me realize that shit, she’s so on the same page which means this so needs to happen, probably needed to happen a while ago.

We started talking briefly that afternoon, mostly mapping out how we would tackle this conversation in a way that did NOT result in much of the same. Let’s face it, strategy meetings can feel like history repeating itself… same issues, same solutions, same lack of real change, same ideas being thrown around, same lack of real progress. SO the first thing we decided to break the cycle was that we needed to be out of the office, somewhere new, somewhere different, and maybe even somewhere inspiring. We considered the local university. We used to do some of our best strategic thinking there when we first launched the company, before we had a team, before we had our own office. The next morning, we opted to meet at a new coworking space instead (the university felt far and too quiet over the summer).

Within one hour, basically at record time, we decided “Holy shit, we need to stop our subscription channel.” This is our bread and butter, the very foundation upon which our company/our brand has been built. 95% of our revenue comes from subscriptions right now. So this decision was no joke, and may ultimately prove to be the end of this project. I know that statement is supposed to be scary, but it’s not! We had finally gotten to a point where we realized that it doesn’t matter why this part of our business is not growing rapidly enough, why it has “failed”, what the implications of this decision would mean, etc. None of this matters. The only thing that matters is that “It’s simply not working, and we need to face reality.” We had tried endless ways to grow it and it just wan’t prospering enough. We were in many way dying a slow death. Had we tried everything? Maybe not. Could someone else come in and grow the heck out of it? Sure, that’s possible! But who cares!! The truth is we don’t know what else to try and we don’t know the person who would come in to rescue it. Could we continue to search for those? Sure, and you might find them on your death bed. So this was the reality we had to face. Something had to change and NOW. Enough was enough.

We had previously had this conversation. “The subscription is not growing enough, what should we do about this?” And every time, the answer was basically the same. We would come up with some epiphany, a reason why it wasn’t working, and we would get to work trying to fix it. Reasons have included everything from “We need an influencer! Every successful brand these days is backed by a celebrity. True.” or “We need to become brilliant at email marketing! Our email performs best. We need to build crazy personalized drip campaigns, follow people’s paths on the internet, make them fall in love with us, then convert them into customers.” Sure. But how will you get people’s emails to begin with? And I don’t mean thousands of leads, I mean millions, so you can convert some small subset of them and build a real business. Grow your list to millions. Riiiight. One heck of a bet you’re making.” “We need to raise more money! Growing a subscription business is capital-intensive. Our issue is that we don’t have enough to spend on marketing, offering free trials etc.” And the list of epiphanies goes on and on. “We’ve never hired an amazing marketer! We need to find a digital mktg rock star.” Right, you and the rest of the tech world. “We need to be the faces of the brand! People want to see more of us. We need to be out there more.” Right, so you made some videos, you got some shares, people liked them. Now what?

Anywhoooo anywhoooo, boy do I digress. Just trying to remember the things we had come up with to share with you hurt my head. Because it’s really all useless at the end of the day. It’s just not working! Period. End of story. Get back up, shake it off, and come up with something different.

SO we set out to figure out what our business would be about if we are going to discontinue our major revenue generator. We started writing down ideas. Frantically looking for the best path forward. Then we had to pause for our CEO coaching call. This felt like an interruption. What we were working on was so important. But alas, it’s on the calendar, we must hop on the call. Do we share the decision we had just made? Well obviously we should, that’s the whole point of having a coach to talk to. But what if he tries to talk us out of this as many have tried before? “You can’t stop your subscription business! That’s what’s so brilliant about your company. That’s what makes you so unique! blah blah. Stop that talk. Get back to work.” We couldn’t afford any push-back right now, we needed to stay strong and stay the course on this difficult decision. Of course we shared the news… Hot off the press, we’ve decided we need to shut down our main line. He shared that he felt confused and scared. We had anticipated this. How did we feel? We feel scared and anxious of course, but we also feel empowered, emboldened, and hopeful. Hopeful because if we don’t do this, we now know we have no chance of building a billion-dollar company. Hopeful because now that we made this decision, we have a chance at building something awesome and lasting!

(He has been trying to teach us to be more mindful and aware as leaders, hence the questions about how we feel in our bodies. It was a good exercise to realize that more than feeling fear, we were feeling genuine excitement…)

We needed guidance on how to tackle the next question of what shld we focus on. How should we spend our afternoon tackling this? Woaw woaw, slow down, he said. An afternoon? The next day? That’s way too fast. What would it feel like if we took 6 weeks to explore the question of “what’s next”. 6 weeks? WHAT? That’s an eternity.

And after much back-and-forth (how do we keep our team motivated? how can we afford to do this? etc. etc.), we ultimately realized, HOLY SHIT, he’s so right. In what right mind did we think we could answer this in a few hours? We’re so far gone in never taking breaks that we thought it was a good idea to answer this within the week. BAD IDEA. This is how you end up jumping into the wrong shit and running around blindly chasing the next shiny thing. Oh and not to mention how you lose a shit ton of sleep feeling deathly anxious about your start-up, not wanting to get up to use the bathroom in the middle of the night because that will wake up your mind and it won’t stop racing…

So here I am, at the beginning of my six weeks. Lost, dazed, and confused. Staring at a blank canvas with no paintbrush or paint jars in hand. Not even sure if those are the right materials to fill up this canvas.

I don’t know the best way to tackle this next phase. But this is the poem that two coaches have separately shared with me to guide this exploration. Here it goes…

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