Got really vulnerable, y’all.
Last week, I had the fortune of meeting Christina Vuleta, founder of 40:20 vision, a website that offers advice from 40something women who have been there, to 20something women (like me) who are trying to figure it out. Christina was a panelist at a 40:20 Highwater Women panel where she, along with some other incredibly accomplished women, offered invaluable tidbits on how to navigate this thing called life. I feel extremely lucky to have made a connection with someone so willing to pass on her experiences and help the next generation weather through the rocky 20s.
I wrote a guest post for her site about a topic I’ve been thinking a lot about lately: failure.
Read it, but if you’re busy here’s the Cliff’s Notes version straight from the last two sentences:
Embrace failure as relentlessly as you pursue success. One is not better than the other, as they both simply bring us closer to the goal.
Elusively motivational? That’s how I like it.
Also, I haven’t said this before but to all who actually read these meanderings, thank you. I don’t get to see your faces often but simply knowing that there are faces is encouraging. It’s what keeps me typing.
My previous post on failure was not the most sanguine, so I’ll flip the page over for something more motivational today.
Everything will not be okay.
But you’ll be alright.
If you have an important decision to make, remember that.
I recently decided that I want to write and edit for a digital publication, maybe even create my own. Behind the ambitious wordage, I already know there’s a good chance my actions will fail, I won’t make enough money, my writing will be deemed mediocre, and that even after persisting, I’ll face more rejection with the possibility of having to return home with fingers over my forehead in that dreadful L shape. Everything won’t end up okay. Should I go forward?
Yes or no is not really the answer I’m looking for. What we really want when we ask that question is reassurance. Reassurance that something will work out, that everything will be okay. However, reassurance is fleeting. Anything that really matters won’t come easy. God tests to see how much you want something. He sweeps a strong current over the linear road. Along the topsy turvy path, there are chances to turn back. Since everything is not okay, you’re tempted.
But here comes the motivational addendum, the one that can save the day. Amid the mayhem, you are alright. If your core self comes from a solid foundation, the wind can be blowing the hair off your head; though everything is not okay, you are just fine.
My motivation for this week is to find the bravery to shun faux reassurance. The changes we make to seek our dreams may not yield the most ideal outcomes. But it’s not reassurance that we should be seeking anyway; it’s courage.
Free yourself from the need for perfect acceptance, and it will be a lot easier to make a decision and launch work that matters.
Thanks to Seth Godin’s tell-it-like-it-is blog for inspiring this post. Thanks also to my good friend Hanh, whose boldness in pursuing her fashion blog dream, pushed me to critically think about my own life goals.
“If you aren’t journaling what you’re seeing and doing so in a thoughtful way, you’re running yourself based on year or more old information, never cleaning off your blind spots. Just because you have funding doesn’t mean you put your head down.”
This was written as a word of advice to entrepreneurs on how to manage companies. However, I modified it for general life purposes because, entrepreneur or not, we are each our own company. We shouldn’t run our individual motors on year-old information. Similarly, cash flow in our bank account is no excuse to rest on our laurels.
On that note, I’ve been rather happy these past two weeks eating ice cream, watching movies, and on occasion, drafting lyrical tweets and emails. Somehow I think that’s enough to call myself a WRITER.
It got me thinking about why we write and situations that warrant burning the midnight oil, – - or in writer-speak, ‘writing by candlelight’. (which I have never actually done)
I’ll share here, candidly, what often really drives me to write:
1. FEAR: Buried in my conscience is a deep fear that the day I stop writing is the day I deteriorate back to simple googoogaga speak. Short S-V-O sentences. “Go here.” “Feed me.” “I want.” Flashback to the day of my 3rd grade writing assessment when I could barely construct an introductory paragraph with a ‘hook’, a 3-paragraph body with 5 supporting details and a zinger conclusion, resulting in a barely passing grade and making me despise writing, thus dashing all hopes of becoming a writer.
Engrained fearfully in my memory, this drives me. Like the gym rats who drag themselves to the gym for fear of gaining weight, my fear of being stripped of all ability to express is often just as extreme. So, I write.
More sensibly, I view writing as a way to clear off the mental counter, to make abstractions concrete in an otherwise tangled, dusty mind. When the clutter piles up, what results is clusterfuck in the brain.
So, I write.
2. GUILT - I call myself a writer on Google + and Quora. So, I better damn write.
3. THERAPY – My theory: writing mixes the disconnected new facts we pick up everyday with the existing knowledge we already have, creating new hunches. It provides the self-reflection to sift between hunches by understanding my innate bias, allowing me to pick out the best ones to follow.
4. VANITY - Finally, there is a self-serving aspect to it. Life can be awesome and I want others to know it. I like telling others about my life. Not sure when it kicked in but it was probably around the time in college I started taking pictures of myself with food. Though I am less inclined to do that now, I still believe that certain milestones are worth sharing and for that reason, I write these posts with an element of personal candor.
On that note (and since I can’t think of a better segue), I have an announcement to make:
This week, I start work at ZeroCater, a San Francisco-based startup dedicated to connecting companies with the best food in town. I’m their first account manager in New York City, so I’ll be helping them set up shop there.
After a few months of dabbling in the freelance life, I’m ready for this. While I felt liberated by my open schedule and enlivened by the opportunities, I was often plagued with uncertainty. Uncertainty with where random projects were leading me, how much would be in my bank account, how much longer I could afford to stay in the city on a shoestring budget. It was, I believe, the closest I’ve gotten to ‘real life’. I had to make choices and live the consequences, with nary an alternative to fall back on. It was trying and terrifying. But a lesson learned. Rarely does anything come in an easy 9-5 package unless we constrain ourselves to that bubble. I learned to more readily deal with the gray because Choice A and Choice B weren’t available. It was a necessary time for reflection.
I have no idea what this new position will bring. I can only guess that it will be wildly different, challenging, and tasty. Ultimately, I’m just excited to learn more about 3 of my favorite things: startup culture, food, and the workings of delivery/transportation/logistics in the never-ending gluttony of New York City. My two main goals are:
1. to begin each day with specific goals in mind, and
2. to be openly communicative with my co-workers.
Tomorrow, I fly out to San Francisco for 3 weeks of training, and will be back in New York mid-February to get the office started.
Before I turn the page and scribble on, I cast my shadow out into the air. Out with the old, in with the new. Cheers!
“On a good day, I’m caught up by something larger than myself, held in the light by some celestial movement. For a brief charged time I may be irradiated, able to cast a shadow version of something I only imagine. The shadow will never be the bright true self that I know exists, but it will be as precise as I can make it, as real, as sharp, as beautiful. I will cast this shadow into the air, where it may never be seen, or where it may be seen at a great distance, and only by one person, someone I will never know. The point is to cast the shadow out into the air.”
- Roxana Robinson, on writing
Hats off to 2012! Wherever you are, I hope you’re able to reflect on the highs and lows of the year with honesty and humility. Among the many year-in-reviews and recap videos, I found this one particularly gut-wrenching- 2012: What Brought Us Together
With 2013 fast approaching, it’s list time. I love these handy things. They’re the most basic tool to getting organized when one actually keeps track of them and checks consistently. While charting course for the New Year, I’ve started to think about the ways I can make 2013 better – more authentic, challenging, and meaningful – through…you guessed it!…lists.
Charlie O’Donnell, partner and founder of Brooklyn Bridge Ventures, writes a weekly newsletter about tech events in NYC. (Sidenote: If you are new to the space and want a quick way to get acquainted with NYC tech, ‘This Week In NYC Innovation‘ is a great place to start.)
Last week, he included a compilation of list topics to think about for the new year, which I found very useful:
- Three people I’m actually friends with that I would like to be better friends with.
- Ten people I should know, but don’t.
- Five people I’d like to help be successful.
- Three things I’d like to learn.
- A physical goal (a time, a measurement, or just being able to be more bendy, less creaky, etc.)
- An emotional goal.
- Something you’d like to close the book on and move on from.
- Three ways you’re going to try to get more sleep.
- Read a book a month…list the first three you’re going to read. (Might I suggest re-reading the Great Gatsby before summer.)
- Five people you feel like you’re supposed to be friends with, but really don’t like, that you’re going to unfriend/disconnect/ignore.
- Three things that you’ve been procrastinating on that you’re going to get done.
I like this list for its holistic approach. It takes into account practical, emotional, physical, and educational goals. There’s also heavy emphasis on improving relationships, while understanding that not all interactions are created equal (ie. friendships vs. idols vs. mentorships, even un-friendships are included).
I’m sharing a few of my goals from this list because I firmly believe if it’s not written down, it doesn’t exist. Here’s to accountability!
3 Things I’d Like to Learn This Year:
- How to cook (I’m keeping a list of my favorite dishes and recipes to learn – open to additions!)
- Adobe Creative Suite (InDesign, PhotoShop, Illustrator – open to help!)
- Bible Literacy (open to fellow faith buddies)
A Physical Goal
- Be able to do this without sounding or looking like a gorilla. (Getting rid of the pooch would be nice too.)
3 Ways to Get More Sleep
- Having a set bed time. I’m setting it for 11:30 – 7:30 (for now) which gives me a healthy 8 hours.
- Completely turning off an hour before bed. That means, winding down and turning off the computer/TV by 10:30 pm.
- (Hm, I can only come up with two.)
2013 Book-a-Month List (in no particular order; open to other good reads)
- The Alchemist, by Paulo Coehlo
- On the Road, by Jack Keruoac
- The Education of Henry Adams, by Henry Adams
- Invisible Man, by Ralph Ellison
- Behind the Beautiful Forevers, by Katherine Boo
- Ulysses, by James Joyce
- The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, by Junot Diaz
- The Influencing Machine, by Brooke Gladstone
- Change by Design, by Tim Brown
- Lean In, by Sheryl Sandberg
- St Paul Trois Ch Teaux, by C. Joybell C.
- The Power of Habit, by Charles Duhigg
3 Things I’ve been procrastinating on that WILL get done
- Submitting to Thought Catalog
- Calling a loved one..because in this day and age, it doesn’t happen enough.
The full list of notes are currently scribbled in my TextEdit, and I’m well aware many will remain unfulfilled. Life tends to begin (how dare it), pushing these goals to the dusty, untouched crevices of the mind. Hard to say which will stick and which will be thrown to the wind. Life is unpredictable. Either way, it’s here for the love of lists.
“You may not know where you’re going, but you know that so long as you spread your wings, the winds will carry you.”
- C. Joybell C.
Happy New Year! I wish you all a fruitful 2013 with many healthy happenings.
If the world were to end tomorrow, would you be ready?
My take on 12/21/12 is that the Mayans got it wrong and the world will continue to turn on its axis. NASA agrees. However, I’m of New Age mindset. To me, 12/21/12 marks the end of an old world and the start of a new one, ushering in an age when Earthly inhabitants undergo positive transformation. In other words, New Years Day. Time to make and break our resolutions with unfailing eagerness.
It was the most tiring, terrifying, and terrific year in memory.
It started with bright eyes and high hopes. I moved to a small but cozy Park Slope apartment to begin my New York saga symbolically on New Years. Forget that I wasn’t sure if I would make enough to pay monthly rent. Waking to the sight of the Chrysler building from my bedroom window was enough reason to get out of bed. Anything was possible.
I was first exposed to the realities of the city as a personal/editorial assistant for a wine business owner. My boss was wonderful but after the n-millionth time picking up office supplies and fetching coffee, I started to wonder if this was all a college degree was worth. On the weekends, I drank my share of wine. (Work-related research, of course!)
My second job landed me at a prestigious startup fellowship program that placed college graduates to work at startups in lower-cost cities. I was their first recruiter but was exposed to much more than recruiting. Event planning, social media, office politics – - with a small staff, there was a lot to get done and at times, my lack of corporate/organizational experience showed. I learned a few key things about organization, foremost being that I’m not organized. It’s why writing things down and having clear daily to-do lists have become new resolutions. The job took me to Providence over the summer for a phenomenal training camp which remains one of the best memories of the year, purely for the chance to meet 40 of the most inspiring and creative college graduates. I grew by leaps and bounds but after 5 months, I knew that this company wasn’t the right cultural fit.
Life since has been a mix of freelance writing, tech dabbling, user acquisition, and social media strategy. Highly stimulating work with little peace to be found. I networked, mingled, exchanged business cards, went social to the max. The freelance/startup life taught me the importance of being disciplined with time. If you’re good at it, go superwoman! Bad at it, never sleep. We’ll see if I give in to 9-5 soon.
So, was 2012 a success? Last year I wrote, “If I can make just one tiny decision that moves me closer to being my best self-whatever that may entail, wherever that may be- that’s success in my flighty mind.” 2012 was to be the year forward.
And? Am I ahead, off track, 2 steps forward 3 steps back? Well, I can say that I’m officially a New Yorker and now part of the craziness I used to only admire from afar. I’ve spent far too much, slept far too little. I could have been wiser. And yet at 23, I wouldn’t have it any other way.
I end 2012 exhausted, knowing that I tire because I’ve tried my hand at many things, failed, and therefore, moved forward.
2013 – Focus
Notifications blew up my phone in 2012. While this gave me bursts of serotonin, it also lead to unhealthy crashes and reduced productivity. It’s resulted in my decision to disconnect and retire. When I say retire, I mean retiring from perpetual social grooming and focusing instead on real work.
Last week I deactivated Facebook, and yesterday I followed through with Instagram. A friend messaged me saying that he was astonished and a little sad that I was leaving all these social networks. To him, I was the epitome of Generation 2.0: Miss Popular with tons of friends, always connected and blogging and snapping photos. Reading this only reinforced my need to retire. My public image was so well-crafted. So well-crafted that sooner or later, people would be let down. Achieving a self-involved image is no small feat, and I don’t have the energy or desire to maintain it anymore.
Aside from ‘connecting’, I’ve started to realize that all the other stuff that comes with being ‘social’ serves more as a disutility that detracts from my day. Because when you peel away all the layers of perfectly timed and witty statements, cute outfits, and adventurous getaways, what’s left is a pretty plain and boring person too tired to do much of anything other than appear. The thought of being that lame person used to sadden me. Now it just excites me because it means more time to sleep. 2013 will be the year of focus and commitment. Take me as I am, just a lazy being who wants to lie in bed, eat, and watch TV.
In 2013, I plan to focus on building non-social digital skills (CRM, Creative Suite, Mailchimp), cooking more, and solidifying pre-existing relationships. It’s quite boring, but really just a continuance of my 2012 resolution, because only by getting serious will I ever be able to move forward.
I’ve always lived with a sense of urgency, a conviction that time is running out. But with the world ending tomorrow, it’s time to be really honest and live out our truest lives, not just what sounds good or what makes an interesting story. Because what makes us happiest may not be all that interesting. And that’s okay.
What are the biggest questions – personal, societal and technological-that you think need solving today?
This is no light fare. After receiving an email with the subject “Big questions, looking for yours” (from a friend I highly respect), I scoured my brain. I complain all the time. Surely, I can come up with TONS of problems worth solving.
At first I thought big: world peace, AIDS, healthcare. Problems worthy of the name are generally…big, right? They wouldn’t be substantial issues if they weren’t.
After further inspection, however, I realized that the biggest obstacles in my life are quite small. Things like:
- being perpetually late,
- not getting enough sleep,
- not having time to exercise or take care of myself,
- feeling perpetually guilty about neglecting certain relationships,
- not having enough time to stock my fridge.
Selfish as this may sound, I don’t really have time to think about problems bigger than me and my anemic fridge. Can anyone say SERIOUS FIRST-WORLD.
So, here we arrive at the root of near all first-world problems: time and choice.
When these two variables are at odds, we fail to be healthy, productive, or happy citizens.
Too little time and too much choice, we are overwhelmed. (typical first-world)
Too much time and too little choice, we are deprived. (third-world)
One world suffers from excess, the other from scarcity. So, I propose this question for those of us in the former group:
How do we allow our lifestyles to be a healthy balance of time and choice: one with ample time to take care of ourselves, our loved ones and the world outside our sheltered bubble? What is the minimum number of options we need to feel self-sufficient in life?
One of my favorite restaurants is a cozy Indian restaurant nestled on a corner in the Lower East Village. The menu fits neatly on a glossy 8 1/2 x 11 pamphlet. I have my 2 staple dishes, which I usually alternate between. If I’m feeling a bit more adventurous, I’ll try something else on the menu. The waiter can helpfully guide me through the possible choices but even without his help, I can usually navigate the menu myself since there aren’t an overwhelming number of options. Plus price, taste, and quality are all pretty consistent. It’s glorious. For once, I don’t get a headache from calculating all the cost-benefits. (Such is the plight of neurotic maximizing New Yorkers.)
This is the way life, ideally, should be.
In today’s mass consumer market, selection is an asset. It’s a sign of wealth, choice, freedom. But with the number of choices we face daily, from the breadth of cheeses at Trader Joe’s to even the variety of lingerie I can get at Victoria’s Secret, at some point, I’m willing to say, “Just give me your most pretentious cheese and scandalous underwear.” I don’t want to try a million different options; I just want something that’s good. (Of course what is good? That’s another can of worms.)
So what big question needs solving? It boils down to what we prioritize. The big question that we each need to solve is, in fact, very simple.
What do you want?
The reality is that modern society presents us with so many choices that answering this question is actually pretty difficult. Perhaps it would do us good to create systems that restrict information flow, with all the products, sales, and news blips. It’s our duty to stay informed, but with just enough information. We need time and choice, but just enough. Just enough is… enough.
God is probably laughing. This is what we’ve run our lives into. We’re so wealthy that we’re pushing away options. Of course I”m sure that the minute these choices are removed and we move to, say, North Korea, I’ll yearn for these days of over-inundated marketing.
In response to my own question, I want to have more time to take care of myself, so I can then spend more quality time with loved ones, so I can then thoughtfully decide how I can help the rest of the world. Re “helping the rest of the world”, I know there are a million ways but just give me just 3 choices – seriously. Otherwise I’ll spend all my brainpower deciding what to do and by the time I decide, I’ll be too tired to do anything.
There are plenty of problems. But tackling the self is the biggest obstacle.
“If there is beauty in character, there will be harmony in the home. If there is harmony in the home, there will be order in the nation. If there is order in the nation, there will be peace in the world.” – Confucius
If you want to change the world, start small. The biggest questions lie within.
If ever there was a heaven on earth, I imagine it involving unlimited food & drink on a beach. The world’s most talented and intelligent folks would be present, including David Muir and Anderson Cooper (my big news crushes). Cue the right music and they’ll change the world.
What’s described is basically one big cocktail party, only high-achieving and probably out of my reach. Since cocktail parties typically don’t accomplish much more than tipsy small talk (at least in this physical world), I can only hold hope that creating a productive (non-celebrity) one in the digital sphere is possible.
My friend Steve Spalding is working on a network that gets clever people together to discuss difficult (but solvable) questions, form thesis’ about how to solve them, and create actual solutions (papers, products, organizations, events etc…) to help chip away at them. Here are 3 examples of questions that this proposed network would attempt to solve (keep in mind there are a wide range, these are just the top 3 that piqued my interest):
Improving your diet is often as much about where and when you eat as it is about what you are eating, how can we develop way(s) to get people to include more vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and fruit in their diets without making the plan seem like a “diet”?
Crowdfunding technologies have been highly beneficial for small producers, artists, and engineers who need capital injections without the onerous terms often associated with them, however, they don’t allow communities to come together and share both their skills and their capital to create larger more complex projects. How can we develop a system of Crowddoing that brings people, their skills and their capital together to complete big projects?
The reasons for high unemployment are complex and varied, but one solution that has been posed is to increase the ease, diversity and scope of entrepreneurial ventures, allowing more people to build stable companies that help kickstart new industries that can support new employment How can we create better support systems to allow small entrepreneurs to develop more varied businesses faster, cheaper and more easily?
Eating healthier, enabling large-scale collaboration, and solving unemployment – who wouldn’t want this? Yet we need people to seriously think about how. Also, there are more problems that need solving. What would make each of us advance closer to our best selves? How can technology help rather than limit us? Steve proposes that we think about what we’d like to solve and pose it in a question. Perhaps presenting it to a group of other like-minded folks in the arena would yield tremendous progress.
I have a few questions which I will be sharing in the next post. If you have a question you’d like to pose or just want to learn more about this network – leave a comment, or drop Steve a tweet @sbspalding.
It’s tempting to turn cynical in an age when we’d rather send a text than pick up the phone to say thank you. (myself included) Should I even mention the Middle East turmoil, lackluster economy, and our own personal heartbreaks? Life sucks and yet, the world is still a beautiful place.
Sunset in Bali, September 2009
It’s become tradition for me to list the things I’m grateful for on Thanksgiving Eve. Life isn’t rosy, but we still have it good. It’s not that I hope we turn a blind eye to the woes of the world. I just hope that on a day like Thanksgiving, we celebrate the places where these woes are absent, enjoying dutifully and in good taste what we have. If for any reason, because that’s what the damn day is for. (Strong language for a genuinely good holiday – I mean it!)
Pray that peace comes to the Middle East and other war-torn regions, that basic necessities reach those who are starving for these things, and that we may each become a version of our best self. Then put those woes aside and enjoy a nice meal with loved ones. (If you can’t, maybe order good Chinese takeout?)
To whoever is reading this, thank you. Your readership- however distant, frequent, or haphazard – creates a kinship that the most untainted part of me can only believe stems from something true and pure.
Without further ado (and before I turn too Zen)
23 Things I am Thankful for on my 23rd Thanksgiving
1. Me. You. The world. Creation.
2. The number 2. Not being the leader, but the first follower. It is by being the first follower that the lone nut is transformed into a leader.
3. My family, without whom, I would certainly be starving, poor, and (likely) dead.
4. My friends, for without whom, I would certainly be depressed, less interesting, and (likely) dead.
5. Humor, all forms.
6. Unconditional love.
7. The ability and right to think.
8. The ability and right to communicate.
9. God and His unending grace.
10. Food (special appreciation for all things wine and cheese).
12. Good beats, rhythm, and dance.
13. Danza Kudoro- 175 plays and effectively the most played song on my iPod since I danced to it on the streets of Italy last summer. I listen to it almost everyday and am still not tired of it. I’ll be grateful until the day I am.
14. Technology. Love it hate it, you wouldn’t be reading this without it. (so you better love it)
17. New York City. Waking up and seeing the Chrysler Building from my window keeps my head justifiably in the clouds.
18. Beauty, seen and unseen.
19. First-responders, technicians, janitors, EMTs, transit operators - you make our world work.
21. The person who brought my passport to Lost & Found that time I was scrambling to find it 5 minutes before my flight from Singapore back to the US,
22. The fact that ‘itis happens to me on a regular basis – gluttonous proof of my excessive well-being.
23. The future and all it holds. There is much more to learn. Hope abounds and that cannot disappoint.
I’ve created my own office in the flight attendant waiting area at JFK. I accompanied my friend who was flying out a couple hours before me, so I’m 4 hours early for my flight. I figured the down time and lack of Internet access would force me to focus, write, and plan. I went to the bathroom and Starbucks for 10 minutes and this is what I returned to:
Yes, that’s my computer tucked away in the back. …I was effectively crowded out. So much for focus.
I’m going to be away from the city for two weeks, which will do me good. I have a lot of thinking to do about my future. Whether that means settling into a full-time position which provides stability and structure (at the cost of less free time), or continuing the freelance lifestyle with more time for friends and passion projects (at the cost of a routine that keeps me somewhat sane), a cost-benefit analysis will probably be involved.
Holidays and retreats from the norm are reminders that our routine lives are often stuck in bubbles. Life in New York- as dynamic as it is- is not life, nor is life an act in suburbia with my parents. These are simply snapshots. Indeed, the compilation of everything – the fence posts and everything in between – is life. I’m coming to the realization (reluctantly) that my favorite song lyric from Conor Oberst’s Bowl of Oranges does not sing quite as true anymore:
But if the world could remain within a frame like a painting on a wall.
Then I think we would see the beauty.
Then we would stand staring in awe at our still lives posed like a bowl of oranges,
like a story told by the fault lines and the soil.
Life is not a painting on the wall left for admiration, nor is it still and immovable. It is dynamic, changing, fluid; a river, more than a tree. However, I don’t ever want to stop believing it is beautiful.
If you’re reading this from a cubicle, you probably won’t be in 2 years. If you’re reading from a laptop, you likely won’t be doing that either. Space and the tools we use in the space will be drastically transformed in the coming years. I’m not a psychic; this is strictly based on data, trends, and yes, a little bit of New York bias.
Living in New York is a bit like living in a time lapse. At the risk of sounding like an elitist urbanite, the rest of the country (San Francisco and Boston notwithstanding) trails in comparison. This is not meant to be condescending; it is simply a basic truth about metropolitan cities in general. With the sheer number of people (a large proportion being investors, technophiles, and creatives) progress is bound to unfold at a much more rapid pace.
One of the best places to witness the future is at co-working spaces. A co-working space is a shared work space for anyone who needs a place to plop down, get connected, and work outside of the basic constructs of a “normal” office space. Initially, co-working space was used by mostly freelancers as a way to escape the humdrum of working from home. Now, people from a variety of backgrounds flock to co-working spaces (developers, artists, independent consultants, even accountants and lawyers).
Last year when I was completely new to the tech scene, I visited New Work City, largely known as one of the first co-working spaces in New York. I personally believe it should be every New York newbie’s crash course into the tech world. I was immediately enlivened by the quiet energy buzzing inside. It was much better than a coffee shop, mostly because a.) no one was hogging the outlet, b.) no one near you was in an intense gossip sesh as you attempt to do work, and c.) coffee was FREE. Outlets, productivity, and free caffeine yield generally good vibes. Who wouldn’t want that? As a freelancer, I would often go to coffee shops, not because I needed another 3 cups of coffee, but simply because I wanted a positive workflow that was conducive to getting things done. Most of all, I wanted an environment that reminded me I was not the only one. Connection. Something not unlike the college library buzzing with activity at 3 am during final exam week because you’re all in the same over-caffeinated, underprepared, cramming (aka screwed) state. Imagine that everyday, just with more chic chairs and desks, and more “sophisticated” problems to stress about. That’s a co-working space.
The number of co-working spaces in New York has doubled each year since 2006. In that same period of time, New York City has exploded as a tech hub. Vivek Wadhwa recently said, “In 2006, I wouldn’t have put New York anywhere on the map of leading tech hubs. Now it is literally number 2.” According to Tony Bacigalupo, founder of New Work City, there is a direct correlation between the growth of co-working and the explosion of New York City’s startup ecosystem. The reason? Co-working spaces facilitate transitions between jobs. In today’s ever-changing economy, a co-working space becomes quite necessary when you’re transitioning from a full-time gig to work at a startup or as an independent. This trend will only grow as industries continue to be disrupted. This is generation flux after all, and that’s not just a catchy phrase. The flux is real. Chaotic disruption is rampant, not just with the Facebook, Twitter, and Googles, but across industries. You see the writing on the wall in New York, as more and more people quit their corporate jobs and become their own boss by creating pockets within pockets among niche industries.
The future is about self-reliance, and this is another reason why New York paves the way. New Yorkers are famous (or infamous?) for being self-reliant. Tonight at a joint Mashable -BMW iVentures event, Albert Wenger of Union Square Ventures likened the age we’re living in now to the period of time when we shifted from an agrarian economy to the industrial age. The possibilities of where we could be post-digital are..who knows. Figuring out how to properly monetize workspace is one issue. Will it take on a sharing model similar to our homes (AirBNB) and cars (Zipcar)? What about the jobs crisis? The jobs of those whose industries are dismantled?
Looks like the future is already here.
*Many of the insights from this post originate from a talk given by Tony Bacigalupo, co-working evangelist, from a Brooklyn Venture Community meetup on November 14. You can download his presentation at nwc.co/bkv-preso. I also highly recommend his blog, Happy Monsters.
*Also, if you’re interested in finding a co-working space in New York, here is a super handy guide compiled by Charles Bonello, a member of the NY Tech community, that includes details on every co-working space in the city. He also shares some interesting stats: “There is currently about 600,000 square feet of co-working space available, which is equivalent to 400 Starbucks, the entire 11 story building that houses Lord & Taylor’s flagship store in NYC and the Port Authority/NYC’s lease at the World Trade Center.” Wow!
About half the professional contacts I meet are through friends. In some cases, these people introduce me to their friends which then makes these new contacts friends of friends of friends, or something like that. At some point, you stop keeping track and accept that we’re all just sort of connected in some…connected…way.
There have been quite a few studies about the importance of weak ties in building powerful, diverse networks. This weekend was a perfect example of that. I had three separate meetings with people I knew through friends, for three separate reasons. Turns out all three of them knew each other, or at least of each other, unbeknownst to them . Despite being in different fields (journalism, fashion, web developing), and attending different schools, our interests have since converged through tech, thanks to its unique capability of crossing previously insular industries.
I love where I am now for the sheer opportunity to meet people. It’s not about collecting business cards or climbing the social ladder because quite honestly, that’s annoying and not even all that helpful. Building relationships is intriguing. I do it out of wonderment, wonder at seeing how all these linked tiny nodes organically evolve into a live, buzzing web of activity. When you have our greatest resource – people – at your disposal, the possibilities are endless.
My father recently won second place in an essay contest about the American Dream. The contest was sponsored by the Asian supermarket Hmart, which celebrated its 30th anniversary this year. It just so happens that my parents are also celebrating their 30 year anniversary of living in the United States. In 1982, they emigrated from Taiwan so my Dad could pursue graduate study. He eventually obtained his Ph.D. in engineering, gained employment, and rooted our family of 5 in Americana (suburban house, fence, lawn, and all). The rest is still a story waiting to be written.
The American Dream is an oft-used phrase by politicians these days. Both Barack Obama and Mitt Romney have praised entrepreneurship, innovation, and immigrants’ crucial roles in those fields; yet life usually manifests differently from the shiny tint we often associate with the Dream.
My father said in his essay:
The American Dream is a phrase most immigrants are chasing all of their lives knowingly or unwittingly. It means different things to different people…I believe that a successful and memorable American Dream requires not just determination, perseverance, strong work ethic, continuous improvement and understanding of one’s role; it also includes special joy of savoring the food and cultural heritages of one’s mother country.
The American Dream in real living form can be hard. Sacrifice, struggle, and constant work are the stuff real first-generation dreams are made of. What about for the second-generation? Having adjusted to a country’s customs, do those dreams shift and reappear in the form of comfort, stability, and status?
Two years ago, as a junior in college, I wrote a blog post, titled “A Spectacular Failure”. 5 paragraphs in, read:
I look at myself and know that I’ve been able to lead a comfortable life precisely because my parents struggled for me. This is both a blessing and a curse. I’m tempted to settle for a safe success, and know this is easily attainable because my parents have already set all the stones in place for me. As long as I attend school, get good grades, go to college, graduate, secure a job, make money, marry, and raise a family, I’ll be happy. Ot so I think. But is that it? They’ve made the path easy for me to be comfortably numb. There is absolutely nothing wrong with wanting to choose a path of stability & security…but, I can’t help but feel the itch of my parent’s youthful gamble resurrecting itself in me.
At the time, I used this as justification for the amount of time I was spending on CampusTweet.TV – a multimedia passion project of mine that was not yielding any tangible reward. I filmed restaurant reviews and offbeat stories around campus on my own time. At one point, I was working on it more than my actual school work, receiving no money or external validation. All logic was telling me to close shop, get some sleep, and invest more time in something with a more reliable yield (ie. school and graduating). But stubborn idealism gave me the resolve to build it into something bigger and I continued with the sleepless nights. If I failed, at least it would be a spectacular failure.
Well, I failed. The site is now dead, literally. We killed CampusTweet.TV halfway into my senior year when I started working for ABC. Idealism – 0, Reality – 1. But, this version of the Dream is still alive, and I think it’s even more relevant for all of us now, given the rapidly changing world we live in.
Almost 2.5 billion people use the Internet. We talk about immigrants moving to new countries. But we all live in a new space. We don’t just live in a physical world; heck, some of us spend more time wrapped in the digital and mobile worlds. That’s the new landscape. In the next 2-3 years, cheap Internet-connected tablets will enable hundreds of millions more to move into this arena. Same with the increased accessibility of mobile. Billions more will be able to share knowledge and speedily exchange communication as we, the privileged already do today. The new 3 billion on the Internet will build their own apps, solve their own problems. Vivek Wadwha says, “Over time, Internet access will be cheap or practically free–just like electricity is today.”
In this digital age, we are all immigrants. As new American citizens, my parents knew they had to work harder- not just to get ahead- but to simply be rooted in American society. The wacky world wide web, similarly, is a landscape bursting with new tools and networks. Get to know them. Success won’t be written by established traditions or inherited ties we can take for granted. They don’t exist. Instead, having an immigrant mentality – that of continuous improvement and understanding of one’s niche in the new technological space- will be crucial. Claim your stake. Our roots remain the same, but we’re branching into new territory. Dreams do evolve.
…go on a run. Or if you’re like me, start running, stop after a block, and evaluate why you’re huffing and puffing like you’ve been running a marathon.
This is more than a story about being out of shape. It’s about dealing with obstacles that prevent you from reaching the finish line. Because when it rains, it pours, and in the aftermath of my most recent personal storm, I emerge completely bruised, battered, broken, and… blessed.
Over the past 90 days, a series of events had led me to believe the world was surely conspiring against me. In chronological order:
1. I was robbed in Providence,
2. I started experiencing hazy vision, due to scarring on my cornea,
3. My computer died,
4. I was averaging less than 5 hours of sleep/night,
5. I parted ways with my job.
Each of these sucked. The last was by far the hardest. There were several reasons for my dismissal from Venture for America, but the largest was that the company wasn’t a natural fit for me. We tried to make things work but ultimately discovered that it was unnatural to continue forcing myself in a position that just wasn’t cut to my shape.
Coming to this realization was difficult because I wanted so badly to contribute to the VFA mission. That was the plan. But when there lacks a natural, comfortable flow, something is probably off. I’ve learned that sometimes you must be willing to let go of what is planned, for the life that is truly right.
I can now focus on my health and peacefully take the time I need for surgery and recovery. I can now return to writing and exercising, which had all but disappeared when work took over. More importantly, I can now unapologetically be myself.
Last week, I whined to my friend about everything I’ve lost: my vision, my job, my health, even my cruddy old license which was stolen in Providence.
”I’ve been ripped of everything. What’s left?”, I cried.
“Family and friends. We remain.”, she said.
And that’s all I need. I was stripped of so many things associated with my ego to be reminded that none of that matters. What matters more than anything else is the love you have and the love you give, and I am blessed beyond belief to have an incredibly supportive network where all of that flows naturally.
For those dealing with similarly “catastrophic” events, remember that you aren’t possibly important enough for the world to plot against you. Think about what you do have and what is meant to emerge will do so naturally. If things aren’t working on a regular basis, perhaps you’re trying too hard to make two pieces of a different puzzle fit. Find another puzzle to solve.
Venture for America was a wonderful learning opportunity, and I am honored to have worked toward such a meaningful mission. Who knows what’s next. All I know is that however many more disasters it takes, I will eventually make it to the finish line.
“If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same…
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it”
Fairy godmothers do exist. Just meet the women at The Levo League, who are helping Gen-Y women define and achieve their dreams with a sprinkle of what they call ‘Levo Love.’
It is difficult to contain my excitement as I write about this thing called ‘Levo Love.’ Being a Gen-Y woman myself, I am grateful for the plethora of opportunities available to me today, and I reckon the majority of modern-day educated women agree. We are not interested in whining about the plight of gender inequality. The Levo League understands, which is why they stand at a unique position to tackle a new set of dilemmas facing ambitious women today.
Emphasis lies on the the word ambitious, for ambition these days can serve as a double-edged sword. While it allows women to advance further, how often does it also conjure images of suited-up, back-stabbing slave drivers who, by way of coercion, cattiness, and (dare I say?) canoodling, work their way to the top? Devil Wears Prada, anyone?
This cutthroat mentality is not quite what I get as I chat over coffee and delicious yogurt parfait with The Levo League co-founders Amanda Pouchot, 26, and Caroline Ghosn, 25, near their New York office. Pouchot giggles while she reads aloud quotes from her newly-madeTumblr. Meanwhile, Ghosn earnestly exclaims, “How cool is it that our new office is right across from the movie theater?!”
Both exude energy from the carefree California coast where they attended college. While Pouchot was heavily involved as a student leader at UC Berkeley with Panhellenic Council and academic organizations, Ghosn found her passion in social entrepreneurship and begged to take classes at the Stanford Design School (usually limited to graduate students) while she was a Stanford undergraduate.
Their paths crossed shortly after they graduated in November 2008. At their first day of training at McKinsey Consulting, they were the only two women straight out of college in a group of 30.
“I didn’t speak at our first meeting,” Pouchot said. “I was so intimidated.”
The two women gravitated toward each other and soon became each other’s support system. In the competitive male-dominated work atmosphere, they were limited in who they could reach out to for advice, so they started brainstorming ideas for a platform where women could find support. The Levo League was born.
“We wanted to create a platform that democratized mentorship so that women could have opportunities to meet established, successful women and receive advice,” Pouchot said. “Ultimately it was about Gen-Y women [us] building something for other Gen-Y women.”
Since its launch on March 20, The Levo League has created a multimedia website some would liken to a LinkedIn for women. It certainly helps that they have backers like Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg on their side.
But The Levo League’s beautiful ‘virtual corner office’ interface does more than just connect. With the modern office as your ‘home page,’ you can navigate to various sections, including a job search and company database, unique content on young professional lifestyle issues, and a ‘file folder’ stacked with career advice.
Click on the cozy-looking couch and you’re led to one of their most popular programs to date, “Office Hours,” which facilitates a series of live video chats with some of the most powerful women. Speakers so far have ranged from Gilt Groupe chairwoman Susan Lyne toFoodspotting co-founder Soraya Darabi. With a strong foundation in technology, questions to the women can be posed directly on the website or through tweeting and texting. “Office Hours” speakers resonate powerfully with The Levo League’s members.
Maghan McDowell, a magazine editor from Gainesville, Florida, is one of them.
“It is an incredible chance to learn from amazing real women that leave me wondering, ‘Is this real life?’” McDowell said.”It makes them seem more real, and it’s very inspirational. If they can do it, then why can’t I?”
That is what co-founder Ghosn likes to hear. One of her favorite quotes is the famous Jonathan Winters saying: “If your ship doesn’t come in, swim to it.”
She modified the quote saying, “Screw that, you don’t need a ship… just start swimming. You can swim toward an undefined goal, and you’ll figure it out as you swim.”
Levo, derived from the Latin root for ‘elevate,’ also aims to provide an upward financial trajectory for women, which is why the group is raising awareness about Equal Pay Day on April 17. On average, women make just 75 cents for every dollar their male counterparts makes.
“We want women to not be afraid to ask for more,” Pouchot said.
As The Levo League grows, more features are set to launch. One of them is The Levo Lounge, a conversation platform where members can message established women professionals on the network to individually connect for mentorship. Eventually, members will vote on “Office Hours” speakers in different fields. For now, anyone interested in becoming a member cansign up by submitting an ‘elevator pitch’ that describes her aspirations. Membership is capped at 10,000 for the month to enhance the experience for current users.
“Our short-term goal is to make these 10,000 women very happy,” Ghosn said. “Then we can focus on our long-term goal of becoming a generation-defining platform.”
Ultimately, it goes back to the simple Levo philosophy of women helping women.
“Our generation’s success will depend on individual successes, and the only way you can get those individual successes is to have a support network, a group that lifts you up,” Pouchot said.
Ladies, start showing some Levo Love. It’s a term you’re going to be hearing often very soon.
Abhi Lokesh and Alex Theodore are co-founders of Fracture, a start-up company based in Gainesville, Florida, and are constantly searching for the perfect team. They both agree that finding the right people to join the company is their biggest challenge.
“To me, it’s somewhat personal,” says Lokesh. “I want to prove that Fracture can be the best decision you ever made as a young professional, and that we can turn you into the best version of yourself.”
So, what do you get out of working at a start-up? Well, we all know you get free lunch at Google. But don’t expect that at all start-ups. Correction: don’t expect that at most start-ups. Do expect a never-ending workload, a lot of stress, and very few resources. Though you may not get free lunch, there are other perks.
Here are select responses from members of the Fracture team, who reveal some of those perks and what it takes to work at a start-up like Fracture. They work hard, but they also appear to wholeheartedly love their job, which might make you wonder what this start-up culture breeds.
What is it like to work at Fracture?
Matthew Bivens, Marketing: It’s like no other place I’ve ever worked at, that’s for sure. Our culture has evolved organically, and has become more defined as we have grown. Our office environment is relaxed and casual: employees can decorate their work spaces and really make them their own (can also set up shop wherever they like); we wear what we want for the most part, still maintaining a somewhat professional demeanor (no “free mustache rides” t-shirts); and we’re allowed to bring our pets into the offices, which is a huge plus. In typical startup fashion we have instruments of all kinds in our office, we host poker nights and try to make a point to get out and enjoy each others company outside of work on a regular basis. We’re a family, and that’s apparent after only a few minutes of hanging out with us.
The workload here is consistently high — this is a startup, so everyone has a to-do list with more work than there are hours in a day. Each of us was hired for a specific job, but inevitably we all wear many hats. It’s typical to see a marketing person helping out in production, or a customer service rep brainstorming to improve packaging workflow.
Sarah Ludwig, Custom Orders: It can be really fun. It can also be stressful, it gets intense, but it’s worth it. It’s the first time at a job where I’ve been accountable on this level. Everyone I work with is accountable. I mean, I’m twenty two, and I have a key, and I have my own entry code for the alarm system. If I do a bad job, everybody feels it; Fracture is going to feel it. I am directly responsible for the success of Fracture. Every person who works here is.
Honestly, that can be overwhelming. Sometime I miss not caring about what I do. And then I remember that I have a key. And an alarm code.
We all work a lot, I personally work more than most of my friends. I also get to listen to Cabaret on the speakers at the little laser (how great is that sentence) as loud as I want. Where else can I do that?
When we were going crazy to get orders out the door during hell week, we took a break to build a robo-mascot out of a broken water cooler. I feel completely fortunate to work with people that I feel happy around. People I can make a robot with when things get crazy.
Matt Santmyers, Business Development: Fracture has truly best the best and most challenging job I have held. I have learned more in 1 1/2 years with fracture than four years of college. Every day I am pushed to be better and to work harder constantly pushing to improve fracture. But at the end of the day, everyone here can still kick up their feet and relax and enjoy a night out with each other. It really is a great environment to work in.
What type of person does it take to thrive in Fracture’s work environment?
Barry Miller, Production: Three words: tenacious, hard-working, innovator. When working for a growing company, the words “normal work week” do not apply. Often times, orders need to be printed, processed, and fulfilled outside of the cushy 9-5 workers in America face. It can be taxing when equipment fails, supplies arrive late, or you encounter situations that leave your best laid plans in shambles. When those situations arise, you have to be able to dust off, find a solution, and carry on with the company mission. Finally, when you are helping get a company off the ground, you must be constantly looking for ways to improve. It can be tempting to just take things at face value and go with the flow. But without constantly looking for ways to do it better, you ultimately end up hurting the company, and with a young company, small injuries can lead to major problems.
Matthew Bivens, Marketing : We’re all young here, and although we have varying degrees of experience at what we do, this is our first startup experience. So immediately you have to check your ego at the door and realize that you might be asked to do something you have never done before; you might be asked to master something you never thought yourself capable of; and you might be asked to do it yesterday! The great thing is that, when you have a team of people that are cool, calm, and capable, no challenge is too large to tackle. Intelligence is a must, but I think having the capacity to learn and the hunger to keep pushing is much more important. It starts at the top with our co-founders, and their passion and enthusiasm has definitely trickled down and influenced the rest of us. We’ve assembled a team of Jedi here, individuals who were hired not just for their intelligence and ability to do a job well, but because they possessed the intangible skills that would allow them to thrive in a high pressure, fast paced startup environment.
You print pictures on glass, but running a business these days involves more than simply offering said product/service (marketing, follow-up, producing relevant content, etc.). Run me through day-to-day tasks that each Fracture team member works on, apart from handling orders.
Sarah Russell, Customer Service: We are continuing to grow and develop, and as we do that we assimilate more into our “official roles.” But that hasn’t completely detracted from one of my favorite parts of the start-up life here at Fracture – we all wear many hats. We’re a small team, but that just means we all have to be experts at what we do and then a few other things too. We’re all collectively writing the manual on how to do this. Everything about Fracture is proprietary and crafted with our customers in mind.
There is nothing typical about the day-to-today, but tasks include stocking, cutting and packaging materials on the production end. There is also printing, cleaning and shipping, which is of course crucial. There is planning and research and development projects for the future, along with web development and programming to update the site. Behind the scenes, marketing initiatives focused on the customer experience and business to business partnerships are being built and focused on. We try to keep open communication with our customers, as well, with the office phone, email and social media to stay connected and help them with anything they need. All in a good day’s work. And then there’s Watson and Sierra, the office dogs. Their jobs basically consist of tackling a few chew toys in between corporate naps.
This article was published on NextGen Journal on April 6, 2012.
To learn more about the Fracture team, read about the company on their website.
“Edgy, stunning world-domination.”
It is not quite the description you would expect for a photo printing company. Then again, the goal is not to simply print but to make memories tangible on glass, according to Sarah Ludwig, a Fracture employee. Fracture, a term coined by the company’s founders, Abhi Lokesh, 23, and Alex Theodore, 26, is defined as a one-piece glass picture frame that mounts easily to your wall. Based in Gainesville, Florida, the term has now become a 10-person company devoted to changing the way people print and share their digital memories.
“The idea of Fracture originally came from our desire to work with digital imagery,” explains Lokesh. “We kept circling around the concept of disrupting the photo printing and framing space by creating new, innovative, photo products that were affordable, eliminated all the traditional hassles of photo framing, and could be used by multiple demographics.”
While we are apt to snap away, many digital images remain littered on our hard drives.
“Each picture has a powerful, unique story to tell, but we really don’t have a compelling reason to print and frame any of them,” says Lokesh. “It is just too costly and inefficient.” Glass emerged as a perfect medium for the two University of Florida graduates to experiment with, mostly because of its modernity and cost-efficiency.
Consumers seem to agree. In its inaugural year, between 2009 and 2010, Fracture processed approximately 2,500 orders. In 2011, the numbers grew more than five-fold, as the team processed close to 13,000 orders from around the world and generated more than $400,000 in revenue.
Some of that growth can be attributed to a Groupon promotion, which exposed Fracture to over 5000 customers across the country. Ironically, it is also what Lokesh cites as one of the company’s biggest failures and learning experiences. After being overwhelmed with thousands of orders they could not fulfill, Fracture was forced to delay thousands of orders by several months.
“It was incredibly hard for me to watch my teammates be put through something that they couldn’t do anything about. I felt like I failed them by not understanding what exactly we were getting into,” says Lokesh. “We tried to be as transparent as possible with our customers through the entire process and learned an indescribable amount regarding customer relations and company transparency.”
What seemed like a setback turned into a positive growing experience.
“We committed to following through on all the Groupon customers,” says Lokesh. “We didn’t run and try and find the easy way out, as simple as that could have been.”
That is just one of many scenarios that start-ups like Fracture face on a daily basis. Co-founder Theodore says there is no one single lesson you can learn from starting a company. “Entrepreneurship is a mess of lessons that you earn an understanding of only by experience in battle,” he says.
Within the next year, Fracture plans to solidify its production process and branch into new products. In the long-term, the founders are thinking big.
“We want to be the Apple of photo decor…We’re really just scratching the surface of our potential, and we’re on the edge of some great things”, says Lokesh.
To see the lasting pieces of photographic art you can create, upload your photos to the Fracture website.
Think finding your passion is overrated? Meet Amber Rae and Nathaniel Koloc. They are determined to change your mind.
If you ask for their help, don’t expect a list of interest-based questions. They aren’t trying to figure out what you like to do. Their approach is more intrusive – perhaps a little uncomfortable – but radically honest. With a simple “Why?”, they bypass job titles and cut to to the heart of your motivation, believing that your values say more about you than a formal name plate.
Amber Rae, digitally known as Hey Amber Rae, reiterates this belief on her widely-circulated blog, stating:
No one cares what you do. They care why you do it.
If Amber Rae asks Why, Nathaniel Koloc asks How you accomplish the Why. Using tactics from Simon Sinek’s popular “Start With Why” book, along with their own personal strategies, the working duo is building a structured approach to realizing and channeling potential in the new school they’ve dreamed up, The Bold Academy.
Born out of the realization that too many college students are carrying diplomas that speak nothing to their true potential, The Bold Academy seeks to fill the gap that college may not be fulfilling for some. Purpose-focused and confidence-building, the Academy teaches students the skills needed to make ideas happen or to gain momentum toward ambitious goals.
“I can’t stand it when someone is full of energy and ready to lend that energy to making the world a better place but can’t because they can’t find the right outlet,” says Koloc. “The barriers could be societal or personal, but either way something needs to be done about it.”
Timing couldn’t be better. A recent New York Times op-ed dubbed this generation the “Go-Nowhere Generation”. Boasting a 16 percent unemployment rate among 16 to 24 year-olds, our stagnant youth could certainly use a kick starter.
The Bold Academy, however, is not a vocational training program. Nor is it summer enrichment.
“The Bold Academy is the culmination of all the work I’ve done since graduation in both figuring out my own path and in helping others to claim the lives they are meant to live with The Passion Experiment,” says Amber Rae.
To better understand the Bold Academy, it helps to know the background of its founders. Rae and Koloc are living examples of the can-do philosophy they preach. Though they are only in their 20s, their extensive experience and passion place them at a unique position to lead a generation of self-starters. Through her Passion Experiment, Amber Rae has coached hundreds of potential entrepreneurs, convincing them to quit their jobs and start companies. She also publishes stories of those who take the route less traveled on Revolution.is.
She describes herself not in characteristics but in the world she envisions, one “where human potential is not governed by what we’re told we can and cannot do”. Nathaniel Koloc, the other half of this dynamic duo, co-founded ReWork, a start-up dedicated to connecting young talent to meaningful work. Through working in the world of social impact and sustainability consulting, he has developed strategy for identifying talent and placing individuals in work that inspires them. As a 2011 Unreasonable Institute Fellow, he learned how to turn this idea into a business and is building it now in its inaugural year.
With the Bold Academy, Rae and Koloc join forces, along with a team of three others, to place a new emphasis on purpose. The Bold curriculum integrates this purpose with effectiveness, through six sections: self-awareness, integrity, confidence, risk-taking, resourcefulness, and strategy. The Academy does not emphasize one specific domain of skill or career path; instead, it takes a holistic approach. The month-long program begins July 1 and consists of workshops, skill-building sessions, and extra-curricular adventures in Boulder, Colorado.
Since releasing applications last week, the Bold Academy has already received a significant amount of interest, despite no other advertising than social media. This is exciting for Rae and Koloc, but the scope of their undertaking can also be overwhelming.
“I’m just so freaking excited to have this take place, it can be hard to just take a deep breath and do the next thing required to make it happen,” says Koloc.
In its inaugural year, The Bold Academy’s success will be measured by the feedback from its 24 participants (12 boys, 12 girls). “We want them to feel an intense burst of clarity…as well as a surge of confidence propelling them into action as they leave,” say Rae and Koloc.
Ultimately, there are bigger plans. Depending on how the summer goes, Rae and Koloc plan to refine the curriculum so it can be replicated across the country. Another future goal is to make scholarships available so more can afford the experience. Current all-inclusive tuition is $7,500.
“We envision thousands of students each summer going through the Bold Academy on campuses and in cities from coast to coast,” say Rae and Koloc.
For now, the team is focused on building the Academy’s foundation and selecting a talented group of students for this July. Until then, the team admits there is a lot of work. But what they lack in age, they make up for in conviction.
“One of the only things in this world that I’m sure of is that we all possess massive amounts of potential that, once unleashed, can make any dream, any vision, a reality,” says Amber.
I never knew how tough it could be to say goodbye to a business. My boss closed a restaurant in Harlem on Wednesday. Hoards of people came to pay their respects with a glass (or two or three) of wine, toasting to the restaurant’s 4.5 year run. It was a sad occasion, though by the number of people who came out (standing room only) you wouldn’t have guessed the economy was so bad. If only everyday were closing day…
All irony aside, the outpouring of support was incredible. After we officially announced the close through Twitter, tweet after tweet expressed dismay. Retweets, blog posts, and articles were written. My heart was warmed after reading about how many lives were affected by this cozy wine bar on the corner of 21st and Frederick Douglass. For many, this was their Cheers. One saddened customer wrote,
“Today is a sad day all around. It’s raining and my favorite neighborhood bar is closing. I go to Nectar because it’s my Cheers. Yes, sometimes you just want to go where everybody knows your name…There are so many things I love about Nectar, but most importantly I’ll miss seeing my friends and making new friends over a glass of Seven Sisters.”
To fully disclose my affiliation, I work for Jai Jai Greenfield, the former Wall Street trader-turned wine entrepreneur, owner of Harlem Vintage and now-closed Nectar Wine Bar NYC, as her digital assistant of sorts. It was amazing to see her strength during this difficult time, and my respect for her as both a businesswoman and individual has only grown. She is a strong supporter of the Harlem community and always dedicates time and money to philanthropic causes. Now that Nectar is closed, all efforts will be channeled to Harlem Vintage but you can be sure that Jai Jai will still make her presence known in the community.
We drafted this letter explaining the close to customers:
After the tears are wiped, let’s put our money where our mouths are. In her farewell toast, Jai Jai emphasized the importance of supporting small businesses.
“Most small businesses are resource-constrained. It’s not just money constraints; it’s that plus time and people constraints.”
Small businesses are the heart and soul of the American economy. These places need your support. If they don’t have it, they cannot survive, let alone flourish.
So, remember to support the little ones folks. We are lucky to have options and the ability to dine anywhere we want but in order to build a sense of community, we must support the businesses right in our own neighborhood.
Let’s toast to that.
Idealism at its best, but it’s always important to set missions and goals.
1. I believe the next generation is charged with a challenge: to coalesce gracefully with a rapidly evolving world,
2. I believe the current status quo in institutional education does not equip us with relevant tools to meet this challenge, nor does it produce the best version of our selves,
3. I believe in devoting our technological resources toward empowering individuals to explore a wide array of interests, then providing opportunities to hone the skills deemed meaningful to each of us,
4. I believe in the need for a creation-based platform that displays our works as a learning package for others to follow,
5. I believe individuals should create their own curriculum: learning by consistently producing content that contributes to public discourse and education, and doing by connecting with the right people on collaborative projects,
6. I believe in using said platform to simultaneously craft our individual and shared biographies,
7. I believe that when we creatively express, discover, and collaborate among various disciplines, we can reach an unprecedented level of synergy in the world,
8.I believe that by creating this platform our generation will be more than able to meet the challenges presented,
9. And I believe the world will be a better place when we each find our bliss, beautifully giving to the world what it deserves of us.
Imagine a world lifestream. David Gerlenter, professor at Yale, otherwise known as oracle, predicts that in the future all of the world’s data will be consumed through a ‘lifestream’.
A particular goal is to create a lifestream which aggregates the most popular social network streams, and includes email and stuff like that. It will generate revenues the way Twitter and Facebook do—by getting huge numbers of users, beginning at the place we know, Yale University undergraduates, who love glitzy new software.
Read the full Washington Post interview. It’s an insightful foray into the future. I certainly do believe that we need a more elegant and useful way to organize our digital lives and these so-called lifestreams may be key to that. Facebook won’t be around forever.