Hey everyone! I’ve been on hiatus because — as was the original intention of this blog — I Co-Founded and run a media company with renowned relationship expert, Esther Perel. Esther is a psychotherapist, New York Times best-selling author, and TED Talk all-star who I interviewed as one of my coffee dates (interview forthcoming). We've been working our tails off to help people better navigate modern relationships. What I'm learning is, even once you get the perfect job, you must continue to learn and grow. I have a whole new set of questions for my peeps, so I'm getting back in the coffees ring. Kicking back off with my favorite human. Stay tuned...
Chels and I have a long history together. We’ve danced to "Sweet Caroline" at our high school Homecoming (as teens) AND in a sweaty summertime Brooklyn bar wearing bras and skirts (as 30-somethings). We've delivered emergency supplies to Staten Island after Hurricane Sandy and coached one another through heartbreak.
We met on the first day of high school in Mrs. Morehouse’s Freshman English class at Huntington Beach High. We were 14, and I’d say we were both in the “kinda nerdy, but maybe in a cool way?” high school camp.
The first thing I noticed about Chelsea was her effortless, chic style. She rocked long skirts and vintage OP shorts like nobody else. For many years following, I’d try to emulate Chelsea’s boho-chic fashion. I only stopped trying when Madewell opened its doors in 2006, and I realized denim collared shirts were my thing.
Oozing a nonchalant confidence, she'd skate up to suburban high school house parties like Roller Girl. Back then (and still) Chelsea prefers to transport herself and explore places with the power of her own body -- be it running the streets of Sydney to explore the city while studying abroad (she has also run eight marathons), biking two hours each way to get to a NY beach on summer Saturdays (you can take the gal out of Cali, but you can't take the Cali out of the gal), or roller-skating newly paved streets (why drive when you can skate?). This is important to note, because early on, I knew that Chels didn't always follow the recipe. I liked that.
I also clearly remember that Chelsea actually read the books assigned to us in English class (vs. my CliffsNotes skimming). She loved books and always had a great recommendation of the next I should read. So, it made sense when Chelsea moved to New York City in 2007 to jump-start her career in the literary scene.
Chelsea started as an editor at Europa Editions. She wanted to work more closely with the writers, so she found a job with an agent (as his assistant). There, she had the chance to start representing her own clients right away. Less than a year later, she sold her first project. Eventually she moved from Assistant to Director of Foreign Rights then on to a Full-Time Agent.
Lit is not a fast-moving biz. Books take years to write, the editing process is long, and once those things happen, pub date (publish date) is about a year later! So...this is not a business of immediate gratification. People do it because they love stories and believe in the power of storytellers.
Today, Chelsea's roster of talented authors relies on her to make their author
dreams come true. I get it, because one of those writers is my adoring girlfriend,
Georgia (total coincidence. More on this later). Georgia's career as a novelist hinges on Chelsea's ability to market and sell her work. Talent management work is dualistic: you're building someone else's career, while simultaneously striving to build your own. Management of this kind is incredibly personal and intimate. The types of books and authors you choose to represent defines who you are in a way.
Chelsea delights in surrounding herself with creative weirdos. She’s my non-judgmental friend who I can talk to about credit card debt and unusual crushes. She’s also the first person I called when I got a job offer from charity: water in NYC. My big question was about living expenses in New York City and if I could live off of my offer. She said, "Totally." I said, "Great, see you in three weeks." When she picked up my call, Chelsea was hosting Lady Book Club at her apartment and she enthusiastically announced to the group that they were getting a new member!
Chels recently got married to coffee #4's older brother, Ryan (shout out to RyBoNewman!). The lovebirds met when Chels and Ryan were both crashing at coffee #12 and my Brooklyn apartment (are you following?). Chelsea needed a place to sleep while AirBnB'ing her East Village apartment for some extra cash (#NYLIFE). Ryan was in from Chicago visiting his little brother. It was a full house. That weekend, Chelsea and Ryan watched a Lakers game together, ate artisanal granola, and fell in love. Now they live in California with their rescue dog, Moose.
This is a true story.
During my toast at their intimate NorCal wedding, I took the liberty of inviting
myself to all future Lindman/Newman/Sullivan Thanksgivings. They agreed : )
Chels is coming to New York next week. She’s crashing on my couch. And I predict we’ll keep up this bi-coastal-couch-crashing until we can afford to live in homes that have guest rooms -- and then we'll crash there. She's part of my life-long spirit squad, and I know we'll be adventuring together for as long as our bodies will allow.
1. Sometimes you have to go far away before coming back together again.
I've known Chelsea for more than half of my life. After high school, we did our own thing for a handful of years. But we kept in touch and would typically connect over the holidays, in downtown Huntington Beach at a terrible bar. While most of our friends from childhood began new phases of their lives (marriage and babies), she and I were still solidly in the “I only have hummus and champagne in my fridge" phase. It was comforting to not be the only one. When I moved across the country four years ago, we became better friends than ever. Stay in touch with the people you vibe with. You never know when they'll swoop in and change your life.
2. Think about the life you want. Then werq your career to fit your life mold.
Chelsea asked herself, Can I see myself living the life of a NY literary type five years from now? Nope. She knew she wanted to be closer to her family on the west coast with more access to nature. After much consideration, she took a big chance moving to San Francisco, away from the hub of the lit world. She knew she'd be more disconnected from people in her industry on a personal level, but she didn’t want the NY lifestyle long-term.
Success in the lit agent biz is based mostly on taste and personal relationships. So stepping away from NY and changing how she approached relationship development was scary. But Chelsea wasn't the sort of person who could just find another 9-5 -- that'd be like finding another identity. She's also not the sort of person to rest on the ole status quo. She and I made a list one night on a napkin - the good ol' PROS/CONS list. The PROS won out. And so far, it's working.
HEY LINDS! How are you thinking about your career path and life path working together?! This is a question I ask myself all the time -- usually in the context of where I want lay down long-term roots, raise babies and grow old. I've never been to Portland, and I still think that might be my spirit city. TBD. But the idea of location independence is super appealing to me right now.
3. ATTN FREELANCERS/REMOTE EMPLOYEES: Dedicated work space is muy importante.
Chelsea has been working from home for two years. She has a set morning routine, is diligent about using her calendar to book out her day, and makes a point to only work from her desk.
Also important: taking mental breaks and getting out of the house. When working from home, you don't have to commute - which is a good and bad thing. She really loves the uninterrupted work space (and sharing her office with her dog, Moose). But there are challenges as well. Most people are outside and around other humans at least twice a day (commuting to and from work). If you're not intentional about engaging with the world outside of your home office, you might not leave for days. It's necessary to shift your focus away from the computer screen and activate your brain in different ways throughout the day.
When working from home, you don’t have as many organic distractions like you do in an office. Being remote, you aren't just going to have spontaneous conversations with people in the office kitchen or in Union Square on your lunch hour. So, what can you do during typical office hours to proactively be present with others? How can you actively manufacture those additional connections?
Personally, I know I'm not typically productive between 3pm - 5pm. I zone out and accomplish nothing. I can make the most of the afternoons by scheduling meetings out at a coffee shop, or take exercise breaks, instead of staring at my computer screen. Pay attention to your own flow.
4. Business Journaling. Just do it.
Chels told me that she's started business journaling. At end of day, M-F, she jots down what she did THAT DAY to help her clients generate income.. Super short -- nothing involved other than one or two lines. This helps her keep on track for the short term, and also helps her to take a moment to reflect and celebrate since she doesn't get the in-office/community feedback on the day-to-day.
I met Jamison Monroe on the dance floor.
It was at a Pencils of Promise fundraiser in Midtown NY the fall of 2012. The room was full of smart, driven, vivacious people -- and this particular guy had moves. He was wearing a grey hooded sweatshirt with a ‘Newport Academy’ crest on the chest pocket. I grew up in Huntington Beach, CA (which neighbors Newport Beach), so I assumed he was my people. Being 3,000 miles away from home, I cling to fellow Californians!
Turns out, Jamison is a Texan -- but I decided we could be friends anyways.
He and I maintained an enthusiastic dance circle for the whole after party. High on life from busting moves, a group of us grabbed a drink after the official party ended. At a West-side wine bar I ordered pinot noir. Jamison ordered a ginger ale. He was sober. As it turned out, Newport Academy is a comprehensive treatment program (including recovery residential facilities and sober high schools) for adolescents suffering from mental health, behavioral health and substance abuse issues. Jamison is the founder.
After the PoP party night, I kept running into Jamison, unexpectedly. Who was this guy? How does one become the founder of a high school for adolescents recovering from destructive behaviors? I wanted to know more. So, we met for coffee (which turned out to be tea).
When Jamison was 18 he was living in Houston, had been arrested twice, and was a full-blown drug addict. He realized he was either going to 1. Kill himself 2. Kill someone else or 3. Go to rehab. He chose #3. Raised in what might have appeared like a perfect childhood environment, Jamison began his descent into alcohol and drug abuse as a teen. Over the next few years, he was admitted to a number of well-known treatment programs where he would remain sober for a handful of months before relapsing. Despite a supportive family, Jamison remained in this life-threatening cycle until he realized that for rehab to stick, he had to get outta town.
He moved to Southern California, leaving behind everything he knew, and entered a treatment center. This center focused on personalized, comprehensive and holistic treatment that allowed him to safely address his individual underlying issues (while balancing an effective amount of family involvement). It was there that he finally got sober. In the process, he became aware of there were hardly any resources for families with children dealing with self-harm, substance abuse, eating disorders, conduct disorders and other forms of self-destructive behaviors. Newport Academy was born.
Newport Academy now has locations in Newport Beach, CA, Darien, CT and a third opening in New York City this Spring. Their focus is sustainable healing, which seems to be working. 80% of kids that go back to a traditional educational environment post recovery treatment relapse within 30 days. But 80% of Newport Academy attendees make it to one-year sober. #winning
1. Systems are More Powerful Than the Individual
Jamison believes that people are products of their environments: 1. Primary environment (family system) and 2. Secondary environment (peer group). So, if we are looking at the reasons why teens are acting out, environment is the first issue to be addressed.
Conversely, why do some people seem unstoppable? Positive primary and secondary environments perhaps? My time spent with Jamison encouraged my to think about the human systems that surround me.
For my dad's 60th birthday a couple years ago, I converted some home videos from VHS to digital files. One of those videos documented my three-year-old self playing in the sandbox at Central Park with the 1980's version of my parents. In the video footage, they were both engaged, patient and loving. My supportive and inspiring family system and positive peer group have played a central role in who I am today. As well as helped pave the way for my personal courage this past year. Go team.
2. Openness Can Free You From Isolation
I am so impressed with Jamison’s openness about his past. Culturally, I think we can all agree that there's shame surrounding addictions. Once Jamison realized he wasn’t alone, he set out to help people. Jamison took his negative experience and turned it into a positive one through sharing his experience. Now, he has been recognized as one of the addiction field's youngest and most prolific agents of change.
3. Some Topics Are Tough to Talk About
But they're real and we must get better at talking about them. Currently nearly 24 million Americans struggle with drug and alcohol addiction -- of course, affecting not only those addicted, but also their families, friends and communities. Right after meeting Jamison, his work hit home. When I flew to California for Thanksgiving that year, there were red ribbons decorating the downtown HB city streets. The ribbons were commemorating the life of an 18 year-old boy who went to my high school -- and recently died of a heroin overdose. Drug abuse is currently a huge problem in Orange County.
Jamison is actively developing projects to de-stigmatize mental health addictions. He is the co-founder of a boutique dinner party series called DrugsOverDinner. The goal of the culinary project is to inspire 1 million people to convene, break bread and discuss this critical topic of drugs and addiction. He also recently produced a documentary about the prescription drug abuse epidemic in Orange County and beyond youth drug use in the OC called Behind the Orange Curtain.
Dear Sheryl Sandberg,
Kayti Sullivan is leaning in. Look her up.
Kayti and I first bonded in college, while playing boozy dodgeball games in matching Greek t-shirts as undergrads at University of California, Santa Barbara. Sully, as we called her, was one of many Pi Phi sisters who defied my preconceived notions of ditzy Legally Blonde sorority girls. Yes, we have a secret handshake. No, I will not show it to you.
This girl walks with a trail of sparkle, and her shimmer rubs off on everyone in her wake. After years of traveling down our separate life paths, she and I reconnected when I moved to The City Where Dreams are Made Of to work with charity: water. Sully was one of the only old friends I knew who lived in New York, so when I took the job, I pinged her. Even though we hadn't spoken in years, she responded enthusiastically right away, let me sleep on her couch for the first few nights, invited me out with her friends, and showed me around Williamsburg. Our re-kindled friendship quickly became the greatest comfort when I moved to this big, intimidating city. She is 99% responsible for me moving to Brooklyn and we cohabitated for the first three years I lived on the East Coast.
Here's why sharing a home with Kayti is the best:
1.) She's a morning person. The sound of the front door closing at exactly 6.30am served as a daily motivation to get out of bed and go to the gym like Kayti. (More accurately, it was a daily reminder that I was pushing snooze five times and not going to the gym).
2.) She and I can thoughtfully discuss what it means to be a human being and have a two-person Justin Timberlake dance party on the same night.
Kayti applies 100% of her energy to whatever is in front of her. At the office, she's not satisfied until she understands everything going on around her. She’s the most focused, sweaty cyclist in spin class. She's the first to challenge anyone to a chugging contest: I've watched many a beefy dude walk away in shame. The moment she decides she's tired, she'll pass out like a toddler riding in the backseat of a car within two minutes. No matter what she's doing, Kayti is all in.
Our roommate-ship recently ended when she and her husband Morgen (coffee #4 and the other half of an inspiring curly-haired couple) moved across the pond to London.
In 2007, Kayti interviewed for an entry-level sales job with an unknown start-up in San Francisco called Yelp. Now, in 2014 at 30 years old, she’s the Head of European Sales, responsible for growing the business and managing the Germany, Ireland, and UK offices.
Sully worked her butt off to get there. When first offered a management position, she read every book on the topic that she could find. Recognizing she didn't know all the answers right away, Kayti was humble and open to learning. She was eager to get feedback for how she could improve -- not just searching for compliments, but soliciting constructive criticism. This allowed her to adapt quickly in her new role, accelerate her learning, and change the way other people saw her.
Kayti is considered young for her big-time job. Her hair is big, blond and curly. She smiles a lot. Her personality is positively effervescent. And she’s consistently the person who sends me ridiculous “how the hell did you find this” videos. But don't underestimate Kayti Sullivan. She manages hundreds of employees. And she does it very well. I’ve been told she has a “dazzling” leadership style. I dream of one day becoming a people-manager as excellent as her.
Note to Self: What makes someone a dazzling manager?
The #1 piece of advice she gives to ambitious people coming through the office door is to
“If you do that, opportunities will open up and it's up to you whether or not you want to walk through those doors when they do. But you create them *dramatic pause* by putting your butt in your seat *dramatic pause* and making yourself excellent.” Kayti lifts everyone around her up, because she insists that they recognize the excellence in themselves.
After three months on different continents, we spent this past weekend together, celebrating our good buds Caroline (coffee #6) and Rasmus' fairytale wedding on Lake Lucern, Switzerland. Laughing, dancing and snacking on Swiss cheese highlighted how much I miss my roomie -- a whole-hearted bastion of life, who sips only from beer steins that are half-full.
1. Don’t stress out.
Early in her career, Sully was weighed down by the pressure to hit sales numbers at her new job, as well as the 20-something pressure to figure out who she was as a human. In response, she got hyper-organized. She realized that once you put a plan in place, anxiety dissipates, so you can handle anything thrown at you. Making a plan also makes time for binge-watching Felicity and Gossip Girl, without guilt.
Kayti's mum, Sue (an Aussie from Melbourne), studied and worked at Stanford and is a neurobiologist who discovered an enzyme in the human brain (no big deal). But you'd never guess it upon meeting her, in the best way. Sue has a genuine interest in the value that each person she meets brings to the table and treats every person she meets with respect.
Learn about the colleagues and friends you spend your days with, and take a real interest in the value that everyone have to offer.
3. Choosing a great life partner is super important.
The person you choose as your partner is the most important decision you'll make in life. Kayti and Morgen constantly adventure-travel together, brainstorm new company ideas over dinner, and illuminate the beautiful wacky side of one another. There is no question why they were invited to, and attended, a wedding every weekend last summer.
Marriage expert John Gottman has found that spouses willing to receive input from his or her partner(s) is a key indicator for happy, stable marriages. The majority of their courtship developed while they lived long-distance. When they got married, Morgen based in Boston where his company IdeaPaint was based, moved down to New York. Morgs is an outdoors enthusiast, so New York was not his #1 option of places to begin their married life. But they found a perfect compromise in the form of a simple duplex in New Paltz, a historic village nestled between the Shawangunk Mountains and farmland (their weekend retreat). The adaptability and desire to grow that exists in their individual work worlds is equally important in their relationship.
4. Face conflict head-on.
Difficult, uncomfortable conversations are inevitable in life. Dive right in with the opening line, “I’m just going to rip the bandaid off, then we can talk about it.”
5. Don’t let analysis paralysis slow you down.
People commonly face decision-based anxiety that gives us “analysis paralysis.” We are all defined by the big life decisions that we make. . . . but decisions are not final. You can choose a path, then change course. Missteps aren't the end of the world. One of Kayti's strengths is her ability to critically assess her path and be willing to change her goals.
After finishing a Masters in Ancient European Art, she began pursuing jobs in galleries and museums. But despite the fact she'd spent her entire academic career immersed in the art world, she quickly realized that she couldn’t imagine a future in that space. Her new litmus test for job hunting became the question, ”Do I want to be the person who is interviewing me when I grow up? Are the leaders of the company inspiring and am I confident about putting my financial future into their hands?” When she interviewed at Yelp, she thought, “These people are engaging, contemporary, from varied backgrounds, and I could see myself having a career like them one day.” So she followed her intuition and took the job based on the three Yelpers she met with. She has always been a supportive brand ambassador and truly believes in the company. When she and Morgen got married, they hired the caterer, photographer, and DJ off Yelp.
High five for following your intuition.
PS. Andrew Firestone from The Bachelor Season 3 (of the Firestone Wine family in the Santa Barbara area) came to our sorority house to win votes when his father Brooks Firestone was running for local office one year. #whereishenow? #FirestonePinotNoirFullCircle
I have a hunch that we’ll look back on this moment in history, and Dan Johnson will have quietly captured the essence of a time. His work will hang on the walls of galleries like the Morrison Hotel, visually documenting the characters and spirit of a generation.
Master photographer, Richard Avedon (1923 - 2004) documented the Civil Rights Movement and photographed cultural icons like Audrey Hepburn and Andy Warhol, focusing on the inner worlds of his subjects. The famed shutterbug’s minimalist portraits “helped define America's image of style, beauty and culture for the last half-century" (The New York Times). At the same time in history, Allen Ginsberg (1926 - 1997) was influencing a counterculture movement; taking casual snapshots of like-minded friends who “bonded because they saw in one another an excitement about the potential of American youth” (the internet). Even though Ginsberg didn't consider himself a photographer by trade, his photos now help shape our current understanding of the American Beat Movement of the 1950’s and 60’s.
To me, Dan’s body of work is a Jaydiohead-esque mash-up of the two artists. Dan feels deeply, and like Avedon, instills his images with a sensitivity to the world around him and a relentless experimental drive. And he draws mutual inspiration from creative friends a la Ginsberg, capturing the everyday lives of his own circle of Merry Pranksters. An outstanding listener and intense observer of his surroundings, Dan is a person whose senses are always on high alert -- like a traveler exploring a new country. He has an ability to view and capture moments that embody both realism and fantastical elements, with unique perspective. Dan’s camera lens is a magic wand, used to turn the ordinary into the extraordinary.
Travel and lifestyle photographer Nick Onken says that outside of technical considerations, to be a good photographer, “Be an interesting person, hang out with interesting people, and go interesting places.” According to this definition, Dan is the best photographer I know. He has a nomadic spirit, constantly seeking out new visual and emotional inspirations. He lives bi-coastally between LA and NY, but only recently started renting an apartment in one of those cities -- on any given day, he could be flying to Mexico to photograph a friend in Sayulita, driving to Utah for an impromptu month of snowboarding to make the most of freshly fallen powder, or scuba diving in Nicaragua. Dan loves the opera, he lived in Senegal for five months just to learn French, and he’s dedicated to his morning meditation practice. Open-minded, he's always up for an adventure and open to thinking through any idea, regardless of how small or ridiculous that idea may seem to other people.
Wherever in the world I am, whatever I'm doing, it's never out of the realm of possibility that Dan might show up!
Dan unexpectedly appeared in Montauk to celebrate my 30th birthday with a group of my nearest and dearest. That April Friday, he was released from a hold on a NY photo-assistant job, so he hopped on the Hampton Jitney bus (after missing Long Island Railroad train :) with a tiny backpack. I picked him up on a street next to the beach. His shoes were off, camera around his neck, skinny jeans cuffed, per usual. He dove right in to the dance party happening in my friend Morgen’s (fifty coffee #4) beat-up Subaru, and suddenly it was hard to imagine Dan not having been there all along. A few weeks later, I received the most special birthday gift: a Dropbox folder of astounding photos that captured a rare and magical gathering of my family and closest friends, perfectly preserving the best weekend of my life.
I’d love to crawl into to Dan’s mind, and see the world through his eyes. He grew up in a small, conservative town in Missouri and tells me that he was a very shy child (two things you wouldn’t guess if you met Dan today on the streets of New York City). Over the past few years, I’ve watched him break out of that shy social and creative shell, boldly coming into his own in both realms.
Since meeting Dan, I knew he was a thoughtful old soul with vision. But the moment I discovered the depth of his talent wasn’t until after our friend's weekend birthday celebration in the mountains. Per usual, he had his Canon camera flung around his neck and was snapping away throughout the festivities. The result was a breathtaking digital album of memories that truly captured the spirit of a very special, joy-filled gathering of forty friends who traveled from near and far to be together. Dan’s moment-driven images of the dinners and dance parties and glitter bombs from that weekend were brimming with incredible energy, movement, and magic.
Dan lives the life of a true artist; not only a fab photographer, but also an eloquent writer, thinker, designer, creator. When he’s telling a story, he’ll often uses his hands and arms to help express the grandness of a thought. He’s handsome, and never overly concerned with his wardrobe -- which makes him appear artist-like at all times. He is kind-hearted, generous with his time and talent, and cares deeply about his friends and family (especially his three-year-old niece, Ava). He thinks deeply. Feels deeply.
Dan has identified a triangle of personal driving forces in his life, and is constantly searching for opportunities that allow his triangle of driving forces to work in unison. For the majority of his career, Dan has been a freelance web, print, and motion graphics designer. Sometimes finding the triangle sweet spot, like when he created a motion graphics video piece for non-profit Falling Whisltes. But last year, he decided to shift his artistic career path, focusing solely on photography, starting with this symbolic photo series, Rebirth.
Dan is the person most responsible for me believing in myself as a creative person. This support of creative thinking is explored in an insightful book called Creative Confidence, defined as “the ability to come up with new ideas and the courage to the try them out.”
Dan is my favorite creative date partner. He's taken me to Drink and Draw (a nude human form drawing class in Brooklyn, complete with DJ and PBR beers), introduced me to the book The Artist's Way, and photo-safari-ed me through the MoMA PS1 contemporary art museum for the first time.
Dan just launched issue #000 of his monthly periodical highlighting a collection of images, thoughts, and inspirations from his current work; as he describes it, “A periodic catalogue of my creative life. It’s a little viewfinder into my artistic process. A visual journal of the people in my life and a digest of the places I gather inspiration from.” Dan had shown me a preliminary version of the first issue while staying at my Brooklyn apartment. He started putting the issue together last fall, but later abandoned the idea. I gushed over the concept and content, encouraging Dan to complete and launch the project. A week later, he launched the first issue! It is a visual feast. (CLICK ON THIS LINK NOW AND JOIN THE MAILING LIST. THANK ME LATER).
Shockingly, Dan is never as wowed by his own work as I am. Even great talents are hindered by their creative insecurity. As part of issue #000, he says, “I’ve spent a large part of my life paralyzed by the prospect of failure, especially when it comes to matters of creation; afraid to undertake an endeavor without guarantee of success, reinforced by a lazy perfectionism, and the perceived need to figure everything prior to doing anything.” SAY WHAT! In regards to the periodic catalogue project, Dan says,
Dan Johnson is like the hot guy in high school who has no idea he's hot, yet. The day he and I sat down for our official coffee date, he casually snapped a few photos as we walked around the city, which I was barely aware of. One of those shots is the picture on this blog's PROJECT page link. Of all the photos taken of me as an adult, Dan’s feel the most like me. And I'm not the only one who feels this way! Dan’s impromptu portraits can be seen on OkCupid, Tindr, and the Facebook profiles of least 30 people I know. Just last week, I saw a guy named Zach Bell post a Twitter photo with the caption, “Thnx @danielnjohnson for the best photo ever taken of me.” Dan’s portraiture captures the personality, soul, and essence of his subjects.
Ansel Adams said, “You don't make a photograph just with a camera. You bring to the act of photography all the pictures you have seen, the books you have read, the music you have heard, the people you have loved.” Dan’s anything is possible attitude, and the people, places, sights, and sounds that he’s encountered with open arms, all contribute to his unique perspective.
Dan throws off his jeans and dives into the chilly January Pacific ocean waters, wearing just boxer briefs. He replies “Sure” to random emails from virtual strangers inviting him to fly to Congo to take pictures next week. He says yes to life, and always keeps a little room in his heart for the unexpected.
1. Unlock your own creativity and see what unfolds
Creative potential is an innate natural human ability within all of us. For the majority of my adult life, I didn’t view myself as creative. I didn’t pay the bills making things that we can see, hear, smell, touch, or taste. Now I realize you can be creative without specifically being a creator. We can all think creatively, problem solve creatively, live creatively -- regardless of our occupations.
Dan recalled the story that when sculpting the statue of David, Michelangelo believed that it was his job to free the human form from a piece of marble he was working with. Michelangelo did not carve David from chunk of marble, but rather allowed David to become what the marble already was. Benjamin Hoff captures a similar concept in his book The Te of Piglet when he says, "I’m not writing this book, that would be Struggle and Difficulty. Instead I’m letting the book write itself, through me. That’s Fun and Excitement. It flows along and I follow as best I can.” I’m tapping into my creative confidence and building fifty coffees from a heart place, uncovering what this project already is.
2. Build a Creative Community
Find people who encourage you to experiment with your wild ideas, and surround yourself with positive creative peer pressure. Creativity can flow more easily when you have collaborators to bounce ideas off of. Mutual inspiration could push your project or thinking in a new and exciting direction - or at least give you the confidence to start, launch, show, post, etc. Plus, it’s more fun to create with friends.
In his book Outliers, Malcom Gladwell makes the argument that our life circumstances and who we surround ourselves with influences our human potential. He says, "What we do as a community, as a society, for each other, matters as much as what we do for ourselves.” It’s probably not a coincidence that James Baldwin (one of the best authors of our time) and Richard Avedon (one of the most prolific visual artists of our time) were high school friends. Right?
3. Photos tell the story of 1,000 words
Dan sent me an email a couple days ago about the PROJECT page photo. He wrote, “The more I look at this photo the more significance I think it takes on for you and whatever this next phase of your life entails:
- "Essen" - German for eating or food
- "Worldwide Services” - Your influence is going to be more global than it ever has before, and whatever you do is going to continue to be of service to others, even a career for yourself.
- “Synchronizing…” - Umm yes synchronicity/serendipity.
- Taxi / Mailbox Delivery truck - Transportation, communication and connection.
- Camera - You may not be a photographer with a capital “P” but the lens through which you view people in your life is unique and wonderful.
- Bike helmet - Your safety net is yourself. It's with you all the time. Keep taking risks. Also could represent the people you hold close; we’ve got your back, so continue to take risks, and continue to hold the ones you love close to you.
- And you confidently crossing the street, looking fabulous and beautiful, cos you are.” (*blushing*)
fifty coffees by the numbers.
Thank you to everyone who is reading this, right now. I started this project as a personal creative outlet. But now, your interest and inspiration are fueling me to keep going. Ten down, forty beverages to go!
Where's my head at?
I'd love to say that my mind is clear and I see a clear future path. Nope. I feel even more confused about what's next than I did when I started this thing. I've been talking, reading, watching -- collecting and absorbing a lot of information. And while I've been giving myself time to weed through my interpretations, my brain is on overload.
On a positive note, I feel invigorated! I am confident that possibility surrounds us all, and as Ellie Goulding says, Anything Could Happen.
What has changed?
- Yoga practice.
The best purchase I've made since March 1st is my unlimited month-long pass to Kula Yoga in Williamsburg. From March 15 - April 15, I was structuring my days around yoga classes, practicing five times per week. My mind and body haven't felt better in years. As soon as I have an income again, I'll be back in the unlimited monthly routine (YO, KULA. Hook a sister up!)
- I'm at home, a lot.
I've been writing at local coffees shops and from my apartment. Writing is a solitary exercise, and some days, I miss the buzz of a team-oriented office space.
- I feel like a creative!
I've spent many years supporting other people in his or her creative roles, never considering myself "creative." Through this project, I am unleashing my own creative confidence and it feels GOOD.
- I am enjoying having an active and productive medium to engage with my friendship circle. These official coffee meetings are purposeful blocks of time spent together. I sit down with friends with a topic and goal.
- The first ten coffees are shining a light on the type of people I am drawn to. I see a through line of individual thinkers, entrepreneurs and courageous risk takers. The people we surround ourselves with influence us in subtle yet profound ways. My circle of friends is astounding!
- On the other hand, am I only seeking out people who reinforce my beliefs? Maybe it's time for me to shake things up, and sit down with an individual who challenges my thinking. This great INC. article explains why that's a good plan.
- Writing, in general, and articulating big thoughts about complex human beings are really difficult tasks. I have a new appreciation for journalists, authors, bloggers, etc.
- Everyone could benefit from having an editor you trust. Someone who knows you well and understands what you're trying to say. My editor is one of my best friends, and has helped guide my writing in remarkable ways. Don't be afraid to ask your circle of friends for help.
- A big website wrote a feature about the project! I didn't see that coming, and must admit that I was very excited. Makes this all feel too legit to quit.
- Vulnerability and openness have powerful positive affects.
- It's important to give ourselves time and space to explore our own processes of self discovery.
- Believe in yourself, get out there, and take action, even if it's a small one.
- Can the coffees process really help me determine what's next?
- Is fifty coffees just an elaborate procrastination?
Ian and I belong to a secret club.
It's called The Whistler Society. In 2009, a group of eight twenty-something idealists met in a Venice Beach office (a garage with Ikea lighting and desks we found on the street) every Monday night at 8:30pm. Our mutual friend Sean had just launched a non-profit organization called Falling Whistles (that's a longer story). So, he gathered a group of like-minded friends to formulate ideas to build a movement of supporters, and also inspire and support one another. In Sean’s original email invite, he wrote, “We live in historic times that call for us to come together and create in new ways. It's my hope that this is a place where we do just that and in the process, learn how to guide others in doing the same.” Each gathering began with a collective reading of our mantra that concluded with MLK's words: “This hour in history needs a dedicated circle of transformed nonconformists... The saving of our world will come, not through the complacent adjustment of the conforming majority, but through the creative maladjustment of a nonconforming minority.”
Monday nights were the best part of my week. At the time, I was working for a soulless commercial talent agency, brokering big corporate endorsement deals for celebrities in the US and overseas. I hated it. But Monday nights were a glimpse into the way I wanted to spend my days; surrounded by original thinkers, talking about ideas and solving problems on big whiteboards. I'd drive at least an hour to get to the Westside, battling the freeway traffic from the Hollywood Hills to Venice. At the secret club meetings, we sat in a circle on the floor, ate cookies and sipped sake, read inspirational passages, shared design articles, debated political new stories, and talked about the systemic problems in Congo. This probably sounds like a big ol' hipster idealist cliche, and maybe we were embodying one, but these nights were so special to me. Each person that showed up was impressively well-spoken and thoughtful. We talked and listened. We motivated and challenged each other. We laughed. And we had only one rule: Every idea, no matter how tired or radical, must be allowed, if spoken with respect for one’s fellow man and woman.
It’s perfect that Ian and I first met in the context of this inspirational community. He and his friend Tyler drove even further than I did to get to those Monday night gatherings. They both lived in Newport Beach, 1.5 hours away from Venice. At just 24 years old, Ian was working as the Manager of Global Marketing for Quiksilver. Reporting to the president of the corporation, Ian had a huge amount of responsibility on his young shoulders. He looks back on that period as the worst year of his life. Despite a strong belief in his ability to succeed, he was under-prepared for the role and constantly stressed out. Monday nights were a refuge for him, too.
The Whistler Society proved to us that there were others a little bit lost and figuring out life, who also believed that business could be an engine for prosperity and social change. We found people like us! Like-minds. Members of our tribe. Seth Godin defines a tribe as “a group of people connected to one another, connected to a leader, and connected to an idea. A group needs only two things to be a tribe: a shared interest and a way to communicate.” The Whistler Society forum was intimate; we shared very personal disclosures along with our dreams and fears. We could talk about our wildest ideas, dance around the room, and felt comfortable to be ourselves in a safe space. Being a part of the Whistler Society cemented lifelong friendships.
A few months of these inspirational Whistler Society meetings roused me to quit my job. It was 2009 and the global community was trying to recover from a giant market crash. Leaving was scary (so, I guess this current moment isn't the first time I peered over the side of a cliff and jumped into the Sea of Uncertainty). Recently, Ian told me that my departure from my gig during our magic Whistler Society moment inspired Ian and Tyler to leave Quiksilver, in order to try and start their own creative agency. In their minds, “Lindsay had a ‘great’ job, and she left it in search of a career that aligned with her values and interests.” If I could give up a stable position in order to pursue something with a mission I believed in, so could they.
These days, Ian is the co-founder of a "community-minded, strategy-obsessed creative agency" called SEW Creative (that he started back in January 2010 with Tyler, and their friends James and Steve). The boutique agency builds dynamic on and offline campaigns that marry the values and aspirations of both the brand and community, to maximize impact for both the brand and the community. It’s working! Now, more than four years in, they’ve worked with a handful of big clients and they’re growing. Ian believes in the power of communication and knows that if you have a solid platform, you can influence people’s thoughts and emotions (positively or negatively). He is interested in designing experiences that communicate a positive message and produce a positive memory.
As you can imagine, I love spending time with Ian. On our East Village coffee date one cold and rainy spring morning, Ian articulated that he thinks we're all born along a potential spectrum of natural talent and self-esteem. How much those talents and our personal sense of worth are nurtured determines where we end up on that spectrum.
Quick Tangent: Whenever I hear “self-esteem,” I visualize my sweet mom, Chris, dressed up in a reporter costume, teaching my 3rd grade class a program called Project Self-Esteem (PSE). PSE was a real thing. Once a week for ten weeks, three parent volunteers came in to teach a 40-minute class to elementary school students. Topics included expressing feelings, goal-setting, communication skills, friendship, peers and conformity, and the difference between tattling and telling the truth. The part of PSE that I remember most clearly is the end of each class, when we'd sit in our tiny plastic chairs and shout out, in unison, "I am special!" Then we were all given little fuzzy balls with googly eyes and felt feet, called Smileys. That program was so important. Do you feel like you have a better insight into the adult me?
This is the point in our coffee when things got deep.
Ian is very cognizant that his self esteem could have easily landed on the meek end of the potential spectrum. He credits the support of his grandmother and high school water polo coach to getting him back on track as a teen, when he was making bad decisions. For Ian, having just two people that believed in his future and supported him through rocky times allowed him to believe in himself.
I've known Ian for five years now. We've stayed up late talking about our dreams, he's slept on my Brooklyn apartment floor for a week at a time, and we’ve caught up over the phone every couple months. But during our coffee date at Bluebird, I realized there were big pieces missing from my really knowing him. We both talked and listened. In this forum, instead of pontificating about the human spirit in terms of marketing potential, we just talked about our own self-realizations. Walls came down, and by the end of our coffee, I looked at Ian with new eyes - more connected and with more admiration even than before.
Two hours flew by, and Ian had a meeting to get to. As we wrapped up, he said, "Linds, I think this is such a great process for you. But you're also giving fifty people a gift, as well. Your vulnerability is empowering others to be open and share about themselves. Thank you." Just when I was starting to worry that this project might be too self-indulgent, Ian pointed out a side of the conversations that I hadn't considered. The halo effect of spending face time with people, actively listening and reminding him or her that their story matters, is more powerful than I realized.
Though I feel Ian and my friendship is now on a new level, I asked Tyler to describe Ian in a few sentences. Tyler said, that, “If I had to describe Ian in one word, it would be genuine. I think it’s his genuine curiosity that continues to place Ian in situations that challenge him and allow him to learn. His love for people allows him to listen and empathize with others. Ian has a genuine relatability and adaptability that, no matter the person or situation, can find a way to connect or enjoy the moment. It’s because of those things that he’s the kinda of guy you always want to be around. That homie is kinetic.” So much love.
Shout out to the Whistler Society.
1. Being vulnerable is awesome.
In her powerful and popular TED Talk Brene Brown says, “What makes you vulnerable makes you beautiful.” Be willing to let go of who you think you should be in order to be who you are. Ian and I discussed how vulnerability not only benefits us as individuals, but also strengthens the tribe. Connection is a result of authenticity. Let yourself be known and love with your whole heart, even though there is no guarantee that you’ll be accepted. Brene Brown defines courage as a willingness “to tell the story of who you are with your whole heart.” Have the courage to be imperfect! Believe that the authentic you is worthy of connection and belonging. You will live more whole-heartedly, and also be a more valuable contributor to your communities.
2. The more you give, the more you get.
Ian recently launched a people-focused blog called The Somewhere Project. He emailed me, asking if I'd participate, with a link to the mock-up website. Coincidentally, the email came just two days before I launched fifty coffees. The Somewhere Project has a very similar format and goal to shine a light on people in one’s community. Ian had even used the same blog template and a similar visual style. My post on Ian’s blog went up last week. Ian closes the interview by saying, "If there’s one thing to learn from Lindsay, it’s this: the more you give in life, the more you’ll get in return." During our coffee date, I was open and honest with Ian about my emotional state, my relationship, and my fears. Because I was open, Ian felt comfortable being open, too. Openness and vulnerability are contagious.
3. Size doesn't matter.
Be honest with yourself and others about saying no to relationships that aren't helping you progress. This might mean you have a smaller community, but it will be stronger and more committed to you.
Michelle and I were destined to be city besties. But before we had a chance to be, she quit everything, flew to Nepal, and found her life's work.
I crossed paths with Michelle at your typical over-achiever New York summer happy hour at a gluten free pizza joint in the West Village. I recognized her as that redhead I maybe met once? Who, according to multiple friends, I'd jive with and must meet. Even before speaking to her, I agreed with those friends. From across the room, Michelle seemed approachable, unpretentious and filled with joy. I initiated the awkward, "You're that girl, right? And I'm this girl. And we're supposed to be friends" moment. We found a corner in the crowded restaurant, and deep convo'ed for two hours. We had a lot in common, including 1. our J.Crew button up shirts that screamed "not a New York native" (she's from Boulder, Colorado) and 2. we were both single and ready to mingle and saying yes to any experience thrown our way.
We had a lot to talk about, if for no other reason than Michelle is a fascinating lady! She is a former director of Social Media Week, she's worked with best-selling author Seth Godin to produce events, calls NPR's Guy Raz a personal mentor, regularly blogs about inspiration/fear/connection, and founded and facilitates a non-networky networking dinner series called Project Exponential.
Curate is such an over-used buzzword right now (along with ideate and mindfulness). But Michelle really is a curator! According to Merriam Webster, curate means "to take charge of, organize, pull together, sift through, and select." For Project Exponential dinners, Michelle strategically brings together 12-15 guests from a list of over 1,000 individuals, ranging from venture capitalists to sex therapists. She collects information on each potential attendee, then thinks through how each individual's interests, personality traits, and work might meld. The dinners bring together people who don’t otherwise often mix. The groups are encouraged to speak candidly about their life and work experiences, with the expectation of cultivating meaningful connections and helping one another grow.
One YES experience from last year dramatically changed her life. Michelle fundraised for her then-boyfriend's organization via IndieGogo to climb Everest's base camp, in order to raise awareness for at-risk students who don't otherwise have access to outdoor adventure. Then, Michelle and her boyfriend broke up. She left her job. And she was sleeping on friend's couches. Her Nepalese travel plans were one of the only sure things left in her life at the time. Michelle has a background in social work and a natural inclination to help people. So when planning the trip, she found a volunteer opportunity to participate in while vacationing overseas. She would volunteer at a school in a Buddhist monastery for a few weeks on the front-end of the trek.
Once Michelle started working in the monastery, the original trekking focus of the trip became secondary. Michelle said that when she's in New York, she feels a little too Colorado, and when in Colorado, she feels a little too New York. But in Nepal, while she was immediately recognized as 'different,' people plainly accepted her exactly as herself. She extended her original stay from three weeks to five months, and now after a brief stint back in the US to sort her visa, just landed back in Kathmandu this week!
Michelle and I only met twice in-person before she first left for Nepal late last summer, but reading her blog posts over the past seven months makes me feel very close to her. She writes from an intimate place about topics ranging from taking chances and building community to the process of healing her own broken heart. In honor of Michelle's return to Nepal, "Find someplace quiet. And sit. When you feel like moving, stay. Give yourself the gift of stillness. Simply, listen." These are Michelle's words from a blog post she wrote in October 2013. Clearly, she's taking her own advice to sit in her personal place of calm. Unsure of when (if) she will return to New York, online besties will have to do, for now.
1. Find your happy place.
I moved to New York three years ago next month. I was looking for a big life shift to re-define myself; a job opportunity came across my plate, and I snagged it -- without over-thinking the details. Within four weeks, I packed up my adorbs Silverlake apartment (with a ton of help from my roommate Sarah and Mom), found a friend to move into the room I was vacating, threw a ta-ta for now party, shipped six gigantic boxes of my stuff across the country, and arrived wide-eyed in the Big Apple. I value space and access to nature, so New York was not the #1 Buzzfeed City I Should Live In. But surprisingly, I felt right at home when I moved to Brooklyn. I felt like I fit in and could be exactly the me I wanted to be. Brooklyn might not be forever (or at least my mom hopes not -- too far away), but for the right now me, Brooklyn is perfect. Where do you feel like you're in a flow? Maybe it's somewhere unexpected, like Nepal.
2. Be a part of something.
While we like one another a lot, Michelle and I probably wouldn't have met up on her brief NY layover, if not for fifty coffees. The human brain naturally organizes and perceives new information according to schemas. These mental frameworks cause us to take shortcuts when interpreting the vast amount of information that is available in our individual environments. We quick-categorize people in our lives in a similar way. Michelle points out that "Value is derived from the ability to be equated easily in the minds of an audience." We file people in our brain's filing cabinet, to try to understand. When you can't fit nicely into a mental box, you're just floating around in space. But if you're a part of something (an organization, project, movement, etc.), you're filed somewhere. And once filed, you can finger paint on your file and move it around within the cabinet.
3. Your path does not have to be a straight line.
Contrary to the popular saying, I like to think of life as long. The various chapters we live don't have to build perfectly out of the last one, and the next one doesn't have to be an extension of the chapter you're living right now.
I'm writing this post from Barry's Bootcamp in Chelsea on a weekday afternoon.
Every 60 minutes, throngs of sweaty sweaty people skip out of the workout room high-fiving each other; exhausted, but accomplished. I sit questioning what all of these sexy people do for a living that allows them to work out from 2pm - 3pm on a Wednesday. But I don't question why they're here. Personally, I love coming to Barry's Bootcamp (BBC) because I know I'll see familiar faces, we'll hug, and I'll leave energized. The place is alive and feels like home. I've embarrassingly been here more often just to hang out than to actually take class (which is a one hour high-intensity mix of strength training and treadmill work. I'm sore just thinking about it).
Joey and I met through mutual friends, right around the time he started as a trainer at Barry's Bootcamp, West Hollywood. Joey had a performer's background, was always attracted to group settings, and had an interest in physical fitness. After dabbling in a few different careers, he says that walking into Barry's was like meeting 'the one.' He just knew it was right. Soon after, a position for Director of Operations opened up, and Joey wanted the job. But he didn't have any experience. So he took a bummer second job with Gold's Gym in the sales department, responsible for locking in new memberships. He reflects on those months as 'doing his time,' handing out flyers to hikers at Runyon Canyon (ugh). When he came to the Director of Ops interview he had a long list of ideas to improve the company and take the local phenomenon to the next level. Joey really believed in the physical results of the workout and that the business was scalable. His first hire in his new position as the Director of Operations was his long-time bestie, Alycia.
Since then, Joey has hired many of his closet friends to join the Barry's team! And working with friends has contributed to the community-driven, familial atmosphere. Joey says that, "Barry's is almost like Cheers. Everyone knows everyone else's name."
Joey is a great communicator; candid, honest and transparent. He creates an atmosphere at Barry's (and in his personal life) where people genuinely feel welcomed and a part of something bigger. He's a busy man, now directly involved in eight BBC locations across the US. New Barry's storefronts have opened internationally, they've re-branded the entire company, and have established a franchisee structure. From the looks of his Facebook feed, Joey's life is perfect; a successful small business, a gorgeous partner, and shot after shot of smiling friends and family, fancy hotel stays, and abdominal muscles. What a lot of people don't realize is that behind the aspirational life, there's a tremendous amount of hard work that Joey makes look easy. He is sensitive, feels things deeply, and has spent a lot of his life struggling through rough spots.
The Barry's empire is growing, but each location still has a mom and pop feel. Joey co-owns many of the locations, but he teaches classes and can be found mopping and folding towels as well. He has a natural inclination to help people, which is probably why he is such a good teacher. Deirdre was a Joey Gonzalez devotee when the Chelsea, NY location opened. In the spring of 2011, Deirdre convinced Joey that BBC had to set up a summer shop in the Hamptons. Joey: "Okay, who's gonna run that location?" Deirdre: "Me?" She basically had no work experience, but Joey trusted his instinct and decided to invest in her potential. Now she is two years in, and manages the Hamptons location (and they are opening a second this summer in Amagansett).
He finds time for the important stuff and makes people feel special. For example, I came to New York with my family for my 25th birthday. Joey kindly made a reservation for us at one of my favorite restaurants, La Esquina. As soon as we sat down, the waiter brought over 2 pitchers of their signature margarita. Joey called ahead to order them. How does he find the time to be a successful business owner, excellent boss, supportive husband, and attentive friend?
And he believes that life is all about searching for, and finding, the things you love. One of Joey's important "things he loves" is his hubby Jonathan Rollo*. Their 2011 Miami wedding was a grand celebration of love, family, and friendship. The video capturing the union makes me tear up every time I watch it. They are a power couple who are very impressive individuals, but exponentially impressive as a team. Hospitable, intelligent, adventurous, and fun, Jon and Joey make every event, situation, vacation, anything better. When I asked Joey how he handles all of the responsibilities in his life, he attributed his drive and success to the support of his partner.
If the way we workout reflects the way we live, Joey walks out of every class knowing he pushed himself to the limit and left everything on the treadmill.
* Trust me, you want to hear more about Jon. He's a gem. Look for him in a future coffee.
1. Work hard.
The perfect job is not just waiting for you to find it. Figure out what you want to do, then connect the dots to get there. The process of connection almost always includes sacrifice and hard work.
2. Surround yourself with people who make you better, faster, stronger (like Daft Punk said).
This is a theme amongst people I've had coffees with, so far. Work with people who believe in your potential, increase your self-confidence, and help develop your crazy ideas. Befriend and date and live with those people, too.
3. You get more bees with honey.
Joey is one of the most positive and straightforward people I know. He means what he says and wears his heart on his sleeve. And he's winning! His success in life and career proves that nice guys don't always finish last. Cheers to the nice guys!
How we know each other
I haven't always liked Mike.
Mike "Melon Head" Sullivan and I met when we were 11-year-old Junior Lifeguards. He was always running his mouth and getting in trouble. Meanwhile, I was a class pet perfectionist who would stop at nothing to win at beach flags.
After a few summers of butting heads with Melon, I didn't see him again until we were freshmen at the same high school. Little boys grow up. And Mike grew into a strapping young man, very intelligent and sweet to his mom. We became great buds by our senior year when we were both on Associated Student Body together (he, the Director of Athletics [aka the Director of Zero Period Napping], me, Student Body Treasurer [which is funny now if you look at my bank statements]); we took many of the same classes, and Mike was my biggest fan at my school sporting events. During softball season, he'd bring a lawn chair and a crew of hecklers to the left field line where they'd cheer loudly with signs and blow-horns. This was very cool because Mike & Co. were our only fans (other than devoted parents and siblings too young to avoid attending). I always played better when showing off for hecklers.
Mike and I decided on the same college (UC Santa Barbara - go Gauchos!), and since then have stayed in touch over the years, primarily through mutual friends and a shared love for surfing.
After college, Mike went to law school to study environmental law. He finished school, passed the California bar exam and became a licensed attorney in 2012! A few months later, he got an interesting offer; a proposition to manage a citrus and avocado orchard in Ojai. He slept on the idea for 24 hours. The next day, he packed up the bed of his truck with minimal possessions and moved up to Ojai. For the past 1.5 years, he's lived in an Airstream on the property, managing the orchard with the two long-time owners, Jim Churchill and Lisa Brenneis. Why the F did they trust inexperienced Mike to manage an orchard that's been in their family for 50 years?! They trusted Mike because they recognized his potential. Mike made a good point that, "Just because your grandfather was an award-winning peach grower doesn't mean you will be. Plus, where else will you find a licensed attorney for less than $100/day?" True. Also helpful, was Mike's natural interest in farming. When he came home to Huntington Beach from Santa Barbara, he needed a tangible project that gave him purpose outside of school. So he started a community garden in Huntington Beach. Three years later, the project is a huge success and The Garden still has a waiting list for the 112 plots.
When I visited Mike in Ojai recently, we walked the orchard grounds and sampled a dozen varieties of citrus, picked right off the blooming trees. Mike's farmer-ness was impressive. He was very knowledgeable about the climate, growing conditions, and he knew the history of each tree. I was visiting at the peak of the aromatic orange tree blossoming, so every time a breeze blew by, sweet fragrant air wafted around my head. Ojai felt like a magical place and I've never eaten a better seedless pixie tangerine.
1. Everyone is just making it up.
Mike is an intelligent guy. He was confident that he could learn the knowledge-base and skills needed to be a great orchard manager. And now, he is.
How we know each other
When was the last time you celebrated yourself?
Thanks to Caroline, my tight-knit group of girlfriends give ourselves (and each other) weekly praise on Celebration Fridays. Celebration Fridays is a simple email chain circulated by my NY gal pals. The tradition encourages us to reflect on our week and share achievements and accomplishments that we're happy about. Celebrations can be big things (engagements, running marathons, successfully handling difficult conversations), small things (finally getting a new toaster), personal or work-related. We've been doing the exercise for the past five months and I now find myself:
1. Taking notice of small wins I might otherwise glaze over.
2. Feeling closer to my friends, even if we're traveling or living in different states.
3. Supported by my own personal cheer squad.
Caro is a member of my New York Friends-Who-Are-Family-Tribe. Blond, tanned and toned, the German beauty sleeps directly 12 feet below me in our Brooklyn apartment building (I'm in 8D, she's in 7D. I often brag that my view is WAY better than hers : ). She moved to the United States from Bad Füssing (a small German town on the Austrian border) 14 years ago. People assume she's a Californian, even after having a conversation with her (despite her cute audible Bavarian accent).
When Caroline moved to New York from Northern California in 2012, we met through a dear mutual friend. Our first hang outs were spent sitting on a bench overlooking the Hudson River during my charity: water lunch breaks. She had just graduated from Pacifica Graduate Institute in Santa Barbara with her M.A. in Counseling Psychology, with a focus on mind-body harmony. She moved east with her then boyfriend (now fiance), Rasmus, when his tech company, Qwiki, migrated from SF to NY. At the time, Caro was frustratingly embarking on a job hunting and didn't know where to start. We sat and wrote stream of consciousness lists. First just words that made us happy: environment, movement, outside, biking, etc. Then descriptions of what she wanted her life to look like, including specifics about her ideal commute, the type of shoes she'd wear to work, how she felt every morning before heading off to this future ideal job, imagined interactions with colleagues, and how she'd spend her days.
Via some serious soul searching, realized that her perfect job meant being her own boss, and helping women feel empowered. So, she started her own life coaching business. Most clients seek her out when they are looking to make authentic and lasting change in their lives (primarily in the realm of work, love, or body image). Clients typically don't know where to start, feel stuck, and/or are plagued with self doubt, but they want to be empowered to actively and intentionally lead their lives in a desired direction. Together, they develop a personalized strategy to identify factors that may be holding them back, participate in goal setting sessions, and build a plan to reach those goals.
I'm so lucky to have a Caroline as a friend all the time, but especially in tough transition moments like this one. Caro is an incredible listener. Being a good listener requires being fully present, absorbing the words of another -- avoiding the natural human tendency to plan what we will say next. She always makes me feel like I'm her solitary focus when we're talking about life-stuff. She creates a safe space and encourages me to reach deeper and communicate more openly.
This Friday, I will be celebrating HAVING A LIFE COACH LIVING DOWNSTAIRS!
1. Time is our most valuable asset.
Caro and I went to a leisurely lunch on a Friday. In our neighborhood. For two full hours! What a treat. I'm appreciating having the gift of time in this transition period. For many years, my meditation has been asking for the ability to hear myself. I know deep down I know the answers to big questions. But it's really hard to listen when life is so loud with obligations, movement, preoccupations and stress. It's taken me a few weeks to settle into the idea of having time; time to read, go to mid-day yoga classes, meet up with friends, see matinee movies and take myself on creative dates to museums. Allowing myself to enjoy the time and brain space, without self-imposed guilt, has been a surprising challenge.
2. Outside help can aid our personal self awareness.
We all have scripts that we repeat in our minds. If you want to think differently, find a tool to knock yourself onto a new thought path. The first exercise Caro suggested for me was re-writing the story I tell myself about my past work experience. In doing this, I realized the power of language and how I've undervalued my interesting life experiences and hefty job responsibilities. Sometimes our greatest skills seem so natural to us that we don't recognize them as skills. When analyzing my strengths, Caro said, "You are a visionary whose default answer to everything in life is yes. You see why something is do-able and possible instead of getting caught up in why it may be difficult. That makes you the ultimate do-er and action-taker. I think being in a position with forward momentum is key for your professional success and personal happiness." Since our session, I'm paying more attention to the words I choose to talk about myself and want to honor myself, as I'd honor a good friend.
Life coach, therapy, books -- these tools are available to help if you feel stuck. Find the tools that work for you, then use them.
3. Plan ahead.
Caroline suggested I use Hootsuite to automate social media and to get out in front of blog posts. What great advice! In fact, I planned to post #6. Caroline Zwick last week, but my days didn't go according to plan. I ended up going to a long lunch with my girlfriend and her father, who is visiting from Australia (an impromptu engagement that I wouldn't have missed). Afterward, I had three hours in the city to finish and post the blog before a dinner commitment. I landed at a coffee shop with no internet. Ugh. The weather was rainy and cold, so I wasn't motivated to seek a different cafe and decided that posting Caroline's blog next week was A-ok. What's the balance between sticking to a self-imposed schedule and allowing myself flexibility? In this case, I think I made the right decision, but if I was a couple posts ahead, Caroline's would have been on time, and I'd have more room for flexibility.
4. Writing is hard!
Even when (or especially when?) writing about people who are really important to you. I found myself experiencing a few moments of writer's block because I wanted to capture all of Caro's greatness in just a few paragraphs. Writing is like a muscle that needs to be worked out and massaged. And right now, my muscle feels small and weak. Practice will hopefully start to make this easier.
How we know each other
Uncle Ian sends me the best birthday cards.
My dad's older brother and only sibling, Ian was my earliest creative role model. Two of his large-scale abstract paintings currently hang on the walls of my Brooklyn apartment. He's a handsome charmer; a doer, a creator, an explorer, and a life-long entrepreneur.
While my parents have lived in the same house for 35 years, Ian has never really had a long-term home-base. He is a modern nomad. He's lived in Iowa, California, Washington, Alabama, India, Costa Rica, New Mexico, Florida, Colorado and New York. During the holidays, he sends thoughtful gifts packaged in amazing handmade gift wrap from wherever in the world he is. The Ratowsky Wrap (complete with drawings, shapes, words, and paint) trumps any roll of fancy Christmas wrapping paper you'd find at Paper Source. In April, I always look forward to Uncle Ian's birthday cards - which have ranged from hand drawn notes on napkins to photos of children in Indian markets holding up signs that say "Happy Lindsay!" If you've ever received a greeting from me written in wet beach sand, it's because of Uncle Ian's influence.
When I was a teenager, my family had two gigantic old wooden Indian doors in our garage in Huntington Beach. Ian found them while living in India and had them shipped to California. He’s always said that he wants to build his entire home around one of those doors one day.
That direction of thought is reflective of his personality. Ian has a vision, an objective -- and then in the most creative way possible, he reverse constructs the scenario to fit that objective. Efficiencies or logistics of the end game don’t necessarily concern him. Instead, the focus is how to enjoy the process in the most unique and beautiful way. To him, everything is about creating a story.
Ian's younger son, Grason, is an artist as well. Years ago, when G was 23, he lived in a groovy Bushwick work/live space that he converted into an art space called Montrose Gallery. This was pre-GIRLS Bushwick. The one time I visited, I thought the neighborhood was pretty sketchy. He loved it. While living there, Grason discovered he had a mouse problem. So like most people, he planned to set up a few mouse traps around the space. For some reason, he mentioned the issue to Ian, who didn’t understand why Grason would kill the mice. Ian immediately offered a far more romantic and creative (though far less effective) solution to the problem. He suggested Grason buy a two-liter bottle of soda, empty it out, and construct a miniature mouse night club with sexy paper mice and entrancing mouse music playing inside. All the mice would enter the one way door of the mouse night club, then Grason could take the bottle and release them into a place they would be happy. I love Ian because he seriously encourages everyone in his life to think differently. (Grason bought the mouse traps.)
Ian currently lives in New Mexico and has a gallery show called Dual Realities opening April 25th. This is his first opening since a father/son exhibition at Montrose Gallery in 2009 called The Last Waltz. The artistic waltz continues.
I have a lot of creative friends who are striving to make a living as photographers, writers, and makers. Most of these friends are in their late 20s and early 30s. So, what does a life-long artistic journey look like? Amongst other things, Uncle Ian has been producing art for over 40 years. How do you keep going, even when your work is criticized? What do you do when you're not making enough money to support yourself?
Ian's artistic and personal journey have been one of constant discovery. He has found comfort in creating art since his first youth theater production. My grandmother, a charismatic artist who passed away when my dad and Ian were teens, encouraged him to try acting and he nailed his first role as The Tree : ) When he is expressing creativity, Ian feels at home.
He said that "painting has always been a safe spot for me. That's when I feel 100% like my authentic self. And making art is one of the few things I can feel. Quite literally, I can feel the brush in my hand against the canvas. I feel it." Art is an expression of self and doesn't have to be anything more than that. What you create does not have to be perfect.
Ian told me, "After these coffees, you're going to be different, Linds." I think he's right. For now, I'm not solely focused on the logistics of how I will pay my rent come June. Instead, I'm enjoying this process in the most unique and beautiful way possible.
How we know each other
Morgen's is the first voice I hear in the morning. He knows how I take my coffee, forgives my bed head, and never fights me for first shower.
Yes! That's a ring on his left ring finger. No! We're not married. Morgen is my roommate. I live with him and his fabulous wife Kayti* (my California college sorority sister).
Morgen affects my everyday life. We often sip French press brew, bouncing ideas off one another, talking about that interesting article he read or a cool office space I visited. Sometimes, we brainstorm on a whiteboard wall that he installed next to the dining table when we moved in. At the time, he was working with the first company he helped start, called IdeaPaint. IdeaPaint's mission is to encourage collaboration, bring ideas to life, and invite innovation into your work and home (all reflections of his personal philosophy).
He's a dynamic entrepreneur who recently launched a new company you're gonna wish you'd thought of before he did. It's called BEES KNEES SPICY HONEY.
Spicy. Honey. I want to pour it all over every food item I eat. Once you try it, you will too.
When I close my eyes and imagine Morgen, he's smiling, eyes bright with interest. He's almost always holding a piece of pizza and is definitely wearing Patagonia on at least one part of his body right now. Curious. Reliable. Determined. Generous of spirit. Morgen is an adventurer and embodies the phrase work hard, play hard. Together, Morgen and Kayti are a fabulous duo, which makes living with a married couple really easy and fun (versus uncomfortable and weird).
* Kayti is tres important and gets her own coffee at a later date.
Brace yourself. Morgen dropped a knowledge bomb at Den. Our coffee date was like reading a self help business book.
1. Take advantage of what's currently contributing to your happiness.
Transition means you're moving forward, going through a change. Who are you today? Because you probably aren't the person you were yesterday. Be present in this moment and form a community who represents the Right Now You and the direction you want to grow towards.
2. Everything we need to know is available to us. Right now. For free!
We're often paralyzed by what we don't know. Fortunately, learning new things is totally possible! Seek online tutorials to work through problems, direct message people you want to meet with, and scan peer review sites to help you make initial decisions. When thinking through his new project, Morgen realized that "The world has changed since 2007 when I joined IdeaPaint. It is now possible to start a company, launch a website and sell a product overnight, all with just a loose-change jar’s worth of investment."
3. Blogging advice
BEES KNEES is an artisan Brooklyn food company, but also a startup journey blog project: One Startup. No Secrets. Start at the beginning (check this out if you've ever thought about starting something, but don't know how). The concept is to document how to go from idea to launching product in 30 days, with full transparency. Talking to Morgen about the honey company planted the blog brain seed. And lucky for me, he just did A TON of research on blogging! Some questions Morgen suggested I think about:
- Who is your audience?
- How do you want people to interact with the content? Just consume or engage in conversation?
- Is there a call to action for audience?
- Use Mailchimp. (What is that? -- Googled it. Got it. Signed up)
- Most blogs takes 9 - 12 months to build a following. How do you create evergreen content and stay relevant?
- What makes something sharable?
I don't know the answers to these questions yet. Please feel free to comment below if you have any opinions : )
How we know each other
Ally is the one of the wisest women I know.
She floated into my life like Glinda the Good Witch of the North in a moment of transition and uncertainty. It was 2010 in Nelson, Canada when I was working on an indie thriller film called The Tall Man.
Nelson is a special little mountain town with a population of 10,000 people. Ally had been living between Alberta (where she is from) and Nelson for the past couple years. The tiny hippie haven was her home away from home. She was recommended to me when I was looking for a private yoga instructor. I knew right away that she was magic. Ally provided otherworldly insight about the cosmos and introduced me to the concepts of Saturn Return, Native American animal medicine, and reading Tarot (to name a few). Her perspectives opened my mind up to thinking about the world a little differently.
We kept in touch on and off. Every time we spoke, Ally's first question was, "How's your heart?" I always thought that was a beautiful way to start a conversation. Then a fateful surprise 2012 Brooklyn run-in pulled her back into my life again. I was walking into a Williamsburg sushi restaurant I had never been to before. She was walking out, and we came nose to nose around a corner. It took us both a few beats to put the facial puzzle pieces together and recognize the person standing opposite *BIG HUG.* Turned out, she had migrated from that bitty Canadian town to the bustling metropolis of NYC!
WE ARE NOW BOTH LIVING IN NEW YORK (I didn't see that coming). This city is so fortunate to have her energy in residence.
During one of our epic Nelson yoga sessions, we were in a pose on hands and knees. Right arm raised parallel to the floor, reaching for the front wall. Left leg lifted parallel to the floor, toes stretching toward the back wall.
"Linds, your energy is splaying outward. Find your center. Pull your intentions into your heart center. Focus your energy inward."
Whether or not she meant it, I took the adjustment as a metaphor for my life at the time. I had been a personal assistant to a close actress friend of mine for the four years prior. When you're a natural people pleaser, it's easy to construct a sense of self around providing for others. That pose was the first step in an ongoing process to find my authentic self.
When we sat down for coffee recently, Ally gave me encouragement to move forward with this project. She liked the idea of fifty coffees being about pause, reflection, and processing. She talked a lot about soul paths, which I still don't understand. So, you'll find me at her yoga class in Chelsea on Saturdays at 9:30am, where I continue a meditation aimed toward creeping closer and closer to my center.
How we know each other
Rishi is on my personal board of directors. Whenever I am making a big life change, he is one of the people I consult.
We've been thick as thieves since 4th grade. He and I grew up around the corner from one another in Huntington Beach, CA. We spent many afternoons at our parents' houses working on group projects, studying for Mr. Duval's biology tests, and helping each other understand math homework.
A lifelong lover of music, Rishi gave me my first Radiohead album (The Bends) for my 16th birthday, which I listened to on repeat in my first car (because it was better than my other cds: Blink 182 Cheshire Cat, Mariah Carey Emotions, etc). He also burned me my first mixed-cd. Remember that?! Before iTunes, Spotify, and Soundcloud? At Mesa View Middle School, bottom of the totem pole 6th grade Rishi quickly became The Man when he started selling ten-song compilation compact discs of everyone's favorite jams. Each cd cost you $10, and soon, Rishi had started his first company and was a middle school stud.
He went south to UC San Diego, me north to UC Santa Barbara and we kept in touch until we both moved to LA after college.
Now, the forever clever entrepreneur and hip Silverlake home owner just launched two new companies. The first, a small music management company called High5 Management, and the second, a digital marketing arm of a stellar boutique media company, which he's named Versus Digital.
Of course he started two new companies! Of course he's killing it!
I've always known that Rishi would be successful. He is kind, smart, calculated, and can bridge business + creative in an industry that is filled with mostly super creative people with no business sense OR business people with no dedication to the art.
When I've come to Rishi in moments of transition, he has constantly ended our deep detailed brainstorms and conversations with the words, "I'm not worried about you. You'll be fine, Linds."
Those two sentences have always been really comforting. Maybe because I hope my closest friends and family see something special in me that I can't see. Sometimes, all we need to push forward is to hear that someone we love and trust believes in us.
How we know each other
Paull (with two 'L's) gave me the idea to start fifty coffees. A-HA!
PY and I worked together at charity: water for almost three years. We first met at a cw event in San Francisco, before I was officially hired. His positive energy, enthusiasm, and accent (he’s Australian) immediately drew me in. We're both extroverts who are fueled by social interactions and learning new stuff. He is a connector, a mover & a shaker, a very intelligent, well spoken guy. And Youngy (as his rugby mates call him) has always been a big cheerleader of mine.
He is responsible for a lot of the big partnerships charity: water has benefitted from over the years, including being one of the highlighted companies when Instagram launched their video platform in 2013. But more impressively, he wrote and performed an original rap about his team at our annual staff holiday party. LEGEND.
My coffee date with Paull is the origin story of this project. Sipping non-dairy lattes, we brainstormed job ideas based on what he thinks I'm good at (building community, developing relationships, representing people and brands, authentic "networking"). What type of position and company will help me leverage my people skills? What companies really value relationship building?
I was invigorated hearing an outsider's perspective on my skill set (I was big-time questioning whether or not I even had one of those). Oh, right, I'm personable. People trust me. Ok, this is good.
He told me to read Reid Hoffman's book. He also told me about an article he'd read a few months ago in FastCompany or Inc or Wired about a guy in the San Francisco tech space (maybe? he couldn't exactly remember) who recommended that you set up a bunch of casual coffee meetings when in a transitional work phase.
This is interesting. A transition period blog. I could do this.
What do I need to start a blog right away?
1. A good name
2. Great photos
3. People to meet with
OFF TO THE RACES!