The Purpose of Weekends

 

My weekends mean a lot to me. I use the week to push myself and the weekends to unplug and get perspective. I am a big believer in balancing fun with work so I am now taking more time to do things for myself, catch up with family and friends, etc. But I think that the weekends can be just as important, sometimes more than, the general work day. I recently read an article called “14 Things Successful People Do On Weekends.”  There is some really good advice there are what to do on weekends. Here are a few more that I have personally cultivated:

1. Reflection — I like to reflect on the week – what went well, what didn’t what I didn’t accomplish and then move forward. Reflection is key for me but its important to reflect and then follow it up with action.

2. Work Differently — I have always been one that believes more in productivity than being busy. That said, if I spend the entire week working I want to use the weekends to work differently, smarter. That work can be putting more attention towards fitness or honing my expertise in another area. But the point is to constantly cultivate all the different parts of yourself, not just the professional one.

3.  Take a break — Take some needed time out for yourself. Make ure its meaningful.

4. Do something new — Each week, I try to meet someone new, experience something new, etc. Try to do at least one new thing, or take one new risk every week.

How do you spend your weekends?

 

 

 

Spring Reading List

BOOKS

I usually have a reading list a mile high of books that I’d like to read: classics that I’ve never gotten to (see: Ulysses or Oliver Twist), critically acclaimed   novels that every writer and wannabe alike seem to have read (The Corrections or Infinite Jest), books recommended to me by others (Give Me Everything You Have or How to Be a Woman), etc. With most of my time going to professional or personal obligations, one of my favorite past times — reading — is something that I unfortunately have had to put on the back burner. This Spring, however, I will be doing a fair amount of traveling and will have some down time. During that time, there are a few books that I’ve moved up on my list that I hope to get a chance to read. They include:

1. The Great Gatsby — This is the book that I am reading now for two reasons: in anticipation of the movie to be released on May 10th and in preparation of my book club discussion this Sunday. I haven’t read this since high school so I am enjoying re-reading it.

2. Blog, Inc. — I’m perpetually intrigued with how people have managed to turn passion (and side projects) into profits.  I’m hoping to gain some new insights from this book.

3. Narcopolis by Jeet Thayil — I heard about this novel after reading a NYTimes interview with Katherine Boo. I’m a fan of her writing and a recommendation from her goes a long way with me.

4. Pushback: How Smart Women Ask — And Stand Up — For What They Want by Selena Rezvani — I heard about this book after reading a post on Jezebel. I’m particularly interested in learning about best practices regarding negotiation.

5. Barbara Kingsolver’s Flight Behavior — Kingsolver has been a very successful writer doing something a lot of writers haven’t been able to do —  establish both critical and popular success. A few posts back, I blogged about reading books included on the New York Times top 100 list and this book is one of them.

6. The Flame Alphabet by Ben Marcus — The premise of this book sounds super interesting — an epidemic occurs in which the voices of children have become suddenly lethal to adults. An incredibly original concept, I’m really interested to see how Marcus brings this world to life.

7. Being Wrong: Adventures in the Margin of Error by Kathryn Schultz — This was another book recommended by Katherine Boo. Also, I have read some of Schultz’s other work and find her to be a fine writer. The premise is also interesting to me — why do people have a desire to be right all the time?

8. Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed — I saw an interview that Strayed did with Oprah and become intrigued. Similarly, the book has gotten so much press that it peaked my interest.

9. The Handmaid’s Tale — I’ve never read this book. Given the current politics surrounding reproductive rights, I feel like this book is a prescient, timely choice.

10. Plutocrats: The Rise of the Global Super Rich and the Fall of Everyone Else by Chrystia Freeland — I’m interested topics regarding wealth and the wealthy. I’ve heard a lot about this book and want to give it a try.

What’s on your reading list? Happy Reading!

That Pesky Little Thing Called Self-Doubt

 

We’ve all been there. Whether its before a major life change, trying something new, or even thinking about stepping outside of your comfort zone. There is this thing called doubt.  Self-doubt to be more specific. Self- Doubt is a relative of fear, insecurity, and disbelief. It causes us to question ourselves and our ability to embark on the next step. I know that in my own life, professional, personal and otherwise, self-doubt and I have been intimately acquainted. I’ve had moments where I’ve questioned my ability to be an expert, start my own business, or try something new. And I can see, looking back, how self-doubt has kept me from fulfilling my true potential. Moving forward, I have made a conscious decision to put myself first and have faith in my ability to achieve whatever I set my mind to.  Sure, its not easy. But I think its important to examine the role that doubt and its relatives play in our lives. Its natural to experience moments of frustration and fear when thinking about moving outside our comfort zone. But if we don’t move outside our comfort zones every now and then, how do we truly ever understand the depth and reach of our potential? Below are a few of my favorite quotes from famous people on how they deal with self-doubt:

“Doubt is a pain too lonely to know that faith is his twin brother.” — Khalil Gibran

“Inaction breeds doubt and fear. Action breeds confidence and courage. If you want to conquer fear, do not sit home and think about it. Go out and get busy.” — Dale Carnegie

“People who fail to achieve their goals usually get stopped by frustration. They allow frustration to keep them from taking the necessary actions that would support them in achieving their desire. You get through this roadblock by plowing through frustration, taking each setback as feedback you can learn from, and pushing ahead. I doubt you’ll find many successful people who have not experienced this. All successful people learn that success is buried on the other side of frustration.” — Tony Robbins

“When in doubt, do it.” — Oliver Wendell Holmes

“Doubt is not the opposite of faith; it is one element of faith.” — Paul Tillich

“For every seed of doubt, create an action plan.” — Angela Jia Kim of Savor the Success

“When you doubt your power, you give power to your doubt.” — Honore de Balzac

“Change your thoughts and you change your world.” — Norman Vincent Peale

“Our doubts are traitors, and make us lose the good we oft might win, by fearing to attempt.”  – William Shakespeare, Measure for Measure

“The greater the artist, the greater the doubt. Perfect confidence is granted to the less talented as a consolation prize.”  – Robert Hughes

 

ONE PART OF MY DAY

 

There’s been a lot of talk lately about disruption. I wrote a post about “Disrupting Yourself” a few months back. Industries such as publishing/journalism, music, etc. have been forced to change the way they do business because of increasing competition out of the tech sector that is making their business model obsolete. The education sector is no different. Lately, I have been taking classes from the following sites: Coursera, EdX, and Udacity. All three sites offer free, online classes from world renowned and top-tier schools like Harvard, Stanford, University of Michigan , Princeton, etc. Coursera, by far, offers the most diverse array of possible courses to take. EdX and Udacity are very heavily concentrated in math, science and computer science/coding.  In my spare time, I’ve been taking a number of free classes online. Mostly in math and computer science, but also in other areas such as health, psychology, and history. The sites are great. At this junction, Coursera is my favorite because of the diversity of subject matter to choose from and the ease of navigating the site. For a couple of years now, I’ve made the decision to learn a new skill each year. French was last year and I’ve carried it over into this year. Learning to code is on my list for this year as well.  How are you productive? How do you use your spare time, if you have any?

ON MEDITATION

 

A few months ago, this article surfaced on my twitter feed, courtesy of Fast Company, called “What Successful People Do With the First Hour of Their Work Day.”  Prior to reading, I’d already incorporated light exercise, meditation and prayer into my daily morning routine. The article sparked my interest and one of the main takeaways for me was the idea of Tony Robbins’s “Hour of Power.” Over the past months, I’d had a significant elevation in stress because of personal and professional demands. The idea of staying still for an hour or even thirty minutes (“30 Minutes to Thrive”) seemed easy enough but as I tried to implement it into my routine, I found myself blocked and even more anxious at the idea of doing nothing. Slowly, I came to realize the importance of stillness and quiet. I could organize my thoughts, think linearly, reflect on gratitude and most importantly learn to clear my head. For me personally, meditating has been an essential part of my current journey. I learned to adopt a positive attitude regardless of if I felt positive or not, carve a blueprint for the rest of my day, and I began to get real clear on what my values are. If you are sure of your values, maintain a healthy state, and adopt an attitude of gratitude, life begins to pick up in an organic way. Above, I’ve included a song , a cover of Cindy Lauper’s “Time After Time”, by one of my favorite jazz vocalists Cassandra Wilson. Sometimes, I play it while I am meditating because its such a peaceful, hopeful song. Here is a link to a free download of Tony Robbins’ “Hour of Power” talk. If anything, the practice of finding at least 5 minutes a day to just be still and re-group has been invaluable to me.

 

 

WHAT JAY-Z HAS TAUGHT ME ABOUT BUSINESS

Several years ago, a friend of mine and I visited the then recently opened 40/40 club in Manhattan, music mogul Jay-Z’s sports club. We weren’t there 10 minutes and who did we see? Mr. Jay-Z himself. I was then still new to New York and was completely starstruck at the idea of meeting a celebrity. I was content to just stay at our table and make furtive glances his way. But my friend grabbed my arm, pulled me over to him and introduced us to the superstar. Jay-Z was nothing short of warm, generous, and polite, graciously engaging us when he clearly was under no obligation to do so. Since then, I have carefully watched his career flourish to stratospheric levels. Most recently he has extended his already enviable brand to include sports agent. As I begin to build Think Young Media Group one of my “virtual mentors” has been Jay-Z. I find myself thinking back to his example often to find tried and tested strategies for taking myself and my career to where I want to be. Some of the most cogent business tips, courtesy of Jay-Z, include:

  1. Treat everyone with respect. He didn’t know me from a hole in the wall but the amount of respect he showed me coupled with the attention he gave to us has always stayed with me. I believe it was Abraham Lincoln who said, “Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.”
  2. Learn how to read people.  Jay-Z, to me, embodies someone who possesses a range of intelligences, one of which is social intelligence. In particular, he has honed the skill of assessing the strengths and weaknesses of most of those who come into his orbit. There’s this great Jay line in his song “Izzo (H.O.V.A)” that says, “I do this for my culture…Show them how to move in a room full of vultures, Industry is shady, it needs to be taken over, Label owners hate me, I’m raising the status quo up…” Let’s face it, when you are dealing with people you will deal with both the good and the bad. Learning how to “move in a room full of vultures” as well as distinguish those that can add value to you and your company from others is invaluable. 
  3. Protect yourself, your brand and your business. Always handle attacks to you, your brand & business swiftly and then move forward.
  4. Be inquisitive and identify smart, successful mentors who can offer you honest feedback. The video above is one that Forbes did with both Jay-Z and Warren Buffett (another of my idols)! Jay-Z has been very open about his curious nature and his desire to always learn. Smart questions are the lifeblood of knowledge.
  5. Focus first. Then apply this focus to the most feasible, realistic way to make money.
  6. Hard times make you into the person you’re supposed to be. You choose how you respond to the uncontrollable and controllable events in your life. Life from them and move on.
  7. True Renaissance men master one area first before moving on to another interest/business opportunity. Looking back, I think one of the things that has held me back was my lack of focus. I admire how Jay really solidified his reputation in music before moving on to the sports, fashion, and beverage industries. Build your reputation first and branching out becomes much easier.

It Can’t Always Be About the Money

Outside of Claire Danes and Damian Lewis’ wins for the outstanding show Homeland, the double Emmy win for comedian Louis CK were my favorite moments of last week’s Emmy Award Show. Louis CK has been in the game for quite awhile as a writer for the Chris Rock show, as a successful comedian and also as an actor. When the opportunity for his show, the now critically acclaimed Louie, first manifested itself, he was approached by huge networks like HBO that offered him quite a bit of money but also wanted quite a bit of control. In the end, Louie went with FX. Though FX did not offer him nearly as much money, they gave him 100% control of Louie. Louis CK writes, produces, stars in and sometimes edits the now Emmy award winning program. As I saw Louis CK accept both his awards, and finally the recognition his talent and intelligence deserves, I thought to myself, it can’t always be about the money.

Currently, I’m reading Salman Rushdie’s amazing memoir Joseph Anton. In it, Rushdie (writing of himself in the 3rd person as Joseph Anton, a pseudonym taken from the two names of his favorite authors, gives a portion of the publication background of his (in)famous novel The Satanic Verses:

“The Highest offer for the English-language rights to publish The Satanic Verses was not made by Viking Penguin. Another offer was a full $100,000 higher, but Andrew and Gillon both advised him strongly against accepting it. He was not accustomed to figures of this size, much less with turning them down, and he asked Andrew, ‘Could you just explain again why I should not agree to receive an extra one hundred thousand dollars?’ Andrew was adamant. ‘They would be the wrong publishers for you.’ Later, after the storm broke, an interview with Mr. Rupert Murdoch was printed in The New Yorker, in which he stated emphatically, ‘I think you should not give offense to people’s religious beliefs. For instance, I hope that our people would never have published the Salman Rushdie book.’ It was possible that Rupert Murdoch didn’t know that some of ‘his people’ had been so enthusiastic about the novel that they had outbid the opposition by a considerable distance, but it seemed probable, in the light of this New Yorker profile, that had Murdoch found himself in the position of being the publisher of The Satanic Verses he would have withdrawn the book the moment the trouble began. Andrew Wylie’s advice had been unusually prescient. Murdoch was indeed the wrong publisher for the book.”

It was a godsend that money didn’t drive Rushdie’s decision about where to publish his book. There are countless examples of celebrities who have walked away from extremely lucrative deals — see: Dave Chappelle and Mariah Carey. It may be hard for some to imagine turning down millions of dollar to do something you’re great at and love to do. But money can’t alone drive a deal that could impact your professional and personal future. Its important to have a wide and long view that takes money into consideration but isn’t completely driven by it.

A couple of months ago, the New York Times published a piece about the troubles facing famed shoe designers Kari Sigerson and Miranda Morrison of Sigerson Morrison. The once A list shoe designers had entered into a lucrative deal with Marc Fisher Footwear’s Marc Fisher. Soon after the papers were signed, the deal went south and now the women are engaged in a rather contentious legal battle that is poised to be a long and arduous journey. Their story is significant, a cautionary tale.

Recently, there was an article published at the Wall Street Journal about lessons entrepreneurs can take from the career of musician Bob Dylan. One of those lessons was to “See the big picture at all times and avoid the trap of the quick buck.” Sagacious advice for anyone. Slow down. Identify your goals (short and long term). And consider always consider your value system.

 

A Note on Failure

When I first made the decision to start my own business, in addition to writing the business plan, trademarking a name, researching my potential customer base, and developing my new brand, I reached out to other entrepreneurs and began to do my own research. There was one word that came up in virtually every conversation I had, interview I read, and program I watched — failure. Now an omnipresent buzzword for the entrepreneurial landscape, it refers to unsuccessful attempts to actualize or bring to fruition an idea, business or plan and the lessons gained from that process.  Though no one enjoys failure, countless successful entrepreneurs as well as successful individuals in any number of professional fields have cited the lessons accrued through professional, financial, and even personal failures as more valuable than their best success. Failure, it seems, is an extraordinary professor.

A few weeks ago, someone tweeted something that I found interesting — that failure is a privilege. I thought about that quite a bit. And I began to really think about this “cult of failure.” Sure, its important to learn how to handle failure and learn from each unsuccessful undertaking, but the ability to continue to do so without results is not an easy endeavor. Whether personal responsibilities, a dint in one’s self-esteem or just the general anxiety of the uncertain gets in the way, the attitude of  embracing failure as part of the process is not an easy swallow for most.

I have a love for graduation speeches. Each year during graduation season, I make a point to read/watch some of the most poignant. This year, I was most inspired by the candidness of Michael Lewis’ Princeton speech. In his speech, he touts luck as a part of the journey to success. He acknowledges that, “People really don’t like to hear success explained away as luck — especially successful people.” In my experience, this couldn’t be a truer statement. Currently, I am reading By Invitation Only: How We Built Gilt and Changed the Way Millions Shop by Alexis Maybank and Alexandra Wilkis Wilson. In the book, both women acknowledge their hard work, excellent leadership, and smarts weren’t the only factors that played a part in their success. It was also in the timing — something that they couldn’t predict or plan for. Yes, learning from failure is crucial. But also realizing that there are certain parts of the process that can’t be planned or expected is also important. The conversation around failure is an interesting one to be had. Its been my experience that the lessons gained in business are also applicable personally and vice versa. How have you responded personally or professionally to the idea of failure?

When Discomfort Becomes a Part of Your Routine

I gave myself 8 weeks to train. 5 days a week (with the other two days I spend time cross training), I run (ok run/walk) approximately three miles. On December 9th, I’m participating in the Hot Chocolate 5K run in Phoenix. I’ve never been a long distance runner (always a sprinter) but its been a long term goal of mine to participate in a long distance run. Its also been a goal of mine to get in top shape. The process has been both incredibly satisfying and difficult to say the least.

Over the past few years, I’ve tried something new — deliberately putting myself in situations that make me a little uncomfortable, i.e. going to events where I know no one, traveling to a foreign country by myself (Prague), striking up conversations with complete strangers, taking an improv class, trying bikram yoga for a straight month. This has been a fruitful exercise that has disrupted my routine and forced me to challenge myself in the hopes of inspiring creativity and creating more diverse life experiences. The above video is of Whitney Johnson, an entrepreneur and regular Harvard Business Review blogger, on the merits of disrupting yourself.

Though there has been some push back to this idea of disruption, particularly when it comes to your career, I found this idea inspiring. By making yourself a bit uncomfortable, you can learn more about yourself, find different ways to problem solve, and most importantly shake things up a bit. Now, I’m really interested in becoming more athletic. I want to try different things like martial arts, boxing, dancing, yoga and take my body as far as it can go. I was in part inspired by The Olympics and folks like Serena Williams, Gabby Douglas and Michael Phelps. Being physically strong is important to me and I’ve seen a difference already in the quality of my work.

I know it sounds counterintuitive to tell you to seek out ways to make yourself a bit uncomfortable but I can tell you that there’s value in trying new things. And learning new things about yourself. As Riley Gibson, CEO of Napkin Labs, asks in his Fast Company piece, “What are you doing to make yourself uncomfortable today?”