35: A Year In Review

Methinks this is round-up number 11, meaning 11 years of reflection and life lessons in the books! It also works out great as the decade comes to a close and we head into 2020, to have 10+ years of memories and learnings on which to look back.

For anyone who’s new to my year-in-review practice, I started it as a 24-year-old who began to notice that life moves quickly. Although the speed of time doesn’t actually change, as we age, it certainly feels as if it does. So, I decided to embark on a practice of using my birthday as a mile-marker to write about the past year, the things I’ve experienced, and that which I’ve learned or continue to learn.

It’s a work that serves several purposes for me: one part memory book, just so I don’t forget the things big and small that transpired. The other part is a public journal that a. holds me accountable to doing it each year, b. has become a cherished time capsule for me, c. feels hella vulnerable to put my shit out there for anyone to read, d. helps me to appreciate and take stock, and e. according to many of you, has become an inspiring and motivating tool for you, too. So, that’s why I do it.

After spending countless hours scouring my memory, calendar, pictures, journal and social media from the last year, here is 35 in review:

In full transparency, birthdays have a history of making me sad. No matter how much I’ve tried historically to focus on the good stuff, and those who care and remember, I tend to get down and get fixated in my mind on those who forgot. So, it was a big coup for me this year to overcome that pattern for the first time. That started by staying off social media on my actual birthday so I had no way of knowing the summation of who reached out. Also, for the first time in a long time, I planned an intimate gathering of friends to go bowling on my actual birthday night (which continues a nice run of child-like birthday parties to honor that kid in all of us). That kicked off the new year with fun and love, focusing on that of abundance, not lack.

Technically, that’s how the year wrapped up, so let’s rewind back to November 13, 2018, the kick-off of my 35th year…

Last year was a joint Gatsby-themed birthday with Brendan because our birthdays are one day apart.

I had a hankering this year to feel more grounded at home. That will seem laughable to many when you read this and see how much travel I still did, but I dialed it back from about 60% to 30% and that felt perfect this year. I needed to listen to myself and stay in tune with my needs. For years, being on the go all the time was perfect. This year I wanted more roots and stability.

Ironically, it was time to travel soon after our birthdays (mine and Brendan’s), so off we went to Santa Fe for Thanksgiving with my family. It was my first time in New Mexico (we choose a new destination every year) and won’t be my last! Should you go, check out 10,000 Waves Spa and Meow Wolf…trust me!

Brendan and I departed for a road trip to introduce me to some national parks and beautiful places that I’d never seen before, like the Grand Canyon, Antelope Canyon, Petrified Forest, and Horseshoe Bend, before we departed from Vegas. This trip opened my eyes to how much I love national parks, and now I’m eager to explore more of them.

December arrived and after waiting my whole life to travel to Paris, the time had come. I’d been to France, but had avoided Paris because I was “waiting for a romantic adventure” and the time finally felt right. So, Brendan and I flew to Paris. Little did I know, but the flight there would be one of the biggest milestones of my life. 

For the entirety of my adult life, I’d struggled to answer the questions of whether or not I wanted to ever get married and/or have children. Naturally, that was a major sticking point in my relationship with Brendan. He’d remained extraordinarily graceful and patient with me for, at that time, 2-plus years, as those were non-negotiable for him.

We boarded a flight, sat, and I looked to my right and pointed out a family with a cute baby (if you know me you’ll know that is a rarity for me to call out a cute child). He turned to me with puppy-dog eyes and asked, “Can we please have one?”. This wasn’t an unusual question from him, yet my response and reaction were. Immediately, I began to feel tears streaming down my cheeks and without thinking, I said, “OK.” He cried and kissed my cheek, while whispering that he’d be there to support me every step of the way. I replied, “Can I have a mulligan, in case I change my mind?”. That moment became a domino effect that set into motion so much more this year: the decision to choose one another, get engaged, and begin to plan a forever future together. 

We arrived in Paris and little did we know that we had gotten there just in time literally to be in the middle of the yellow vest protests. We found ourselves walking through torn up streets of broken shop windows, car fires, and angry mobs of people. It wasn’t quite the romantic Paris I’d envisioned, but simply reality. We still hit all the tourist spots: saw the Mona Lisa, Eiffel Tower, a creepy art exhibit of spider webs, Notre Dame (pre-fire), and so on.

From there we headed to Rome for me to eat my heart out (it’s the only place in the world I go and my sole focus is food) and to tap into Brendan’s work with the Vatican. I enjoyed some solo time eating gelato and spaghetti while reading Michelle Obama’s book and making friends with the Italian waiter, who was also a twin and reading the same book! 

Next, we take our carry-ons to Miami to pop into Art Basel (you’d be amazed at my packing skills for all these various places and fashion needs), then straight to Big Sur, California to check out Esalen for a tantra workshop. It turned out it was more of a relationship workshop (misnomer in the title) but it was a great weekend at a spectacular location!

Being settled in our new house for the first holiday season, Brendan’s family agreed to visit us for Christmas. We had a great time showing them Atlanta for the first time, and giving them the full-blown holiday experience (Botanical garden holiday lights, axe throwing, private museum tour, food tour, and the like), including a colorful mixture of friends for a lively Christmas Eve dinner.

For New Years, we jetted to Guatemala with our friends Adam and Tyler to have what can only be described as a magical experience. It was the perfect rejuvenating and centering experience to head into a new calendar year and last year of the decade.

That magic continued to unfold as days later I sat at my desk and recorded the first episode with Deepak Chopra of our new digital series together: Diving Deep With Deepak & Darrah. Here was a man I’d admired and learned from his teachings for years. Suddenly, I’m co-hosting a show with him, getting to sit with him and ask anything I wanted for an hour at a time, week after week. That experience taught me more than I can share in a summary. Some of the lessons included what I call ‘borrowed confidence’…by that I mean that Deepak saw something in me I didn’t see in myself at the time. So, the only way for me to move forward was to borrow that confidence he felt until I could embody it for myself.

I learned countless lessons about growth and life and was reminded that the things that are meant for us happen without resistance and toil. For example, had you asked me if that was a goal of mine, the answer was a certain ’no’ because it was so far out of sight and what I thought was possible. Yet, it unfolded so quickly and effortlessly, which is how I knew deeply that it was right. I took that and uncharacteristically made my only goal for 2019 ‘to have less goals’ because I wanted to allow life to transpire and happen for me as it needed to, not allowing my attachment to my own goals to get in the way of that. Deepak and I have since released 33 episodes. I look forward to seeing how our friendship and collaboration can continue to do what he asked of it: to allow me to help make his work more relatable and understandable to others.

Next up: NYC to revisit our old part-time home, connect with Deepak, bring together local friends, start ring shopping, and avoid the Super Bowl madness in Atlanta!

My work with Deepak also catalyzed my love for interviewing people and extracting wisdom and value for the readers or watchers. So, I opened myself up to those opportunities and interviewed people like: Nastia Liukin, Shaq, Ryan Holiday, Marie Forleo, Sheri Salata, Kevin Harrington, Baron Davis, Bill Belichick, Jean Chatzky, Guy Kawasaki, Bobbi Brown, Cal Newport, Jillian Michaels, and Seth Godin. 

Many snippets of these interviews will also be featured in my ongoing project: my next book. I continued to work on my book proposal with my agent and writing partner (going on year 2 now…learned a lot about this process since starting) and was surprised and sad to say goodbye to that writing partner this summer when he shared the news that his priorities had changed and this was no longer a part of them. In that moment, I made a choice to trust that that was what was best for both of us, even though it wasn’t what I wanted, and empathize with how difficult that must have been for him to come to that conclusion.

Within days, I learned that I’d be losing my event directors in Baltimore and Nashville later this year as they both were ready to pursue other things. Then, shortly after, my bookkeeper quit. It was definitely a time for regeneration, letting go of the old and inviting in new in each of these areas. It kicked up some narratives in my mind that I’m difficult to work with and must be the problem, but when I dug into it, realized that was self-imposed. 

I also realized that when we allow things to stay comfortable, it can blind us to areas that need attention and growth, and that was the case for each of these. I also was reminded of how easily communication can go hay-wire. With one of these teammates, she pinpointed a sentence I had said to her in recent weeks that “rubbed her the wrong way”. Instead of getting defensive, I replied, “I certainly hope that you won’t allow one sentence to override the thousands of sentences we’ve shared in our years of knowing one another.” And then I let it be because here’s the thing: we can’t control how others perceive or receive our communications. We can control our actions and intentions, and can and should try to clean up any mess that might occur. Ultimately, though, everyone will digest our communications (and lack thereof) through his/her own perspective and experiences. Not taking that personally is one of the hardest lessons I’ll continue to learn.

And, earlier that year, I had two resignations come, one from a team member who’d been with me for 6 years so he could start his own company. Neither contentious, but both jarring, and one was followed up by a new hire who quit before she started. However, before I panicked, I paused and realized that there is something that needs to shed to show me what’s coming.  It’s taken me years of experience (and meditation) to approach things this way and realize that problems are only such if we choose to see them that way.

This leads me to about a week later when my assistant came to me asking for both a raise and a change in her structure. I had my feelings about the timing and request given some recent circumstances, and I made the mistake of responding to her email request also via email, which led to unnecessary misinterpretation. Two days later, I had a resignation notice in my inbox, chock-full of verbal attacks on my character. I was beside myself. Even though I knew the aforementioned about not taking it personally, knowing someone felt the things she said she did about me left me in a puddle. Immediate efforts to call and connect (she’s in another country; hence, why we typically email) were not answered. Days later, we spoke, and when coming from a place of love and understanding, talked through it all, worked it out, she came back on board, and even to my surprise, I offered her the raise and structure changes she requested. My older brother suggested this wouldn’t last, but I have to trust my gut. She told me that her harsh words were not about me at all. That confirmed what I know: people are projecting their own experiences on us (and we to them) and shielding themselves from hurt…often mistakenly causing hurt along the way. Oddly, we are better for it now, partly because we chose to rise above it and not let it be the end or a defining moment for us.

That leads me to another lesson: the more I’ve put myself out there publicly (and will continue to), the more I receive both loving and hateful critique. It’s so natural to drown out the good for the bad, and let that record play on repeat in my head. So, I’ve done a lot of internal work to remind myself that this criticism doesn’t count when it’s coming from faceless online bullies and people who aren’t on the field, in the game themselves. If they’re simply jerks who are on the sidelines, sitting pretty, there to hail insults, I try to keep it moving. I’m not impenetrable, but I’ve seen a massive improvement.

That has also led me to hide less. This is something I was guilty of for years: fearful of other people’s opinions and judgments so much so that I would keep playing small and hiding from opportunities to avoid that possible wrath. The funny thing was, most of the time people weren’t actually paying attention, and then I also realized that when they were, it was a great sign that people were paying attention, so that meant that my message(s) were spreading. This accumulation of learnings led me to a place where more than ever before, I flung myself into new and scary things saying to myself along the way, “Why not?” and “Why not me?”.

Another new and scary thing I took on this year (but can’t speak to in much detail yet) was awakening to the fact that it was time to sell one of my companies. I had a deep feeling of discomfort and told Brendan I needed to get away for a solo retreat in nature. So, after the wedding of dear friends, we drove to a hike out at a nearby lake. Within moments, I knew. Within 5 weeks’ time of that moment, I went from making that decision to sell, to holding a formal bidding process for 4 companies who were interested in purchasing, with a waiting list of 4 more. I’d learned everything about how to do it and built the process while I went. Once that is final, I’ll share more!

Back to chronological time… in February we were off to LA for a little sunshine and some work: Oscars event, charity comedy event, and some time with friends!

During this time I was relaunching my website and working with a woman who specializes in launches, copy, funnels…all sorts of digital marketing stuff. I learned a valuable lesson here, too: no matter how expert someone is in something: always trust your gut. I paid her a good deal of money to change things that didn’t entirely feel and sound like me when she was finished. The results: poor and worse than what they were before I brought her on. I needed to trust my instincts and blend that with her wisdom, but instead, I let the idea of her knowledge overpower mine.

Up next: Brendan and I started taking ballroom dancing lessons, mostly because I wanted to know if had my mom’s talent (she used to compete) and after years of watching Dancing With The Stars, I felt as if I could do it. I was sort of right…

Then it was off to explore another national park: this time to Joshua Tree with a group of girlfriends and then straight to Civana resort in Arizona, thanks to a friend who comped us with a 3-night stay and spa treatments…it was just what we needed!

Around this time (April), I got an email from a former editor of one of the online publications for which I used to write. He asked if he could pay me to mentor him, and we’ve since created a beautiful relationship of mentorship and coaching. Because of our work together, I began to shatter a lot of my misgivings about the idea of being a coach. I’d felt for so long that there were too many of them and that they were often baseless and fluffy. I didn’t want to be lumped in with them, yet, when he and I worked together, I felt so alive, and was blown away by the impact our time together was having on him (all the way in New Zealand).

Shortly after we started, a friend and I found ourselves speaking on a panel together. Afterward, she asked me if I would coach her: she was growing her business and found that her life was going to hell in a handbasket in favor of her keeping her business afloat. I said no, still resisting coaching, and basically, she said, “What do I have to pay you to do this?”. I sat on it and decided to move forward and gave both of us an out, were it not to be aligned.

Turns out, it was majorly aligned, and again, she was thrilled with the results and so was I. Then, along came a guy I went on one date with 6 years ago, who asked me to coach him as he was in a time of struggle. He shared, “I don’t even know what it feels like to be happy in my life or business anymore”. After 5 sessions, his life and company had turned around, he “felt happy for the first time in years”, and his revenue was up 250%. It’s likely that you can guess… I now coach people, having about 3-6 active clients at a time.

With that wind in my sails, I decided to unearth an idea I’d had and mapped out for years: a group coaching program for people who want to run businesses that don’t run them. I pulled out my copious notes, made adjustments, and within a month, had created the entire program and launched enrollment in November. Come January, the program will begin for a whole year with real people! This truly was the year of letting things unfold, taking action on them, and pushing myself outside of my own limitations and resistances. 

Still April, I sat down to determine what would be the most impactful use of my time. This is an important exercise for anyone like me who has multiple plates in the air all the time. Some things that came up were audience growth and getting super-precise on my messaging as I worked towards my next book publishing. So, I decided to scrimmage before the big game (so to speak) when I’ll do a media tour: I set out to be a guest on 30 podcasts.

A simple Facebook post turned into 289 comments and 60 podcasts booked in 60 days. Just the rehearsal I needed as well as a great way to start to see which podcasts really moved the needle (I wrote a whole piece here on this should you want to know the mechanics of how to do this for yourself). Those also parlayed into a few major ones, like Jenna Kutcher’s Goal Digger podcast that will release 2 days before Christmas to an audience of about 1M, and a guest appearance in Jesse Itzler’s mastermind as a paid expert speaker…the audio of which I turned into a resource on my website (double-win)! 

Another win: being on the podcast of a former Shark Tank company. The host told me afterward that she thought my work would be all fluff but ended up taking more notes on my episode than any before and was totally blown away. It’s moments like that which remind me that we need to put our heads down and do the work, concerning ourselves less with what others are up to if it’s going to cause comparison and doubt.

Somewhere in this period, I went vegan for 2 months as an experiment. I certainly felt good (not tremendously different since I eat relatively healthily anyway) but gave it up once international travel came up again as it was near impossible to eat vegan in Cuba.

After hosting a high school friend for the weekend, it was off to the nicest resort I’ve ever stayed in: Rosewood Mayakoba in Mexico for a summit and pampering. I’m forever holding every place up to the standard of this one… no bueno.

After a couple of weeks back home to work, reconnect with friends, and decompress, we planned a trip with my parents (now residents of Panama) to meet up in Cuba. Fortunately for us, we went mere days before Trump imposed greater restrictions on travel and visas there. We had a great time learning salsa, touring Hemingway history, driving in classic cars, drinking mojitos, learning about the complicated history, and taking in the beauty of Havana. One thing I’ve been working on as I grow older and establish more and more of a life outside of my nuclear family is to find ways to connect with them even though we live all over the world. Admittedly, it doesn’t always come naturally to me, but trips like this help to remind me that we can’t characterize people, especially family, by how we knew them when we last spent the most time together. So, in this case, high school. I tend to get stuck in my mind seeing myself as 18-year-old me and they as themselves 17 years ago…which isn’t fair to either of us. So, real-life experience helps to chip away at that fable.

We returned home for a wedding and soon met the brother of a dear friend who offered to host a sound bath and cacao ceremony in our living room for us and 6 friends. It was one of the most memorable experiences we’ve had in our home, and provided deeper confirmation for me to continue fearlessly to do the work I’m doing.

Next up, a welcomed visit from my aunt and cousin followed by some initial explorations of lake living. Brendan grew up in Cape Cod on the ocean, and the one thing Atlanta doesn’t have is water in the city. So we began a many-month adventure to learn about second homes on lakes in Georgia. For a while it seemed quite likely we’d bite, but ultimately tabled it.

Next, I headed to my tri-annual Emory board meeting, and after a cumulative 13 years on various boards for the school, this time on the school’s primary board, I resigned. I came to a place of wanting to slough off that which didn’t feel additive and this was a clear choice. Fellow board members chuckled because I made the decision during the meeting, walked up to the staffer in charge during lunch, shared my resignation, said a few goodbyes, and departed. Quick and painless, feeling no need to drag it out.

Never afraid of a disagreeable climate, we drove to Charleston in the sweltering heat of June to catch up with friends. Little did I know, this set in motion a week of leadup to Brendan’s proposal. Subsequently, he traveled to 5 cities that week, and about 1/3 of his suitcase was filled with crystals, sage, and other items he’d use as part of our engagement journey days later.

Rather than try to recreate it, here’s the post I shared a couple of days after:

We’re engaged! On Friday, June 21st, a day symbolizing both the day of the month we met as well as the Solstice (a day of light and regeneration), Brendan lured me to the US Capital for “a private tour with the Senate minority leader”. Admittedly, I wasn’t that into the idea and almost opted out to do some work…but he won me over with a rousing speech about Congress and Government process.

As we arrived, passed through security, got our credentials, and headed up to Senator Schumer’s office, we were told “the tour is on the balcony”. As we were escorted out to his private balcony, overlooking the National Mall and Washington Monument, Brendan grabbed my hands, got on 2 knees (not 1), and asked me to marry him. And, spoiler alert, I said “yes”!

I feel incredibly grateful to have met this man almost 3 years ago in Portland, Oregon (thanks Breakout!). We were in a small group conversation and when he first spoke, I remember my first thought was, “that’s an incredible human”. I could feel his energy, it had nothing to do with his words.

We had several connected conversations that weekend that led to our first date in LA immediately after. When the 2 days in LA ended, I moved my ring from my right hand to my left ring finger, as though I had a premonition that this would one day be the outcome.

That being said, I never wanted to be married, and it was a huge area of growth for me in our relationship to unwind old, self-imposed identities, and instead, be willing to allow this beautiful soul to love me and help me chip away at my walls and blind spots.

I used to allow an incomplete kind of love into my life because it’s all I knew and thought I deserved. And then I met Brendan and wondered how it could be possible that such a huge-hearted, beautiful-spirited man could exist and love me so wholly. And yet, he continued to share more of himself and offer patience and grace as I grew and let him in more and more. Together, we never cease to laugh, adventure, support, and grow. And now, we celebrate the beginning of a lifetime of that and more!

We went from there to a day full of beautiful surprises like lunch with my friend who helped him design and source the ring and a night in St. Michaels, Maryland. We woke up the next morning to my favorite part of the engagement experience: we laid out the crystals he’d lugged, saged away any of our old energy, and I guided us in a visualization about our future together.

A week or two passed for us to let it set in, and we were headed to The Cape for the 4th of July. I tell Brendan often that I’m grateful he’s from such a charming place where we love to go and visit. There are few places more picturesque and Americana than Cape Cod over July 4th. A week and a half there fishing, boating, walking on the beach, working, and celebrating the soon-to-be in-laws’ 45th wedding anniversary, we came home for a short stint before heading to celebrate a milestone anniversary of my parents: 50 years! I mean, holy shit, that’s a long time… 

They decided to bring the family together in St. Kitts, so we took an overnight pitstop in Puerto Rico to connect with an old friend and see what’s it like 2 years after Hurricane Maria (for the record: San Juan is fully operational and a great place to spend some tourism dollars). Afterward, we jetted to St. Kitts for a week of quality time with the family, which in my family means ATV tours, snorkeling, jet-skiing, and a rainforest tour.

The introvert in me was ready for some solo time, but, instead, we greeted Brendan’s parents at the ATL airport upon landing from St. Kitts to immediately go check out lake houses again. A whirlwind weekend of exploring, capped off by a baby shower and hosting a gathering at our house for people who want to learn about visiting Cuba. Because why not throw a couple more things in?? But seriously, I was at the end of my energetic rope after all of that and reminded myself to create better boundaries to protect my well-being.

And…if that weren’t enough travel or family time, a week later we headed back to Cape Cod because it’s Brendan’s favorite in August. Plus, my parents were in Rhode Island with friends, so we finally gathered them up and had the parents meet after almost 3 years. Fortunately, they all love golf, so they loved each other.

I departed The Cape early to head to Rhode Island to meet some girlfriends in Newport for a gorgeous weekend. This trip reminded me that no matter how much time passes, growth areas don’t improve unless you work on them. I recall having insecurities flare up during this trip where I felt left out, like I was back in grade school, but hilariously, not because anyone actually was. It was a story I was telling myself, then allowing to perpetuate and find evidence to support. 

That was followed up by a few days in Atlanta for work and rest, then off to Deep Creek Lake, Maryland to spend the weekend with my best friend since age 10. It’s amazing to see someone grow and evolve over 25 years and get to spend real quality time with her family now.

Next, we were invited to try an experience that was new to both of us: an authentic sweat lodge and plant medicine experience in North Georgia. My expectation was that it would be like a sauna. I was wrong. It was 2 hours of the most intense darkness, heat, and intensity I’ve ever felt. Dripping with sweat as I finally exited, I was deeply impressed with my ability to withstand it and struggle much less than I’d initially anticipated upon first moments of the experience. We all have much more strength within than we typically access, and moments like these are reminders of that. My intention and hope were to meet my spirit guides and learn more about them. I began to connect, but still have a ways to go!

That experience got me in a clear headspace to co-host my first day-long retreat at Serenbe, an idyllic Truman-Show-like community south of Atlanta. I used the momentum of the feedback from the participants to continue to teach in these ways.

After that weekend, I began to see an energy healer and revisit an acupuncturist. I tend to be one part believer, one part skeptic (makes sense since I think I’m here as a bridge between the spiritual and earthly, so understanding both perspectives is critical). Did either ‘work’? Up to interpretation…

I was thrilled to get a call from the press team for Visa, who invited me to do a similar job as I had done the year prior for Chase: to go to DC and be their on-site correspondent for their women’s entrepreneurship event: She’s Next. I walked away feeling so high from that, noting times like this when my energy spikes, meaning I need to invest more into those activities.

Back in Atlanta a couple of days later, Brendan and I were invited to dinner at a summer camp about an hour away. We love the host so we didn’t ask questions. We were blown away to discover that we were having dinner with 8 people, in a horshoecrap-shaped treehouse, with Zac Brown (the musician), fed by his private chef, and that he’d teach us to throw axes and share his newly released album with us and tell us the backstories. It was an unforgettable night!

October came around, and we flew to Tulsa, Oklahoma for Breakout: the group/event where we’d met almost exactly 3 years before (but in Portland, Oregon). It was a great weekend of learning, challenging conversations, friendship, and line dancing!

I came home just in time for an unpleasant reality: jury duty. It was my third time to be called, but never in this county. Naively, I assumed it would be like the first two where I was out by lunch. Not this time because I was called, and it was a murder trial. 11 hours later, I thanked my lucky stars that I wasn’t selected, as carrying the weight of someone’s fate and another family’s justice in my hands was not something I was prepared to do. The weight of that experience stayed with me for a long while as it was one more reminder about how much I feel compelled to play a role in improving our broken criminal “justice” system. I reached out to several more organizations that support those who are incarcerated or are returning citizens by teaching life and business skills. Sadly, I was rejected by all of them for not being local or their being at capacity. If you know of one, holler! 

Then began a string of dance practices to learn a traditional Indian dance that I’d soon be performing for my friend’s wedding in India (where subsequently, I’m writing this from now). I felt nervous as I didn’t want to do a poor or insensitive job of performing this dance! Fortunately, old cheerleader me came back to life and got it down pat!

October 21st rolled around and Brendan and I celebrated 3 years together. Not wanting to go far, but wanting to commemorate it, we drove to the mountains for a weekend, capped off with a favorite of mine (not his): outlet shopping!

The next day, I headed to a meeting at a film studio in Atlanta to have one of the most memorable meetings of my life: the president of the studio saw my series with Deepak and loved it. She said she wants to create a tv or streaming show with me and we are now in the very early stages of exploring that! I will never forget driving home and feeling elated…whereas in the meeting I looked neutral because I couldn’t process this fast enough… it felt surreal!

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been a tv lover, and more so, an admirer of Oprah and that format. I’m deeply curious and, therefore, love to ask questions and get to the heart of the matter. With all the interviews I’ve done over the last 18 months, I’ve become quite comfortable doing so. She saw that and said that she sees me ‘taking over the Oprah lane’. Life. Made. She asked me to make a pitch deck for the show concepts. Having never done that, I naturally said “yes”. 2 days later she had 2 decks on her desk and we moved to the next step! Here’s to seeing that show as a reality on next year’s update!

Brendan and I started getting the itch to look at what the Atlanta housing market is like (we’re renting out my house in Decatur currently…cash flow!) and renting our current spot while Brendan was getting to know the city). A new favorite Sunday activity: open houses. Unimpressed with the options, we began to consider building from the ground up. In research mode as we speak (or, as we read, in this case).

November arrives and we fly back to DC, 4 months after being engaged there, to gather local friends for a beautiful party hosted by my aunt and uncle.

A couple of fundraisers later, it’s our birthdays, and we’re ringing in another rotation around the sun! Oh, and thanks to Brendan’s working formerly in the Obama administration, we got to meet him!

And, because I’ve delayed the writing of this, another month has passed and we’ve traveled to Colombia and Panama for Thanksgiving, then 3 days later, off to India for 2 weeks, where you find me now, in Kerala, at an ayurvedic retreat center.

As I work through the chronological happenings and learnings of the year in review, there are many other elements that don’t naturally find a home. So allow me to move to those reflections next:

On friendships: the older I get, the more energetically-introverted I become, meaning that I need more time to myself, as well as much prefer 1-on-1 and smaller group environments to connect more intentionally and deeply. Because of this, some friendships change, allowing for space for others to emerge. I’ve been inviting in a new crop of friends whose wisdom and interest in spiritual and personal development mirrors mine. I’ve been grateful to receive that abundantly which has taught me so much (including but not limited to some abilities I have in reiki, energy work, and card reading)!

Two of them emerged to pull me out of my comfort zone and co-host a workshop and a retreat with me. I felt really nervous going into them: that I wouldn’t be able to carry my weight and that I’d have little to offer the participants. They helped me move through that and lovingly nudged me into doing things for the first time like leading a guided visualization for 20 women, bringing some to tears. I walked away really proud of myself for facing that fear, and really grateful to them for allowing me to borrow confidence again until I could see it for myself.

I also cheered on so many milestones for friends this year: births, marriages, engagements, books published, career highs, and the like!

On luxuries: I’m all about balance in life and have come to realize that pampering myself in certain ways has become an extension of self-love and care. So, much like in years past, I’ve kept up my lash extensions, massages (even some at home), and house cleanings!

On fitness: Our new-ish home location is in Midtown Atlanta near the park, which has been a game-changer for more walking and less driving. That has been a fitness win along with yoga and Jillian Michaels’ app which I started to do religiously in my room every morning (a miracle for me since fitness tends to fall to the wayside).

On business: With Network Under 40, I said goodbye to both Nashville and Baltimore directors and brought on some fresh new faces to take over! I handed off almost all of the day-to-day responsibilities to others on the team and freed myself up for other projects. I created a virtual course to teach others the step-by-step methods I’ve used to host and grow a profitable networking events side hustle so others can do it for themselves as well as celebrated 8 years in business (going on 9 soon). 

For Equitable Payments, my credit card processing business, if you’d told me 10 (almost 11) years ago when I started this company with my twin brother that in years 6-10, I’d spend about 1-2 hours/week on it and make more than I did when I spent full time on it, I’d be as shocked as you probably are reading that. Yet, it’s true. And it’s been such a gift to enjoy both the fruits of those 6+ years of hard work as well as to have them underpin me so I’ve been able to have much less fear and stress in launching all of my other subsequent projects. 

For Finance Whiz Kids, this book still remains something near and dear to me although it never picked up steam as I’d hoped. It continues to sell in limited quantities, and I remain optimistic that I and/or others will continue to teach future generations sound financial habits. 

On cultural activities: Got in a good variety this year including ‘Drunk Shakespeare’ (thanks sister-in-law for that gift!), modern dance performance with my friend as choreographer, Mariah Carey concert,

courtside at the Hawks (3x), a trip to the zoo (where I realized that I don’t like them…I just feel bad for the animals), stand up comedy show, Atlanta United soccer game, Yayoi Kusama: infinity mirrors exhibit, Oklahoma State Fair (all hail everything fried), and a first trip to a Christmas tree farm (leaving with no tree).

On additional lessons:

As I’ve leaned deeply into my life as an online educator and coach teaching folks how to live their life by design, build a business to fund it, and a network to support it…there have been many times where I’ve doubted, wondered why I’m working so hard when I could just coast off my other businesses’ income, when I compare myself to those who are doing it ‘better’ or for a bigger audience, or who seem to have their shit totally together and I wonder why I’m even trying. But then I get reassurance from coaching clients, total internet strangers, or people whom I know and had no idea they were paying attention, and that gives me a second wind to keep pushing. Plus, when I look back, I realize how much I’ve grown and how far I’ve come in general, but specifically in this work in the last 2 years.

Plus, I tend to find that momentum and ease are two things that signal you’re in the right place. I don’t mean to give the impression that things will always be easy, but that things will click and you’ll go with the current, not against it, when you’re in the right place. That’s how this work has felt as a whole, and it’s my work to overcome the limiting beliefs, insecurities, doubts, and fears. Plus, the more I work with clients, the more it gives me positive stress to be at my best for them.

And on that note, while external confirmations don’t really matter, here’s a few that were exciting: I was featured in Cosmopolitan magazine, Inc, Forbes, and several other publications.

I was reminded just as much this year as other years that my internal guidance system speaks via my intuition, and I need to trust it. It has never steered me wrong, but when I doubt it, things go awry. 

I’ve never felt more fearless and also, still have much to tackle in this arena.

I learned through much of the turnover on my teams that a trigger for me is feeling misunderstood, which goes deep into my childhood. 

I’ve learned the value of margin in my schedule. Where once I chose to pack it to the brim, now I much prefer gaps and spaces and open blocks and unplanned evenings wherever possible. I feel it allows for the natural energies and happenings of life to emerge rather than feel forced or overdone.

Animals are healing and one of the primary, yet simple, highlights of my year was time cuddling with my cat, Chairman Meow.

I incorporated a new morning routine when I’m home: post to IG and scroll the news while my brain turns on, brush teeth, gratitude and appreciation journal, meditate, drink water, 7 minute Jillian Michaels app workout. I’ve felt more energized as a result.

Speaking of: I’m learning more and more through practice that energy is the thing I care to manage even more than my time. So, I choose how, where, and with whom I spend my time more carefully so as to protect my energy.

I learned a new skill: website design (not sure I can technically call it that since everything is so plug-and-play now) but hell, it’s beautiful!

I’ve learned a lot about the growth that happens uniquely in a loving partnership. That and how my perception of my own identity can and should shift (isn’t stagnant) and that, with the right partner, you can be lovingly confronted with your shortcomings and areas for growth. I’ve also learned that freedom is not lost in relationship (once a major fear).

Straight from my journal: “Do the things you love and that excite you, not seeking a specific outcome but because you believe in them and they light you up.”

“You never know who is watching, nor do things happen when you’d expect or on your timeline. Trust, be patient, do the work.”

While I’ve been a believer in the law of attraction and that our thoughts become our reality, I’d never fully grasped before the concept that when you doubt the thing you’re seeking to create, that doubt energy is what is matched. So, I began to notice those times when I wanted something and tried to feel and speak it into existence but realized that my doubt was overpowering it.

You never know where people will go and grow and how relationships will evolve. I have a million examples of this, but one is that now my first business mentor, now not only has me on his board, but had me speak and teach his MBA students about entrepreneurship. It felt like such a beautiful full-circle moment.

Seems basic, but I continue to remind myself that we are all of equal value: none lesser, none more. The latter here is tougher for me as someone who’s historically struggled with the narrative that ‘I’m not good enough’, generally thinking others were better.

With maturity (and meditation) I’m lightyears less emotionally reactive than I used to be. This plays out with work stress and family stress the most.

I’ve began to crack beneath the surface of perfectionism and realize that it’s actually a shield that blocks me from feeling all sorts of emotions that, when you boil it down, block love, because it’s imperfect. Perfectionism is really an excuse to not expose ourselves fully.

I continue to see that goals and priorities will change, but values don’t. I remain steadfast in mine (freedom, connection, generosity, learning/growth) and do regular self-checks to be sure my actions and how I spend my time are aligned with them.

Mantras for me: 

-Process over progress.

-Inputs over outcomes.

-More heart, less head.

-Self-care is not selfish.

I continue to get more comfortable with discomfort and ambiguity and get clearer that uncertainty is the only certainty.

NOW is it. Nothing else exists. The more we can be here now, and raise our vibes (aka joy, fun, love, etc), that’s the real goal!

Putting my value into outside factors like accolades, titles, and money will never be fulfilling.

Share what I have (ideas, time, love, resources). I will likely think it’s way less valuable than the person who needs it does.

Stop searching externally for answers. They exist within us. It’s about tapping into them. Therein lies the work.

Celebrate small wins and ask myself “How would historic me feel about me today?”

You never know how the seeds you’re planting will grow, but do it anyway.

Now is just as good a time as any. When we wait for the ‘right time’, we’re usually making excuses and stalling. So, start!

We usually need to see models of what we desire to do, so collect people who are doing cool shit to huddle up around you.

All aspects of life occur in seasons, some seasons are for rest and rejuvenation, and others are for growth and blossoming. 

My holding myself back is my withholding that which someone needs from me (aka I’m robbing them by selfishly staying small).

The things that spark jealousy are those that I want for myself, so flip the feeling to one that inspires me to work towards it.

Winners do quit…strategically. Saying “no” is important.

Simple pleasures really are the greatest ones. When I look back at my journal, so much of it is filled with appreciation for quality time with friends and loved ones, my pet, books, breezes, sharing/giving, and nature.

Be kinder to myself. I would never let someone else talk to me the way I talk to myself.

There is a difference between wisdom and knowledge. Knowing something doesn’t mean you’ve truly embodied it.

Like attracts like, so take a look at your circumstances to understand what’s going on internally.

35 by the numbers:

-35 books read

-7 countries visited

-119 days traveled

-80+ speaking engagements and media opportunities (1 of which was my first time sharing the stage with Brendan!)

-Countless dinner parties, book salons, and gatherings hosted in our home

-More saved and earned than any year before

-Thousands of connections catalyzed to help bring out the best in others

-41 articles written and interviews conducted

-Countless memories (unless you want to count out those listed in this blog post!)

If you’ve read all the way to the end, thank you and cheers to the best year yet for all of us!

Read More

34 In Review

For the first time in a decade, I’ve procrastinated writing this annual reflection which feels like a treasured time capsule.

After last year’s 77 pager (with pictures), it felt like a daunting task.

So, I’m giving myself permission to share it in a more crude fashion, so as to complete it. Why? Because I believe that done is better than perfect.

So, although it’s already 3 months into my 35th year, I’m compiling a bulleted list with what I did, how I grew, and what I learned.


As I share every year, I do this for a few primary reasons: 1. To have for myself to reflect back on, 2. To commemorate the moments (big and small) that happened over the previous 365 days, and 3. Because each time I share it, others say it sparks in them some version of the same practice which often results in gratitude and more intentionality in how they spend their time in the upcoming year.

Sharing what I learn is important because if my experiences can offer any amount of truth, inspiration, or guidance to others, I’m all for it.

So, let’s dive into that which was 34…

-At the start of the previous year, I was still living part-time in NYC until Brendan officially moved to ATL in January.

-I was honored with Atlanta’s 40 Under 40 award days before my birthday. When asked what the best advice I had to offer was, I shared: ‘Don’t take yourself too seriously’.

-Brendan and I have birthdays one day apart (plus 6 years) so we hosted a joint celebration in ATL and then in Brooklyn.

-I got frustrated with people asking shitty questions when they meet new people so I published ‘The 55 best questions to ask to break the ice and really get to know someone’, which was read over 1.1M times so far. Apparently I’m not the only one who wants to have more meaningful conversations.

-Got to read a dedication I wrote during the ceremony for the wedding of a couple I set up— one of my greatest life accomplishments!

-Spent Thanksgiving in Vancouver with family.

-Post family time, Brendan and I got cozy on the Sunshine Coast (picture Xmas tree forests with waterfalls, fireplaces, and home cooked meals).

-Re-opened some old family wounds and experienced deep pain as a result. Learned that being right doesn’t always mean things go your way. I was also reminded that being an adult child is hard and that family relationships can the hardest.

-Spent months upon months diving into myself to uncover what was at the base of a nagging feeling I felt that there was a new incarnation of my career coming, but I had to do the work to figure out what it was. After a lot of soul searching, I realized it was the need to share what I’d learned about how to intentionally design my life so others could have the resources, tools, and inspiration I’d compiled and learned over the years.

-With that, I had to decide how. Recognizing that I always knew that after writing my kids book, I’d one day write at least one adult non-fiction work, I spoke it to life and said, ‘I’m going to write a New York Times best-seller’.

-I kid you not, within weeks, I went from having no idea what to do next, to have meetings with 5 literary agents, getting offers from 4 of them, and signing with one of them.

-Because of that, I learned a lot…fast…about what it takes to get a publishing deal these days and to write a great book. So, I set out to do many of those things: hired a writing partner and started to grow an audience via a personal brand (both to demonstrate to a publisher that I had people listening who would want a book from me, as well as to get to know who my audience really was and what they really needed).

-I was a podcast guest a in a nationally syndicated radio show’s studio.

-AJ, my older bro, finally got to cash in on my earlier birthday gift and have, as he said, one of the top experiences of his life: photographing a Miami Dolphins game, on the sidelines, with the official NFL photographer..best gift I’ve ever given.

-I started to have more challenges with one of my companies, Network Under 40, as I felt myself growing apart from the core audience and as my life changed, I felt tension with running it. This showed in our numbers.

-I got smatterings of pictures and stories all year from families who used my book to teach their kids about financial responsibility. They made me so happy to know that even though it’s not a primary focus for me right now, that my original mission is still in effect!

-Spent my first Xmas with Brendan’s family in Cape Cod (and even learned that they had the same random tradition of doing scratch-offs in their stockings).

-Made some new friends with whom we spent New Years Eve in a cozy North Georgia cabin… those friends are now some of my most dear (a reminder that depth of relationship doesn’t always take a long time).

-Celebrated so many beautiful milestones of my friends: promotions, new career endeavors, entrepreneurial successes, engagements, weddings, babies, and even ending the wrong relationships.

-Took an epic journey by Hiawatha train from Seattle, Washington to Whitefish, Montana, to celebrate a friend’s 50th.

-The fun didn’t stop there- we snowshoed in Glacier National Park and enjoyed the snowy festivities. This also marked my first National Park experience, resulting in my vow to go to more.

-As I got deeper in my knowledge of what it takes to grow a following with a personal brand (working towards the long-term goal of NYT best-seller), I decided I needed to hire a marketing virtual assistant. It was tumultuous, and I made several poor hiring decisions until I didn’t, and found a gem….and then she resigned around my birthday and thus, the challenge to find a new one began. A reminder that the people beside you in your company are so important, and often the biggest challenge to running a business.

-Surprised my mom in SF with my siblings for her 70th birthday.

-House hunted..a lot..and waited for the right fit—and was oh so glad we did because our house is exactly what we wanted! And honestly, I hadn’t realized after living my entire adult life in my first home, how much a change of environment and location can shift your energy!

-The designer in me loved decorating a new house—and as I do— finished it in a week’s time, thanks in huge part to my stylish mom who came and helped pull it all together.

-When I was younger, I was really into black and white film photography. In high school, my art teacher pulled me aside to try to convince me to go to art school instead of Emory. I didn’t, and as I got older, photography became something I did less and less. And then I realized that as I needed to create more photo content to pair with my audience-building goal, I got to re-imagine the way I love photography and art direct myself …even if just for Instagram!

-Got to stand back and watch Brendan’s career grow and see him shine when he launched Forbes Impact…which felt like the proudest stage mom moment!

-Celebrated the weddings of both of my female cousins and in turn, welcomed two incredible men to our family.

-Globe-trotted to many corners of the earth, 12 countries I think… and even literally ran into my older brother AJ on the street in Singapore!

-Walked down memory lane after my parents moved out of my childhood home, first to South Florida, and now to Panama…and as a result, gifted me all of my childhood memories

-Felt a lot of nerves saying yes to facilitating an allstar crew of leaders on a Reality Israel trip (and was so glad I did). Made some lifelong friends and grew a ton as a result. Lessons from it: stop playing small and borrow the confidence that others have in you until you can believe it for yourself.

-Pondered my relationship with time and discovered that I can be a time creator. This is a longer story…

-Accidentally landed my first-ever consulting project to help a private high school develop and execute their first alum engagement strategy.

-Had my first professional photo shoot and first professionally designed personal branded website.

-Dedicated time for the 11th year running as member Emory’s Board.

-Was a guest on dozens of podcasts.

-Interviewed celebrities for the first time. At first I was terrified, and then I got really comfortable and discovered how much I enjoy doing it.

-Dabbled in launching a side project with a new contact and learned that it wasn’t synergistic. Out of that I gained a lot of confidence and turned a pitch into a new best friend.

-Stayed open to the Universe delivering incredible, inspiring new friends—and received it immensely.

-Wrote 30+ articles which were read about 1.5m times in Forbes, Thrive Global, Bossbabes, and other outlets.

-Spoke at many events.

-Hosted 70+ Network Under 40 events in 4 cities.

-Tried acupuncture.

-Kept treating myself to eyelash extensions, hair treatments, massages, mani/pedis, etc…because it feels good to pamper yourself!

-Was hired as an ‘influencer’ as well as an on-site correspondent for Chase Bank…which I learned I loved—and got paid to learn a new skill.

-Supported local events on art, race, and hunger.

-Launched my first virtual course to much success (and executed it for 4 weeks while physically in a different city for each broadcast).

-Attended 7 weddings of beloved friends and family.

-Became a landlord when I rented out my first home.

-Hired a personal at-home trainer…for 2 sessions.

-Read 38 books.

-Got to introduce Brendan to my best childhood friend and his wife over a weekend in Denver…first boyfriend who got his seal of approval 😉.

-Dreamt up a virtual summit to connect with a new audience, launch my brand, do research for my book, deepen relationships with thought leaders in the space…and had never attended let alone thrown one. Was one of the most challenging processes I’ve taken on in business. It took 3x as long as I’d estimated and 5x as much money. But, we had 7,100 people attend from 16 countries, had 45 of the world’s top leaders (like Deepak Chopra, Adam Grant, and Jen Sincero) teaching, attendee feedback was so heartfelt and grateful, and on top of that, I doubled my investment!

-I learned how to interview for the first time through that process and realized that my curiosity and love of question-asking make me the perfect person to do it! That plus I can empathize with the audience to estimate what they’ll want to know and ask that. Oh, and Deepak Chopra was my first ever live interview.

-Went to a polo match for the first time. Made a Pretty Woman reference like a rookie.

-Went to the Masters and had dinner with golf legend Gary Player, then interviewed him.

-Sat courtside at a Hawks game and the mascot aggressively made out with me, much to my dismay.

-Hosted countless parties and dinners in our new home.

-Life changed into a walking-centric one when we moved. We even got rid of my car for over 2 months to experiment with life without one (after getting paid out by Audi to give my car back thanks to their billion dollar legal settlement). We ultimately got a car.

-Mentored at a Startup Weekend, as well as got a co-mentor for myself, and found ‘mentoring moments’ for both my gain and the gain of others.

-Joined another board and turned down a board seat.

-Was a guest on a show that filmed in a real life tv studio.

-As a result of one of my podcast appearances, a reputable publisher heard me and reached out to inquire about working together (and their past clients include 4 of my favorite authors)…it’s all coming together!

-Went to my first Atlanta United Game (now MLS champions).

-As usual, fitness was my weakest point. That said, I got in some yoga, stand up paddle boarding, 10k steps a day for a while, pole dancing, acro yoga, and park walks.

-Took the leap and hired someone to take over my in-person role for Network Under 40 in Atlanta. The hardest part was letting go of control.

-Finished edit 1 of my book proposal…only to get a swift kick in the rear by my agent who wanted hella edits.

-Got way more confident in my own skin.

-Walked up to a comedian (Nikki Glaser) after her set to invite her to do an interview. She said yes, which was a reminder that people are generally open and the worst they can say is no. Plus, when you’re offering something of value, your chances of getting a yes increase substantially.

-Learned that I actually am a really good manager (previously thought I wasn’t because I like to move so quickly and don’t like to worry about fluff over outcomes) when I believe in people and they believe in what I’m building. Was so fortunate to work with some allstars this year who helped me to be a better leader.

-Spoke to a group of inspiring high schoolers.

-Expanded my ideas of what is possible.

-Brought on bigger name and bigger dollar sponsors than ever before for my companies.

-Experienced more stress and anxiety than I recall since when I first started my businesses 10 years ago, all thanks to a shitty hire I made, which turned into 6 months of delays on my virtual summit, a lot of money tied up, and a lot of fear over the impact it could have on my reputation and relationships.

-Lawyers got involved and guess what— it all worked out!

-Lots of concerts and cultural moments (Music Midtown, Lauryn Hill, Christina Aguilera, Aladdin the musical…to name a few.)

-Learned so much about digital marketing, funnels, personal branding, and growing an audience.

-Got hired again by Chase to attend Inc 5000 as their influencer and on-site correspondent.

-Brendan’s sister came for a visit.

-Piloted a live virtual course, got feedback (and got paid to test it), and then built out an evergreen, fully digital and self-paced version to teach others everything I’ve learned about hosting networking events so they can host their own.

-Watched a ton of documentaries (and reality tv)… a girl’s gotta turn her brain off and decompress!

-Started recording episodes for a limited-series podcast with my friend Elizabeth who is the #1 podcaster for food and wine.

-Celebrated when best friends moved back to Atlanta.

-Welcomed my first nephew to the family!

-Became more of an introvert and had to erect new boundaries to protect my energy.

-Spent a beautiful Thanksgiving with family in Santa Fe.

-Went on a road trip to get more connected with America and visited The Grand Canyon, Painted Desert, Antelope Canyon, and Horseshoe Bend.

-Lost my Paris virginity… a place I’d held out on visiting for a ‘romantic adventure’. It was everything I hoped for–except for the violent protests…

-Spent a few nights in the only place on Earth where I care about food more than anything else (Rome).

-Flew straight to Miami for one night at Art Basel.

-Then, straight to Esalen (Big Sur) for a couples retreat.

-Celebrated our first Xmas in our home together with Brendan’s family who came for a visit.

-Departed for a magical new year in Guatemala.

-Followed my instinct to email the people with whom I’d collaborated this year and within minutes, Deepak wrote me back. Within 20 more minutes, we decided to launch a video series in January 2019 called ‘Diving Deep With Deepak & Darrah’ which is now live.

-Decided to channel my nerves into action.

-Began to trust myself more and doubt myself less.

-For the first time ever, instead of making a laundry list of goals, visions and mantras, I committed to one thing for this new year: to have fewer goals. Why? Because I want to allow life’s opportunities to guide me where I’m needed (and because drive is not something I lack). As someone who is dangerously focused on doing anything to which I commit (even to myself), it feels expansive to let go in this way.

-Because of that, I’m learning a lot about having an intention and releasing the expectation of how it will play out.

-I can say, without hesitation, that I’ve never felt more self-assured. While my self-doubts haven’t disappeared, I’m finally realizing that everything I need is already within me, and it’s my responsibility to unearth it and share it.

-You can only be what you’ll allow yourself to become. I was reminded time and again that my limitations are my own doing and that I need to dream bigger to achieve bigger, and more so, to keep growing and serving.

-Was reminded that any time I’m stuck in a rut or down, the best medicine is to do for others.

-Was unafraid to advocate for myself and speak up for my needs in ways big and small.

-The power of patience and persistence are key. Through exercises like this one, I can see how doing the work, day in and out, is what it really takes to create whatever you desire.

-There’s hella power in ambiguity and uncertainty…yet we’re so often programmed to run from it. Learning more and more to sit in that discomfort.

-People are complex and multi-faceted. There are moments when I need others to give me credit if they’re just seeing one dimension, and I’m continually learning to offer the same generosity to others.

-Satisfaction/fulfillment/happiness isn’t a destination. It’s in the present moment and you have to slow down to recognize it.

-I am just one tiny person amongst billions on this planet, co-existing while we each live our own meaningful versions of life, which is a blip on the spectrum of time. On the one hand, this realization can be incredibly liberating. On the other, it can be entirely diminishing. And that’s just it- that murky middle where things can be both at the same time. It frees me from taking myself too seriously, all the while, still empowering me to make an impact.

-It’s important to do a self-check with social media and determine if the time you’re spending on it elevating you. When it’s not, I turn it off.

-Not everyone will ‘get it’ or will be along for your whole journey. That’s ok. There are seasons to relationships.

What would a year be without travel? Here’s where I went…in order:

-NYC

-ATL

-Vancouver

-Sunshine Coast

-ATL

-Nyc

-Cape Cod

-ATL

-Blue Ridge, GA

-ATL

-NYC

-ATL

-Seattle

-Whitefish, Montana

-ATL

-Nashville

-ATL

-SF

-ATL

-Playa del Carmen

-Mexico City

-Oaxaca

-ATL

-Hilton Head

-ATL

-Denver

-Del Ray Beach, FL

-Miami

-West Palm Beach

-ATL

-NYC

-ATL

-Augusta

-ATL

-Thailand

-Cambodia

-Malaysia

-Bali

-Singapore

-ATL

-NYC

-ATL

-Iceland

-ATL

-Israel

-SF

-Mendocino/Elk, CA

-SF

-ATL

-Serenbe

-NYC

-Cape Cod

-ATL

-Miami

-ATL

-LA

-Portland/Hood River

-ATL

-Barbados

-ATL

-San Antonio

-ATL

-Tulsa

-ATL

-Santa Fe

-Grand Canyon, Horseshoe Bend, Antelope Canyon

-Vegas

-ATL

-Paris

-Rome

-Paris

-Miami

-Big Sur/Esalen

-ATL

-Guatemala

 

34 by the numbers:

100,000+ miles flown

12 countries visited

25 months celebrated with Brendan

11 years of home ownership

10 years running Equitable Payments

7.5 years running Network Under 40

38 states where Equitable Payments operates

4 markets for Network Under 40

192 Network Under 40 events

8 team members

38 books read

30+ articles published

 

Grateful for another rotation around the Sun. For the lessons, the growth, the experiences, and opportunities.

And, if you read all the way to the end, shoot me a note- I owe you a congrats and thank you!

Until next year…

Read More

What Used to Be A Blog Is Now Basically An E-Book: The Tale of 33

I turned 34 last Monday and decided that the best way to spend my birthday was to reflect and write my traditional annual blog. What I didn’t anticipate was that I spent the entire day writing, and it turned into an e-book, pictures, chapters and all!

So many lessons learned and experiences remembered, all chronicled here. I hope it’s helpful to you in your journey in some way. All 77 pages of it.

Bonus points to anyone who reads it in its entirety, and thanks for allowing me the space to share.

Here is it.

Until next year…

 

Read More

32 in Review

I couldn’t think of a better time to reflect and write my 7th annual birthday “year in review” blog than now. I’ve spent the last week in Bali amongst a group of 30 entrepreneurs, learning together about both business and personal growth in arguably one of the most beautiful settings on the planet.

I’ve always known that sharing space with people who share a mission to always be bettering themselves, and as a result, use that to better the world around them in their special way, would result in nothing but positive outcomes. This week has been no different and has set the perfect stage for me to dive deeply into what has become a cherished annual practice of commemorating the close to one year, and the beginning of a new one.

I’m a very intentional person, so I try to only make decisions actively, not passively. So in doing this long exercise now 7 times over, I’m often asked why. My reply is that by taking time to slow down, remember, and pay homage, it allows me to see on a greater arch the big and small things that occurred in a year (which my forgetful mind often loses), as well as to help me in visioning for the future.  Time passes by so quickly and it’s so easy to forget what I did last weekend, let alone what happened 12 months ago.  So this has become my time capsule for each year.

It’s taken a lot of personal growth to get a place where I can make this public and not fear what anyone on the other end will think. This is for me, but I make it public because others have shared their own positive takeaways and things this has sparked for them as a result of my sharing it. So, I continue to do so for as long as it resonates with me, and look forward to continuing to share my journey with you.

So here it is, year 32 in review:

32 began as I boarded a cruise ship out of Miami, heading to the Bahamas, alongside 3,000 innovators, entrepreneurs, and creatives for “Summit at Sea”. Mother Nature didn’t allow us to actually get off that ship and get to the island, but it was a powerful way to begin the new year. I extended my stay in Miami after the cruise for a short moment to gather my thoughts and rest after immediately having boarded the ship post a 10-day jaunt in Rwanda and Kenya (which deserves a whole post of it’s own, as so much was experienced and learned on that journey).

I returned to Atlanta thereafter to have a belated birthday party with 50 of my favorite local friends and soaked in the love that one feels on those special types of occasions. But of course, I didn’t stay in Atlanta for long as yet another year of incredible travel was about to get underway.

A favorite quote of mine is “travel is the only thing you buy that makes you richer”…and I sure hope so because it’s certainly the thing that most dings at my bank account! So, with that in mind, I was off to Belize for Thanksgiving with my family, which included a healthy competition of fishing and lobster diving, lots of snorkeling, swimming with sharks without a cage, and an unusual solo stay in an international destination after the family departed.

As the December holidays approached, before I knew it, I was on a flight to Lima, Peru, to kick-start an adventure around the country including Lake Titicaca, The Sacred Valley, and Cusco. I’m a sucker for living history, and Peru, particularly Macchu Picchu, did not disappoint.

While on that trip, I was completing my annual goals, one of which was to relearn to ski after a 21-year hiatus. Much to my delight, a friend reached out to me 2 weeks later, offering me a place to stay at the chalet he’d rented in Zermatt, Switzerland in February. What better way to relearn to ski, I thought? So of course that came next.

But, before that, I made a quick trip back to where I spent half of my childhood (Baltimore) for the surprise 70th birthday roast of my dad. It was a great night celebrating him through his favorite communication tool: jokes.

As February turned into March, it was time to go back to Austin for SXSW to visit with many friends in attendance, learn, and connect with new people. From there I went to straight to LA (Santa Monica), for some sun, friends, and reflection. From there, straight to SF, my home-away-from home, for the usual: deeper exploration of the city, reconnection with family and friends, and to continue to develop community there. I even got to do a quick Half Moon Bay trip and get out of the city for a bit.

Time to fly back East before driving to the coast of North Carolina for the beautiful wedding of a close friend.

Shortly thereafter, tragedy struck for two of my childhood friends who each lost a parent unexpectedly, so I hopped a flight home to Baltimore. This set into motion a ripple effect of contemplation about my relationship with my parents and my sincere intention to not have regrets whenever this fateful day comes.

Frankly, here, my timeline gets a little hazy, so let me save everyone a little reading and rattle off some of the next destinations: Paid a visit with some friends to our friendly neighbor to the North (Canada) and explored Montreal. Headed to China for the first solo trip I’ve ever taken with my parents to visit my cousin, explore, and see the Great Wall. Snuck in 2 more visits to SF, 2 visits to NYC and one to the Hamptons, 2 trips to DC (one for an incredible White House event called “The United State of Women Summit” where I got to share a space with the likes of both Obamas, Biden, Oprah, Warren Buffet, and the list goes on and on), a revisit to Detroit, 2 more visits to Miami, 2 trips to Chicago, 1 more stop in Baltimore, the Poconos for a mother/daughter wellness retreat, Philly for my favorite thing (an Indian wedding) and got to pay a visit to my childhood home just outside the city, a lovely jaunt to Portland, 2 visits to Nashville (once to launch our newest Network Under 40 city, and once for Camp No Counselors…adult summer camp), other Portland (Maine) where I was in a sailing accident…hand injury included, a Global Shapers retreat in North Georgia, a LEAD Atlanta retreat in South Georgia, an incredible Eastern European adventure including Hungary, Croatia, Bosnia and Italy (even got to practice my rusty Italian skills), St Simons Island, a weekend at Lake Oconee, an actual night of camping, completed by getting stranded with my group while tubing on the river and almost not being able to get off it, and most recently, to wrap up the year, a trip to Bali and South Korea, bookended with a Thanksgiving stop in Denver with the family.

And yes, in case you’re wondering, I work, and do so from all of these locations.

Each year I write out goals for myself, with mantras I select to help me describe how I want the year to feel. This year’s were: Dream, Achieve, Do, Give, and Live Big.

The adjectives I chose to describe the year were: generosity, curiosity, abundance, love, passion, adventure, intentionality, gratitude, non-attachment, romance, compassion, peace, freedom, fun, authenticity, wellness, and prosperity. Clearly I had a lot to do this year…

In reflecting back, there were a number of lessons I’ve learned, some of which include:

Presence: being present in the moment.

Boundaries: being thoughtful and stronger about creating and keeping them for myself, mostly around my time.

Beauty: Realizations about my lifelong struggle with beauty, what we’re told is ‘beautiful’, and the beginning stages of acceptance about my own beauty, which I’ve never been seen.

Personal worth: Recognition of every human’s equal worth and not characterizing myself as less than some and/or greater than others.

Success: Not defining my success by ‘resume virtues’, but rather, by character, growth, what I have to share and offer to others, and experiences. I also have the ability to continue to define what success looks like for me, and not allow other pressures to define it on my behalf.

Don’t take things personally: In line with my favorite book The Four Agreements, I worked on one of the agreements to (in my case) take less things personally, recognizing how selfish it is to assume people’s actions, words, or inactions are in any way an assault on me.

No year is complete without some reflection on dating. Last year I made the conscious effort to ‘date like a man’, which meant that I would date many people casually and be open to what might come out of it, but not attach myself to any one person too quickly. This year I just let things evolve, happy with that experience, but also open to whatever might be, understanding that I can’t control or predict this arena.

The lineup of dates this year was diverse as ever, including men in San Diego, Atlanta, NYC, Baltimore, and beyond. And, as usual, I continued on my “UN of dating” streak, and dated the gamut of races and cultures. I even got a completely unprecedented date request in the form of a FedEx package including a book for me to read, a 45-minute personal video message, and 21 pages of typed information about this stranger and why he wanted to date me. Flattering to say the very least.

Most of these were short-lived connections, and as my 32nd year came to a close, I was fortunate to meet an incredible man who is in my life today. Regardless of what the future holds for us, he’s already elevated my expectations of what partnership can be like, and I’m grateful to have met him.

I also had three men from my distant past circle back and apologize for their historic actions. These were each wonderfully unexpected surprises, because to hear the things you once so badly wanted to, and then to get them out-of-the-blue, was very much appreciated.

On to family we go, where I vowed to get out of my comfort zone in these relationships. Going to China with my parents and without my siblings was a huge intentional leap in this direction. Prioritizing time to go home for my dad’s surprise birthday, carving out time in the Bay Area at multiple points throughout the year to be with my brother, sister-in-law, nieces, cousin, aunt and uncle, all were thoughtful choices. Shifting my attittude about past frustrations in partnership with my twin proved immensely helpful. Also did a 3-day wellness retreat with my mom which included archery, juicing lessons, paddle boarding, art, yoga, and more one-on-one time than we’ve perhaps ever spent together in my adult life. I also continued to invest in my non-biological family relationships, as well, recognizing that we are also gifted with the family we choose, in addition to the family into which we are born.

Friendships have always been a priority for me, so I continued to pour into those, even though that looked different in some cases because of my hectic travel schedule. I had to come to terms with the fact that not everyone would be accepting of this, but that if I came from an authentic space and did my best, that that would be okay (#boundaries).

I continued to seek out and surround myself with people who bring joy, love, and positivity. Those who are running towards things that make them happy and about which they are passionate, as well as those who want to leave a bigger legacy on this planet than just to take from it.

I made a point to reach out and let people know I care and was thinking of them.

I never took my furry best friend, Chairman Meow, for granted, especially since I only see her about half of every month when I’m home.

I made some incredible new friends, I believe because you get what you put out, and this is something I highly value, seek, and into which I invest. I was also reminded with a couple friendships that not all things last, and that when people show you who they are, believe them.

My businesses made a shift this year, as I made the decision to reallocate much of the time I’d historically spent on my merchant services company, Equitable Payments, into Network Under 40 because it felt like the right challenge for me at this juncture. Growing our team to 10 people and into 6 cities has been a monumental learning curve for me, but I love to grow, so I take it in stride (mostly).

We opened our Nashville market, celebrated 1 year with our Baltimore and DC markets, Atlanta celebrated 5 years, and Network Over 40 celebrated 2 years. We even signed on event directors in Birmingham and Charlotte to launch in early 2017. I redesigned the infrastructure of the company, hired a director of operations, a new marketing firm, and took a lot more risks than I’d ever before in my businesses as I learned to operate a multi-market business-to-consumer company.

I signed up and started a 9-month marketing course because I’ve never taken a single business class and wanted to expand myself.  This self-expansion also included learning what it takes to make really hard decisions like letting team members go. Through all of this, I felt enormously grateful to be tapping into my gift as a connector through this company.

This also spun out into my getting hired to do networking and relationship building trainings for other organizations, which included an international lingerie company and one for an international Christian organization’s Southern leaders.

I continued to get quoted in and write for a number of national publications like Inc., Forbes, Entrepreneur, Huffington Post, CNN, Time, Business Collective, Fox Business, and Yahoo! I was on a handful of podcasts, spoke on a number of panels, and was the featured speaker for groups like Levo league on entrepreneurship and authentic relationship building. I was beyond flattered to be featured in several magazines like Darling along side Rosario Dawson (and others) as ‘A Female Entrepreneur Who Inspires Us to Keep Going’, got interviewed for Breakout on what being a connector is all about, was featured in Forbes, and was called a ‘Warrior Woman’ in a feature by CocoEco Magazine.

I spent some time working on the development of a technology to scale connections (think LinkedIn and Match.com having a baby), and decided to table it.

I sold a marginal number of my kids books, Finance Whiz Kids.

I recorded my first video series on “a guide to better networking” with 27 installments which will go live shortly.

While on the cruise that kick-started year 32, I learned my new favorite hobby: acroyoga. Along the way, I found a wonderful community of friends, teachers, and partners, as well as challenged my marginal fear of heights and rational fear of being upside-down in the air on top of another shaky human.

My meditation practice fluctuated from 2x/day to about 1x/day with a period of about 2-3 weeks where I intentionally shut it off to re-center without it. My gratitude practice (trying to focus on that for which I’m grateful, rather than that which I lament) continued. I prioritized rest and sleep, as well as ate well and relatively cleanly. I continued to prioritize fun and was less attached to outcomes.

I took on a continued attitude of self care as I invested in things that make me feel good about myself like regular hair treatments, eyelash extensions, the occasional massage, manicures and pedicures, guilt-free shopping, and having a beautiful home, car, and surroundings.

My love of black and white photography continued as I brought my camera around the world with me, marginally learned how to use LightRoom for editing, and finally committed to printing, framing, and making a photo wall of my work at home.

I continued my hobby of writing, not only for public consumption, but also for personal processing. I published 25+ articles for major national outlets including these on ‘6 steps to more effective goal planning’ and ‘The Unconscious Power of Brands’.

Cooking has always been an elusive and intimidating fascination, so I continued to learn new dishes, and accepted the thoughtful gift from my parents of having a chef come to my home to teach some friends and me some new dishes.

In line with boundaries, I let go of some hobbies that no longer served me and invited in new ones.  I ‘graduated’ from Global Shapers, joined the Emory Alumni Board (and said goodbye to my previous board position), ‘graduated’ from LEAD Atlanta, volunteered as social chair for the new class, got into standup paddle boarding, and picked up watercolor painting and adult coloring books.

While in LEAD Atlanta, I experienced some eye-opening immersion activities like working with the homeless, doing a ride-along with our EMS department, sitting in on Atlanta’s 911 call center, touring our federal prison, and along with a team, created a turnkey solution for the KIPP Atlanta High School for a student and parent life skills program.

I continued to invest time in relationships with my three mentors (each of whom personally and professionally kicked me in the ass…in the best of ways).

I read 28 books.

I celebrated 9 years of home ownerships, 8 years of self-employment, my 10-year college reunion, 5+ years with Network Under 40, and 7+years with Equitable Payments.

I leaned in further to the power of delegation and outsourcing by hiring a housekeeper, bookkeeper, marketing agency, director of operations, handyman, and pet sitter.

Think I broke the bank doing all of this? Incorrect! I stuck to an aggressive savings and investment plan and even invested in my first outside company…subsequently owned by my twin brother. I also gave more to charity than ever before and paid off a six-figure loan from my mother.

I saw an “intuitive” (aka psychic) for the first time.

Got a casting offer from a new reality dating show by Mark Burnett.

Got cultured at all sorts of museums all around the world, and even threw in a show or two at the theatre (okay, one was a murder mystery theatre). Took in a few concerts, saw a drag show, took a swing dancing class, attended a charity gala or two, had a few bowling adventures, celebrated gay Pride, and planned a scavenger hunt in the middle of Atlanta for a group of friends.

Got involved with a new nonprofit: feedabillion.org.

Like most of America, got addicted to “Stranger Things”.

And lastly, in my typical fashion, I threw some great parties (A Patriot Party, Olympics opening ceremonies costume party, and topped it all off with my “20 Years Too Late Bat Mitzvah Candy Land Birthday” party).

If you made it to the end and actually read every word, shoot me an email, I owe you some sort of thank you. After all of that, I have little more to share short of my gratitude. This was an exceptional year and looking back at it is such a vivid reminder of that.

I can’t wait to see what’s in store for 33. If these first 2 weeks are any indication, it’s going to be a year beyond my imagination and I can’t wait to share it with you.

Cheers to you and your personal rotation around the sun!

 

 

 

 

 

Read More

31: A Year In Review

 Values drive our actions. Our actions are an indicator of our true values, not the ones we claim to hold. I value freedom (of my time primarily, which is underpinned by other things like financial freedom), learning, growing, comfort, and authenticity (among many other things). As part of my values of learning and growing, I appreciate the perspective that comes from stopping every year around my birthday to reflect on the past 12 months, to take inventory on what occurred, to see if it aligns with my values and my goals, and to celebrate the good and help design the future. I’ve been doing this publicly via this blog for the past 6 years now, and I cherish each historic year’s reflections as mile-markers of where I was at that time. It often feels a bit indulgent, especially to make it public, but I realize how infrequently I slow down to be grateful for more than what happened in the recent past. So, this is my annual birthday gift to myself (as well as, apparently, a great learning tool for people in my life to get the wrap-up report on the year). So here goes: a CliffsNotes version of November 13, 2014 –November 13, 2015:

 My personal mantras for the year were abundance, fun, exploration, peace, growth, authenticity, love, wellness, and freedom (clearly abundance was one of them as there are an abundance of mantras). I thoughtfully choose these mantras each year and craft my goals around them, then write a narrative version of those goals, which helps me to envision the integration of them as they will be lived out. In re-reading that narrative, I was struck by this which I wrote, “For years I’ve defined success as freedom: the freedom to make choices because I have the financial ability to do so. The freedom to be myself, and to be confident about who I am in every environment.  The freedom to learn, travel, grow, start and expand businesses, make choices of my time that suit me and not others, and the freedom to love and make mistakes because they are opportunities to grow.” Spot on. I could conclude this annual review with that sentence alone as it truly encompasses my journey during age 31…but I won’t.

During my season of goal planning at the end of 2015, I felt the urge to make a vision board, too. In looking back at in now, I was amazed that to a T, most of the things on the board came to life. I even forgot about some of them like a picture of Macchu Picchu, where I’ll be spending the holidays this year.

When I kick-started 31, I wanted it to be a beautiful expansion of the great year that 30 was.  I settled more into myself and my own skin and came more to terms with the fact that not everyone has to like me for me to be happy.

So what actually happened over the last 12 months? Here goes:

 I kicked off the year with a birthday party blowout at STK and rented a couple rooms at the W to celebrate in style with my friends (after all, some of my favorite things are bringing people together, celebrating, and dressing up). Travel was the contstant this year. Started off 31 in Austin with my family for Thanksgiving. Headed from there to San Antonio to see the Alamo, explore, and deepen my relationship with my Aunt.  Decided pretty quickly never to return to San Antonio. Based on my plan to eventually spend about 3 months each year in San Francisco, I started working towards that goal that by spending a couple weeks there for the holidays. I deeply explored the city, invested into friendships and family relationships, worked, and took a Transendental Meditation course.  I ultimately spent a cumulative month in SF in 2015.  Headed to NYC in January for a girls weekend filled with Broadway, great eats, laughs, and an epic sorority reunion.  Craving a warmer climate, booked a last-minute trip to Jamaica with some of my girls, and this trip included a potentially idiotic ‘adventure’ to the countryside to see the caves with a complete stranger, multiple beach headstands and gymnastics, and glorious sunsets. Soon after, was back Stateside and drove up to the North Georgia Mountains for a Global Shapers weekend retreat which is always a fun time with friends. Next stop Vegas for a whirlwind party weekend for a friend’s 30th. Baltimore beckoned next as the pendulum swung to tragedy, and I flew in to support a friend in her time of need. With her loss still on my mind and in my heart, changed gears and hopped over to Houston for one of my favorite things: an Indian wedding (and even saw the rodeo).  Next up: Curacao with a beloved friend from Oregon to study the oldest Temple in the Western Hemisphere, spend Passover with that community, and play on the stunning beaches. Ready for some more time in San Francisco, I headed back to get deeper in the community there and (much out of character) to dog sit for French Bulldog Sabrina. Sonoma and Scottsdale came next for a long-awaited college girlfriend reunion of hiking, relaxing and catching up. After finding an irresistible $39 fare to DC, that came next to celebrate the birthday of my buddy and catch up with some friends, family and business folk. Straight from there back to NYC for the “second quarter sorority reunion” and for general fun and business endeavors. Hopped a flight from there to Denver and spend a beautiful long weekend in the mile high city, hiking in Boulder and exploring the area.  Was invited last-minute to join a “conference” called Breakout in Detroit in June and did so, open to new people and experiences, and fell in love with the city, the organization that hosted the gathering, and the people involved. Craving some time with the Atlanta girls, we headed to St. Simon’s Island for a relaxing beach weekend. Shortly thereafter, we drove to Nashville to celebrate the 4th of July, honky-tonk style (which is not my style, but I can play the part for a weekend). Wanting to go deeper with Detroit and explore some investment opportunities, headed back there with a wonderful new friend. We even crossed the border to Windsor, Ontario, and got accosted and searched by border police (so much for ‘Canadian nice’). From there went back to NYC to throw a party with said friend and as you may have guessed, host the ‘3rd quarter sorority reunion’ and get some great time in with friends and business contacts there.  Ready for some sunshine (it being August and all), migrated South to Acapulco and spent a week in the sun, on a lazy river, and reading poolside (oh and getting what I like to call ‘Montezuma’s Revenge’). Feet back on US soil, headed to Edenton (a lake area outside Atlanta) for the kickoff retreat for my new LEAD Atlanta class for a weekend of bonding and learning.  Next up Baltimore for the launch of Network Under 40, then straight to Chicago, primarily to celebrate a best friend’s bachelorette. Straight back to Baltimore for a night with my parents, then a train to DC for some quality time with extended family and a nice combo of work and play meetings.  And then naturally, why not go back to Baltimore, this time to celebrate the marriage of my ‘non-biological brother’.  Home for a minute before going back to my birthplace (Philly) for a wonderful few days at the Forbes Under 30 Summit. One night home and back to Baltimore for the next round of Breakout. Ready to be in the South for a minute, headed to the coast to Charleston for the wedding of my sorority ‘big sister’, my first lesbian wedding (so beautiful)! Then a trip for which I’d long-awaited: Rwanda and Kenya to explore, safari, and support a friend’s great work there. Nearing my birthday, took a flight to Miami to board a cruise for Summit at Sea on Friday the 13th, my 32nd birthday.  Tired? Me too. But in the most fulfilled sort of ways. (Which is great because in a matter of days I go off again to Belize, Chicago, and Peru.) Think I value travel (and the relationships I can grow/develop while doing so, as well as the learning and perspective it offers)—you’d be correct!

Even in the rare weekends I was home in Atlanta, I was able to hosts friends from afar and show them (or remind them) why I love my fair city.

Weddings have been a staple every year for basically the past 10 years, and this one was no different, celebrating that milestone with 5 couples (and sadly having to miss one of a life-long friend).

Published something like 15-20 articles with Entrepreneur and Forbes (a fave was this one about the things my dad has taught me as a surprise birthday gift to him).  I even had the #1 trending article on entrepreneur.com at one point. Was the guest on 2 radio shows, a handful of podcasts, and a TV show. Got a mysterious email from a marketing agency in LA, asking me to be a paid speaker for their Toyota Scion event, and shared fearlessly about my failures and the power of authenticity in relationship building.  Spoke on numerous panels as well as to a class of 9th and 10th graders about entrepreneurship. Was featured in the Huffington Post, Inc, and other national publications.

Met Kelly Osbourne (and loved her).

After learning Transendtenal Mediation, work hard to do it 2 times each day.

Met a diamond dealer who let me play with a 7 karat diamond…and ruined me forever on anything smaller.

Signed on 4 new franchises for Network Under 40, launched 3, have had success with 2, and celebrated 1 year with the Atlanta Over 40 franchise. Atlanta Under 40 hit record attendance numbers with 600 (and that was when we capped ticket sales).

Shifted gears from about 80% of my time on Equitable Payments to about 50% (and felt fulfilled by this shift).

Paid a visit to the largest homeless shelter in Atlanta and designed a plan to help with some of their pressing needs.

Got cultural and saw the Nutcracker and Les Miserables.

Invested time with my two nieces who live in SF, spending Christmas with them and taking them on their first horseback ride.

Made a decision to “date like a man” (which means, to me, to keep dating light and not to tie myself to one person too soon, keeping my options open with ‘multiple burners’ going, dating a few people at a time as I see fit–all while being upfront about this with said men).  It was surprisingly liberating, and resulted in a surge of confidence. Have joked that I’m the UN of dating, and this year was no different with 2 Persians, 1 Nigerian, 1 Parisian, 1 Irishman, 1 Israeli, and even a couple Americans.

 Because I had a beautiful white dress that needed an occasion to be worn, I threw a giant white party… and ‘wore it better’ than Caitlin Jenner did.

 Did a 90s flashback and saw Boyz II Men and Counting Crows in concert.

After a year of lazy car shopping, I showed up at the Audi dealership for the first time and wore down the salesman until midnight on the last day of the month to give me a great deal on a new car.

After being mis-diagnosed as having Celiac disease, I excitedly re-introduced gluten into my diet after 13 months G-free. Thank goodness because gluten is delicious.

Felt athletic by proximity when I attended multiple professional sporting events.

Read 28 books (and reread several more), which subsequently is the exact same count as last year and again, all non-fiction books.

Wore a sari (which I learned is impossible to put on oneself).

Went to the best drag show I’ve ever seen.

Along with 3 friends, designed and hosted Atlanta’s first charity comedy roast roasting the city (and sold it out).

 Saw a screening of the new Magic Mike movie (along with Jada Pinkett Smith and a bevy of male strippers).

 Met Bubba Watson’s former coach and semi-successfully convinced him to give my parents a private lesson.

 Welcomed lots of friends’ babies into the world.

 Celebrated 8 years of home ownership, 7  years of being self-employed, and 9 years out of college. Also marked 4 years of Network Under 40 and 6 years of Equitable Payments.

More deeply embraced delegation and outsourcing as I continued to lean on the help of my marketing partner, franchisees, accountant, bookkeeper, pet sitter, and housekeeper.

Stuck to an aggressive financial plan around earning, saving, and investing.

Took thousands of black and white photos.

Cooked more (in the rare times I was home).

Leaned more on writing, not just for public digestion, but also for my own use as a processing tool.

Loosened up a little and starting treating myself to some personal luxuries.

Concentrated on being in the moment and being present.

My yoga practice (quantity) dropped off, but didn’t go away.

Worked to continue to appreciate what is, and not lament what isn’t in life.

Worked on some deep-seeded insecurities…and made progress.

I thought 30 was an incredible year, and it just scratched the surface of 31. Looking much forward to the adventures of 32! Thanks for being a part of this journey with me.

Read More

May I help you?

If someone asks you “How can I help?”, what is your initial reaction?  It likely depends in large part on your context as well as your relationship with said help-offerer. I recently ran a personal experiment to ask one person every day for 2 months how I could be of help to them in their life, with no strings attached.  The outcome was surprising and one that I think is worth sharing.

I’m a believer that what you put out comes back to you.  Some mistake the term karma to mean this. My understanding of it is simple: if you put good out, good comes back your way. The same for the opposite.  I also happen to really like to help people, especially as it pertains to leveraging what I see as my primary resource: my network.

So, I recently set out to make it a priority to ask one person each day about whom I cared how I could be of service to them. From there, the recipient of this offer’s reaction generally followed as so: 1. Surprise, 2. Confusion, 3. Clarfication around whether or not there were genuinely no expectations/strings, 4. Gratitude, and finally 5. No idea how I could help them.  Upon getting to this stage, I’d welcome him/her to follow up with me to ‘cash in’ on my offer when ready. Of the approximate 60 people (1 person a day for 2 months) to whom I made this offer, 3 people had a request for me on the spot. The remainder did not, nor did they ever come back to take me up on my request.

I was initially surprised to see how few people really knew how I could help them. I was also surprised at how few people could soak in the idea that someone really wanted to help them and wanted nothing in return.  Upon further review, it didn’t surprise me as much because I know how much I dislike asking other people for help (or taking it when offered), as well as how infrequently people really stop to think about what it is that they need.

Another reaction of mine to this ‘experiment’ was feeling a bit disheartended, that my genuine intention to help other people (because after all, it’s kind of selfish to do that becuase you know it will make you feel good) barely got off-the-ground becuase so few people wanted to accept.  The plus side was that it was a great excuse to reconnect with old friends and contacts. The down side was that I barely got to do any of the real work I’d challenged myself to do.

You may be asking: ‘Why the hell do you care so much about this? People clearly aren’t interested in your help, so give it a break!’. And if you are thinking that, it’s totally fair. But, as I mentioned previously, helping others is actually kind of self-serving because you do it knowing you’ll feel good and that, if you believe as I do, you know that good will ultimately come back to you in some way.

I was feeling a little burdened with some work-related stuff, so it occurred to me that the best way to get over it would be to get out of my own mess and help someone else.  This morning I thought of trying it another way: of posting to social media here and there to see if anyone would bite and give the broader network a chance to take me up on my offer. So keep an eye out for that.

So, what’s the point here? My point is that I still believe in the power of paying-it-forward and leveraging my greatest resource, my network, to help others.  I suppose that much like in a scientific experiment, I tested a hypothesis, found the outcome to be different than anticipated, and now I’m onto version 2.0.

I’d challenge you to try something similar in your life if this resonnates with you. If it does, share with me about your experience. That’s what I ask of you 😉

Read More

31 on the 13th

Five years ago I started a personal tradition of writing an annual wrap up around my birthday. It’s become something I cherish as a mile-marker which I use to reflect back on years past, as well as to take time to remember and pay homage to what I’ve done in the past 12 months. I’m guilty of letting time slip by and quickly forgetting what happened. So, I use this as a chance to look back and consolidate it into my annual report of my thirtieth year (in no particular order of importance, nor in chronological order):

Age 30 kicked off in Orlando, with some of my closest friends, having some of the most fun I can remember, running around Harry Potter World. I subsequently spent the rest of the year wanting to go back and re-live that childlike joy.

Travel was a mainstay of this year because after all, travel is “the only thing you buy that makes you richer.”  After Orlando, I enjoyed a stay-cation at the local boutique hotel; spent Thanksgiving in San Francisco (and was even able to fit in a mini high school reunion with those of us out West) and finally visited the “Brustein” vineyard in Sonoma; enjoyed three cabin weekends in North Georgia; explored Nicaragua (which was basically a yoga retreat including but not limited to a memorable beach bond fire, new friends, howler monkies, fresh family-style meals, a catamaran with dolphins swimming alongside, and swimming to our very own private beach); a girls beach trip to St Simon’s Island; a visit Baltimore and DC for time with friends from both high school and college; jetted to Portland to see old friends, hike the coast line, and visit a cheese factory; got reacquainted with my favorite US city: San Francisco and did a jaunt over to Napa; had a party weekend in Miami; finally got my chance to visit Israel (after my first attempt 10 years ago)…amidst a full-blown war; visited LA/Santa Monica and for the first time, thought it was a nice city; backpacked through Argentina and had my first experience hiking a glacier; and wrapped up a year of travels back in Baltimore.

This year was certainly the year of freebies which included: massages, a simulated dead sea float, many hotel stays, dinners, conferences and workshops, and airfare. Definitely not complaining about that!

I used some of my skills to teach.  I worked with undergrad business students to teach them about networking. I also worked with elementary-aged kids to teach them about financial literacy. I wrote articles to teach about things like networking and entrepreneurship for national media outlets.

I volunteered for organizations like Trees Atlanta (in the cold and pouring rain) and Habitat for Humanity.

My payment processing business grew into 38 states and we launched a successful partnership with a medical purchasing group in Augusta.

I executed 12 Atlanta Under 40 events (totaling over 3,000 people in attendance), and re-launched the Over 40 brand with early success! I took my learnings and packaged them into mini-franchises and set out to find event directors in new cities to bring the fun and networking to them.  Fingers crossed for a few launches in 2015!

I embraced being single and focused on the benefits that come with that lifestyle. But, also made some time to date with an unintentional international perspective including a Peruvian, Brazilian, Canadian, Israeli, and even a couple Americans.

I got one step closer to a life goal of being in a bowling league by subbing in one. While doing so, I scored my first turkey!

I picked up a lot of new hobbies and habits. One includes a practice of mediation: which started with 2 hour sanskrit group sessions and evolved into independent daily home meditation. I then converted my spare bedroom into a yoga and meditation studio to practice both.  I picked back up my old tap shoes and tapped in my garage. I even got into the cirque arts and learned a thing or two on the silks. I finally switched from film photography to digital and fell back in love with black and white photography and started an online portfolio. I even learned some basic gardening and managed not to kill my tomatoes for most of the summer.

I spent time volunteering as an ambassador for the Metro Atlanta Chamber, Board Member for the Emory College Alumni Board, and Vice Curator of the Altanta Global Shapers. With the Shapers, I helped plan and execute the Shapers first major project: Shape Atlanta, a “hackathon” for Atlanta’s young professionals to help create ideas around ways to improve the city.

I hosted an Olympics opening ceremonies costume party (where everyone had to dress as their favorite country or country of origin)–so basically hosted the UN for a night.

Got cultured and saw the Broadway show “Book of Mormon”. Since one cultural excursion wasn’t enough, I also saw a Rokmoninoff performance.

Dealt with ice storms like the city of Atlanta hasn’t seen in about a decade. When it thawed, took some beautiful hikes in North Georgia.

Had many a movie or tv night with friends and many cherished visits from out-of-town visitors. I even hosted my mom for the first time ever for a weekend of just the two of us.

Had two meetings with the Mayor of Atlanta (one immediately before he met with President Obama).  Got asked a lot if I’ll run for politics, to which I say ‘no’.  But, I did meet the President of my city’s Chamber of Commerce and thought that that might be the job for me one day.

Continued to think that being Indian-American might be ideal as I had a blast celebrating the holiday Holi (which meant throwing colored powder at willing bystanders).

Just like every other year, I celebrated a lot of weddings, showers and birthdays.  One of which was for my twin brother whose wedding was half family reunion, half high school reunion. Subsequently, I welcomed a new sister-in-law to the family.

Had to say goodbye to friends who moved and sent off a best friend to DC.

Pretended to give a shit about local sports and caught a women’s pro basketball game, a couple men’s games (Hawks), a Brave’s game, and a Falcons game or two.

I traveled back in time to Medieval Times. And no, this didn’t even happen in Orlando. I got veto’ed on my own birthday to do that there.

Bought my first bike as an adult, a yellow cruiser, and did a 6 mile moon bike ride around the city with 2,000 other people.

Attended a charity gala.

Upped my fashion game, thinking that 30 was time to make my wardrobe chicer and sleeker.

Threw a “sha-bbq”–basically a shabbat/ bbq combo. It was the most Jewish thing I’ve ever done short of visiting Israel.

I spoke at several conferences and was featured on several podcasts and radio shows. The press continued as I wrote for or was featured in outets including Forbes, Entrepreneur, Time, The Huffington Post, CNN, Inc, Fox Business, US News, and LearnVest. I even got a monthly column in Entrepreneur.com.  I was also named “Atlanta Jewish 40 Under 40”.

I decided to create a  a personal website so it would be less complicated to explain to people ‘what I do’.

I showcased at one of the country’s largest book festivals for the 2nd year.

I got closer to my dream of meeting Oprah by attending a conference she put on in Atlanta.

I crashed Emory’s 10 year class reunion.

Read 28 books this year, all non-fiction, I believe.

Was misdiagnosed as having celiac disease and went gluten free the entire year! This is a quite a challenge for a lover of all things Italian.

Poured into my friendships deeply. Tried to listen and be there physically and emotionally for them. Also came to realize that some friendships have changed, and came to terms with that. Similarly, I worked to strengthen relationships with family.

I felt grateful every day to come home to Chairman Meow (my cat), the best roommate there ever was (sorry old roommates, but this is no surprise to you).

Celebrated 7 years of home ownership, 6 years of being self-employed, and 8 years out of college.

I chose to focus this year on wholeness: my 20s felt chaotic to me, with 1 or more major life areas out of balance throughout that time (home life, money, work, spirituality, health, love, relationships, etc). There was so much self-doubt and criticism in my 20s, and I wanted to focus on what was, not what wasn’t.  I learned to appreciate myself more, give myself more credit, and take a compliment or two.

Dove more deeply into the beauty of outsourcing: hired a housekeeper, a bookkeeper and a marketing agency.

I reminded myself that if you don’t throw your hat in the ring, you’re certain to fail, so I pitched to Kevin Harrington from Shark Tank in hopes of a shot to get onto HSN.

Continued to seek out people in Atlanta and around the world who are inspiring–and the call was answered.

I set out to do an unassisted headstand– and did it!

I completed a silent film version of the ALS ice bucket challenge as well as successfully executed the “dirty dancing” lift (there exists video evidence of both).

Got sucked into the show “House of Cards” and now forever fear our government’s corruption.

Hosted a party at my parents home (but for maybe the first time, they knew about, were there, and the drinking was legal).

I tried to quit cable but instead, ended up with cable, Netflix, Hulu and Prime. Oops.

I discovered that some idiot (savant) was trying to sell used versions of my books on Amazon for $999.11 (retail price $16.95).

Met Jamie Lynn Spears.

Had my name on the jumbo tron at the Atlanta Hawks game.

Picked a bushel of apples. Still haven’t eaten them all.

Picked up the positive habit of flossing daily. Yet, still had to get a cavity filled.

Dove into an intentional and aggressive investment strategy.

Learned a lot of lessons. Some included: Integration is sometimes better than striving for balance. Sometimes you make decisions that you think you’re better than, and you learn from those ‘mistakes’.  There is a lot of world out there, and most of them don’t know or give a f*uck who you are–it’s for me to decide what to make of that and how to write my script. I continue to lean on goal setting, planning, and visualization to help me navigate my dreams.  Gratitude is the attidude as I try to wake up every day and immediately say “thank you”, and then reflect on the things for which I’m grateful before I fall asleep at night.

I started my 30s with absolute excitement, feeling that my biological age was catching up with my mental one and it didn’t disappoint! All in all, 30 will go down as one of my best years yet.  A year of working daily towards balance and figuring out what I really want.  A year of breathing in each moment and shrugging off the stuff that won’t matter in the long run.  I reminded myself that life comes in seasons, and it’s important to embrace them while they are there. There is no value in salivating for what you don’t have which you cannot control. Live in the now and appreciate what today brings.

The adjectives I set for myself to define the year were: joy, creativity, positivity, wellness, abundance, and connection. Sounds like what the year had in store for me! Onward to an ever better 31!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Read More

Recent Posts

Archives