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

Argentina Big. Me Small.

Of the many reasons why I love to travel, particularly abroad, is because it offers great perspective. Typically, that perspective takes shape in helping me to see how other cultures live. It helps me to realize that while our terrains may be different, our landscapes varying, and our languages diverse, I often see the similarities between us. It takes a “them” mind-set and makes it an “us” mentality.

I also love to learn from the lifestyles of other cultures.  In some cases it’s the joie d’vivre, the appreciation of arts and culture, the joy in the small things (or few things at all), the music and style, language, innovation, and/or the focus on family and relationships before work and money.

I generally come back from travels feeling inspired and like a part of a larger global landscape, ready to bring back my lessons and experiences to my day-to-day existence.

I had the opportunity two weeks ago to visit Argentina and travel around the country to experience it’s diversity. For whatever reason, this trip left me with a more rare takeaway, most simply defined as ‘who cares?’.  To be clear: not ‘who cares?’ about the country, but rather, ‘who cares?’ about my goals, my work, my ‘impact’? Why does it matter? For what am I striving and am I really making a difference?

There are times when I look from the outside to people who seem to live a peaceful and simple life. Their needs are met. They don’t yearn for much and don’t veer far from their individualistic needs.  Perhaps they share of themselves in some way with their immediate community (neighbors, family, friends), but that’s it. There are days when I envy that simplicity.

Most days, though, I’m driven by achieving. By identifying needs that I think I can fill and working to do something about them.  And usually I feel satisfied with this mission. But not in Argentina.

In Argentina, I continued to have this nagging feeling that asked me, ‘What for?’. Basically: why are you pushing? Are your efforts really amounting to anything? You think you’ve made a name for yourself in your community, but really, in the world’s span, no one knows you, or your work, so why and who cares?

There is a part of me that sees this is an important reminder to stay humble, to keep the ego down.  There is another part of me that sees this is as moment to reflect and think about the balance between feeding myself (spiritually, emotionally, etc) versus pouring into others.  I know from experience that you need to be full to give of yourself. But the question then extends to: ‘Who are the others?’. Is it the people who network at my events? Is it the merchants whom I assist by saving them money on their credit card processing fees? Is it the kids who are learning about money by reading my books? Is it my friends? Or is it none of them? Is that enough? Are they the right audiences? Or should I care at all (and just pack up and do what serves me)?

More questions arise: Shouldn’t our natural gifts overflow into the things we offer to our communities? On how large of a community should we focus? Is my asking these critical questions evidence that I have more in me to do more and stretch farther? When is enough enough? To what degree do you focus on the ‘me’ before the ‘we’ or the ‘them’?

In some sense, I guess I got what I sought from another international adventure: perspective. Perspective that I am just one of about 7 billion in the global population. And with that I have a choice on how to live my days on this planet: serving myself and/or a small community around me and/or a larger one. And with that, wondering what service is adequate given my skills and gifts and continuing to determine the why that drives me.

I’ve pondered on these questions over the last couple weeks and even debated them with some friends and family. I continue to get to the same dead end, feeling like none of us will come to an answer.  Also feeling that we need to live with some sense of naivete’ and ego to keep waking up every day and thinking that we and the work we do matter.  I don’t want to quit thinking about this topic yet inevitably fear that habits will take over and I’ll continue to work in the same manner I have in the past, and shy away from asking these important questions.

I hope this post will spark in some of you similar questions for you ‘why’ as opposed to leave you feeling like I’m bitching about an incredible experience in a foreign country (because that’s by no means my intention). I’d love to hear from you if you have feedback on this or have wrestled with the same thought patterns.

Cheers to asking the challenging questions. Onward…

Read More

Recent Posts

Archives