May 26, 2013
Embracing & Owning Your Imperfections Opens More Doors, Not Less...
People who know me well know that I'm a sucker for a new read. As long as there's not six other books in queue or the recommended book is so uncompelling I can't get through it, it's mine for the taking. When I was beating up on myself recently, a friend recommended I look into the work of Brene Brown.
I started with her TED talk and then moved to her book: The Gifts of Imperfection -- oh such a compelling title in a country that deems itself more perfect than any other. Some may call it a personal self help book, and while aspects of that may be true, the category has gotten such a bad rap lately that I'd prefer to call content what it is designed to do: help you get from A to B through whatever wisdom the author shares through their vantage point and skillset. If that's self help, fine.
Is it self help when you need to learn a specific management skill and an expert who has the wisdom shares it through a book to get you unstuck? We look down upon wisdom that might help elevate ourselves and our sense of humanity but praise things that help our skills and ability to accomplish and succeed. You get my point.
Frankly if you dive deep enough into most things we do of "external value," there's always an underlining emotional issue that gets in the way. Take money. While clearly there's a skillset in trading, investing and allotting the right money to the right buckets, selling too quickly or making the wrong decision often comes from a place of emotional fear rather than following a code of what works and what doesn't. The best guys on Wall Street keep their emotions out of it but not all of us can. The same applies to raising kids, keeping a marriage together, staying healthy or running a company.
While most of Brown's references are personal ones, the gift that this "read" gave me was largely professional. Here's why. While clearly we all have moments where we're afraid to be honest with ourselves and others, throwing our vulnerabilities out there with a friend or group of friends tends to be easier, at least for me. I'm more likely to lift the shield in a personal environment than in a professional one. The former can expel me from their group while the latter can fire me, impact my revenue, reputation and most importantly, self esteem.
When I read that Brown was a "shame researcher," my immediate reaction was: how much is there to research about shame? Really? It's so specific that I couldn't imagine a professor dedicating her entire career to something that specific and yet, there are professors who dedicate themselves to ants and write lengthy scientific papers on the latest Melanesian ant fauna which end up as a TED talk, so why not?
Little did I know. Shame is not as specific as you might think. Through reading her book and doing some additional digging on my own, I can see how prolific it is in our lives, weaving its way into all aspects, from how we interact with family, peers, and loved ones to the person who hands us our double latte in the morning.
To deny that "shame" shows up in my personal life would be to deny being human, for we've all experienced it, however the piece which most resonated with me is how it awkwardly plays into professional relationships and dynamics, a place that doesn't use the word "shame."
Getting beyond it requires courage and compassion daily in order to live what she refers to as a wholehearted life. It requires practice. Malcolm Gladwell said it best in his 10,000 rule analogy. How can you ever ace something you don't spend time practicing over and over and over again? The same applies to our personal lives. In other words, proactively practicing courage, compassion, connection and empathy is how we ultimately cultivate worthiness.
Time and time again, I have witnessed people not asking for what they're worth and "owning it" while they're at it. I've been there - we all have. Given that PR in general is often perceived as being useless, provides little or no value and can't be measured, I find that many practitioners and consultants undersell themselves or charge on a transaction basis to bring the cost down in order to get the business. It's an act of desperation when you do this - it not only commoditizes our business and our value but delivers an "action" rather than the "value of that action."
Women often have a harder time feeling worthiness and the moment we attempt to prove our worthiness is the moment we've lost the game. Often, we feel as if we have to prove ourselves particularly when a CEO or worse, a COO suggests that what we do didn't move the needle today. The problem at least in my industry, is that branding, communications and marketing doesn't move a needle in a day, or a week or even a month, although sometimes it can. It's a process, just like building relationships is a process. We cannot and must not ever measure our worthiness based on that formula and model.
Because of the nature of my industry, it's even easier to undercut our worthiness than say a doctor, who performs a surgery and suddenly a limb is working again. At the heart of what we do as communications pros is storytelling. Aren't the best stories the ones which are authentic, intimate and vulnerable at their core?
I often feel that when I begin to go there with a client, fear gets in the way...not just on my side but on the client's side as well. The more I rely on emotion, intuition and creativity which is the essence of what makes me thrive at what I do, the more the client throws up roadblocks or devalues the deed because it's so untangible. Beauty, art and yes, even moving the needle often comes from untangible.
Is a brand that you buy again and again always tangible? Sometimes it is (it's faster, more durable) but more often, it's a feeling you have about the brand that brings you back again and again. This feeling is the result of years of storytelling and messaging, not six month's worth. And, consistency is key.
One of our inherent gifts as professionals is that we excel at not just creating that story, but delivering it consistently again and again. It's an art and our clients need to understand that it's an art, not a science. Own that art and you own your worthiness. We shouldn't have to 'sell or prove our worthiness' again and again as if somehow showing a stat suddenly proves that our "art" is worthy.
Brown talks about owning our story and I'd ask you to think about how what she says here shows up or doesn't show up in the workplace. Where she refers to love, belonging and joy, replace the words with self respect, connection and courage.
She writes: "Owning our story can be hard but not nearly as difficult as spending our lives running from it. Embracing our vulnerabilities is risky but not nearly as dangerous as giving up on love, belonging and joy -- the experiences that makes us the most vulnerable. Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light."
She also quotes Pema Chodron, a Buddhist writer who is one of my favorite authors. "In cultivating compassion, we draw from the wholeness of our experience: our suffering, our empathy, as well as our cruelty and terror. It has to be this way. Compassion is not a relationship between the healer and the wounder - it's a relationship between equals. Only when we know our own darkness well can we be present with the darkness of others. Compassion becomes real when we recognize our shared humanity."
Hear hear Pema.
Here's another little bit of wisdom for those who have a hard time with imperfection and asking for help. Depending on what circles you travel in, some have a tight network (let's not forget the old school boy network, which yes, does still exist, especially in Washington), they rely on and often, they don't even have to 'ask' for help. It shows up just because they're part of that network. Others have different networks who help them out from time-to-time and others try to do it themselves...all the time: parenting, managing, creating, producing and running with very little delegating along the way.
Asking for help is hard when we are conditioned to strive for perfection, even if its something we disguise as perfect. From that place, we often feel that if we ask for help, we're indebted to someone and that lays over us like a negative card. Within the confines of that negative card, it's as if we're always trying to figure out how to repay for that help, even if the help wasn't a financial one.
This is how it shows up in many of our lives. While the following statement may sound counter-intuitive, it's true and she's right. Brown writes, "until we can receive with an open heart, we are never really giving with an open heart. When we attach judgment to receiving help, we knowingly or unknowingly attach judgment to giving help."
This is also true: "Belonging is the innate human desire to be part of something larger than us....because true belonging only happens when we present our authentic imperfect selves to the world, our sense of belonging can never be greater than our level of self-acceptance."
While I know many a narcissist in my business circles and on the flip side, others who have gone through the hard journey to get to self-acceptance, many of us still struggle with pieces of it from time-to-time. When that piece shows up in our professional lives, we second guess our decisions when our intuition tells us its the right one or we don't ask for what we're worth because a client widdles us down or leads us to believe our value isn't worth a specific amount.
Suddenly we're in a place of proving that we matter when we matter for just showing up and sharing the gifts we can deliver better than that client or possibly anyone else. Bottom line, we should be paid well for it: the value of it, not the task of it even if some of that value can't be measured right away. I know people who have gone to psychologists for ten years - does the value of their work show up after a visit or does it take time to get results? What about a tennis coach? Does the value of a dentist's work show up after one time or let's put it another way, how would your teeth look and feel if you didn't have those bi-annual check ups and cleans?
Value shows up over time and if you believe in yourself, your client needs to believe in your value too or don't work with them. Walk away. I mean it - walk away. It's the biggest gift you can give yourself. When one door closes, another one opens. And if you're feeling fearful about that statement, think about Helen Keller's fabulous quote: "when one door of happiness closes, another opens; but often we look so long at the closed door that we don't see the one opening before us."
Live from a place of true worthiness, self-respect and authentic living and as Brown puts it, a wholehearted life and things will blow open for you. While it may not happen overnight, it will happen as long as you trust in the process. As an old wise monk said to me on a hike in Nepal many years ago, Patience, grasshopper, patience.
Photo Credits: Original Impulse. Andrew S. Gibson. Tiny Buddha. Jenny's Endeavors.
May 26, 2013 in America The Free, Books, On People & Life, On Poems, Literature & Stuff, On Spirituality, On Women, PR & Marketing, Reflections, Social Media, WBTW | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack
May 18, 2013
Flight Behavior: Kingsolver's Riveting Tale Makes Extinction of Species REAL
Climate Change. Global Warming. Whatever title you give "it," we don't talk about "it" at dinner parties, not in the same way we discuss things which happen at our child's school, the latest movie or episode of Mad Men or where we're going on vacation this year.
Barbara Kingsolver's latest book: Flight Behavior, attempts to convey the dangers of climate change through an All American story of a farming family whose lives are turned upside down because of it. As butterflies settle on their land because of weather shifts in Mexico the previous year, a mystery unravels as to why.
A witty, melancholy and pure account of rural life in the American Appalachia belt, it is also a serious play-by-play of what could happen to a species when their normal "flight behavior" gets changed as a result of being forced to winter (and mate) somewhere new.
While the narrative is driven by the not yet true extinction of the Monarch butterfly, she taps into expert sources for guidance in constructing a fictional story within a plausible biological framework.
Flight Behavior is a suitable title since the phrase applies to butterflies as much as it does to humans, as evident through the unraveling of a dysfunctional marriage of main character Dellarobia Turnbow.Under the footprint of her in-laws since she lives with her husband on their land, she has no say in her confinement, a life which solely exists of tending to her two children and occasional trips to the town next door, which the community of Feathertown mistrusts largely because it has a college and some people actually attend it.
Giving up on further education since she lost her parents and gave birth to a stillborn as a teenager, her life as a restless farm wife suddenly gets transformed as Santa-Fe based and Harvard educated biologist Ovid Byron shows up to study the millions of butterflies which landed on the Turnbow farm as a result of what he deems is nothing short of climate change.
A local TV crew disagrees, attempting to tell their own story about this sudden miraculous phenomena which has covered the Appalachia mountains with a orange flock of Monarchs, which at a distance resemble an astonishing "lake of fire." This so called phenomena is a miracle according to her church and the media and a disaster according to Ovid Byron.
Dellarobia struggles with her commitment to her family and what God's hand has to do with the arrival of the butterflies and what science suggests is true. Sarcastic at the best of times, she pokes fun of the misalignment and ambiguity of her God-fearing community, even if only in her mind's eye.
She refers to her mother-in-law Hester (who grew up in a trailer park) as a 911 Christian: in the event of an emergency, call the Lord. She was unlike all those who called on Jesus daily, rain or shine, to discuss their day and feel the love. Once upon a time, Dellarobia recalls turning to her mother for that.
She reflects in her struggle with religion: Jesus was a more reliable backer evidently, as he was less likely to drink himself unconscious or get liver cancer...no wonder people chose Him as their number one friend. But if the chemistry wasn't there, what could you do?
While the world around her doesn't believe climate change is real, she learns through working closely with Byron and his team that new weather patterns affect everything in a species migratory pathway and the impact can be devastating, ranging from fires to floods as they saw in Angangueo Mexico.
The reason he asserts that there are so many non-believers is that people expect a final conclusion of what's real and not real, but with science, answers are never complete because it's a process. He notes: "It is not a foot race, with a finish line," but sadly journalists and impatient crowds are eager to see a race with a finite statement that explains everything. He says, "as long as we won't commit to knowing everything, the presumption is that we know nothing."
Kingsolver's sometimes beautiful and sometimes intentionally raw account is more than just suspenseful because we're at the edge of our seats wanting to know whether both her marriage and the Monarch butterflies will live or die and somehow, they feel so intertwined in that fight or flight behavior that applies to all species, including humans.
All of us have our own truth of whether global warming is real or not. What Kingsolver's riveting story does is make it real with a small rural Tennessee community who experience something they cannot explain. In the discovery process, locals, journalists, religious leaders, climate scientists, environmentalists, farmers and politicians argue their own truths.
Amidst the chaos, Ovid Byron embarks upon a path to study a species he loves and is at risk of dying off, knowing that only nature can save them. The problem is of course that nature as we know it and that certain species expect it to behave year after year is dramatically changing, so much so that this shift is confusing migration and mating possibilities, denying what did thrive under those conditions to still thrive.
A sad but engrossing tale, she'll weave you in and out of scientific anecdotes & facts, American mass commercialism showing its ugliest face to a life of poverty, a flailing farm and husband and everything in between.
A must read for anyone who cares about the environment and animals....and preserving what we know, love and hold dear. Even if you're a global warming naysayer, there's no denying that climate patterns are currently wacky and not just on one continent. While scientists continue to get to the bottom of why, this telling novel, fiction aside, will get you to think differently about the environment around us.
Flight Behavior which launched in hardback last year, is due to be released in paperback on June 4, 2013.
Photo credits: hereandnow.wbur.org, Tampa Bay, Worldwildlife.org and the revivalist.info.
May 17, 2013
5 Important Issues From 5 TEDxBerkeley Speakers: Help Us Pave the Way
As a co-curator of a TEDx event, you have a joyful honor of bringing important issues you want to see brought to the table...to the table, or in this case, a TEDx stage. Having been involved in the curation process at TEDxBerkeley for a few years now, there are speakers and writers I've met along the way who have haunted me -- positively and negatively -- the latter often provacative enough that regardless of whether it's a pretty story, you know the story must be told.
Personal issues that keep me awake at night include the ugly embrace of processed food, climate change & the implications for wildlife and the world, the growing divide between the rich and the poor, our sad state of healthcare and education, and women's inequalities. There are countless others, but there's only so much that can absorb my already noisy back channel at any given time.
At TEDxBerkeley this year, we were able to bring some of those conversations to attendees.
I have always wanted Robert Neuwirth to speak at TEDxBerkeley ever since I first heard him speak at PopTech a few years ago. He is best known for his work with squatter communities and poverty. He wrote Shadow Cities: A Billion Squatters, A New Urban World, a book describing his experiences living in squatter communities in Nairobi, Rio de Janeiro, Istanbul and Mumbai.
He brings us on a journey to West Africa and how locals came up with a creative way to source their own energy when the government couldn't.
Lagos residents use energy conservation. In his time in Lagos, he saw people get their water in large canisters not from fresh water sources or private wells. The Lagos government claims that it provides safe drinking water in sufficient quantities to its people, according to a newspaper he read on his way out of the country and yet, its far from reality. There is no real functioning water system in Lagos and other things are not efficient either. Apparently they waste N1.5 billion by leaving their computers on standby.
Kim Polese was the opening speaker for this year's theme of Catalyzing Change. In alignment with the theme, she addressed the communications gap between education providers and students. Students don't know what courses to take so they can succeed in the 21st century.
Our challenge is to preserve the excellence and transform old curriculum she says. "We face a new crisis, the skills gap, which is a crisis which is affecting everyone so we need a revolution in the teaching model, a few of which are MOOC (massive online open courses) and passive versus active participants in online open courses (small online classes) in SPOCS, Small Private Online Classes.
The revolution is not about cutting costs, it's about this new transformational learning model that is more engaged and also it allows for mass distribution to more people. Only 50% of undergraduates receive a degree in six years. Moreso than that, 55% of students need remediation.
The typical student attends multiple universities, which equates to lost dollars and time because so much of the credits don't transfer over. Often, a student takes "on average" over a year of credits they wouldn't need to take.
One idea: What if we offered and made those transfer of those credits seamless? Think about what Visa did to revolutionize the credit business, by swiping a card and it just works. If we standardize undergraduate classes so the credits can be applied as seamlessly as a Visa card is used today to pay for products and services.
The STEM gap (science, technology, engineering and math) aka rouhgly 33% of students who just felt that they weren't prepared enough is widening......in the U.S., we lag behind most developed countries.
Five out of every new jobs will be in STEM related jobs in the next decade and yet we're lagging behind countries like Singapore, France and other developing countries. If we just focused on increasing the number of STEM graduates by 10% can produce 75,000 more STEM graduates by the end of the decade, which is close to what Obama's goal is for higher education.
Women are turning away from computing, the percentage at its all time high was 34% and now its down to below 15%. The first programmers were women. During World War II, the army recruited a group of women out of the University of Pennsylvania to calculate bolistic trojectories and they called these computers women. She refers to the work of TED Prize winner Sugata Mitra.
Known for his work in education research, Sugata Mitra won $1 million TED Prize to build his School in the Cloud.
Many who keeps tabs on education will know him for his project called “Hole in the Wall”, an experiment he conducted in 1999, where Mitra and his colleagues dug a hole in a wall near an urban slum in New Delhi, installed an Internet-connected PC and walked away.
Over time, while a hidden camera filmed the area, the video showed children from the slum playing around with the computer and in the process, teaching themselves now only how to use it themselves, but sharing that knowledge with their friends.
His goal is lofty – he invited the world to embrace child-driven learning by setting up something he refers to as Self-Organized Learning Environments (SOLEs). He asked for help designing a learning lab in India, where children can “embark on intellectual adventures.”
Second in the session was Eden Full who is the Founder of Roseicollis Technologies Inc. She studied for two years at Princeton University and is currently taking gap years to work on her start-up full time after being selected for the inaugural class of the 20 Under 20 Thiel Fellowship. Named one of the 30 under 30 in Forbes’ Energy category two years in a row and Ashoka’s Youth Social Entrepreneur of the Year, Eden founded Roseicollis Technologies Inc. to take her solar panel tracking invention called the SunSaluter to developing communities and established markets that need them.
The SunSaluter won the Mashable/UN Foundation Startups for Social Good Challenge and was awarded the runner-up prize at the 2011 Postcode Lottery Green Challenge. While at Princeton, Eden initiated and curated TEDxPrincetonU. Proudly Canadian, she was born and raised in Calgary, Alberta. After coxing for the Princeton lightweight women’s team, Eden was selected to be the coxswain for the 2012 Rowing Canada’s senior women’s development team, where they won a gold medal at Holland Beker and the Remenham Challenge Cup at the Henley Royal Regatta, beating the German Olympic boat.
She shared her story about her patent-pending solar invention called SunSaluter which she has been using in East Africa. Provided extra electricity every day for one 60W panel to charge, plus not just the benefit of getting extra water but clean to people every day. She tested it out in a polit in Nyakasimbi Tanzania and thereafter with a partner in Kirindi Uganda. The goal is deploy 200+ units to 15,000+ villagers.
Curt L. Tofteland is the founder of the internationally acclaimed Shakespeare Behind Bars (SBB) program. During his 18 years of work with Shakespeare in corrections, he facilitated the SBB/KY program at the Luther Lucket Correctional Complex, producing and directing 14 Shakespeare Productions.
"It is within the silence that we discover the absence of self," he said to TEDxBerkeley audience, as he opened with lines from Shakespeare. "We arrive in this world, naked and alone and we leave this world, naked and alone; we take with us our memories and we leave behind our deeds," he says reading a story that addressed life issues such as dealing with truth and ego.
May 17, 2013 in America The Free, Client Announcements, Conference Highlights, Events, On Education, On Health, On Innovation, On Politics, On Science, On Technology, On the Future, On Women, TravelingGeeks | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack
April 20, 2013
Reflections on Community & HAPIfork's Kickstarter Campaign
I've done so many launches in my life that I'm not even sure I could count them all and yet a launch in and around crowdfunding is a relatively new experience for most of us.
Some launches alert the world that a product is shipping, that there's an IPO or a new partnership, that there are four new features than the previous version, that there's a new management hire, that the CEO is speaking on a panel, that product Z just won an award, or that an office is opening in Singapore...the list goes on. I've done them all.
Kickstarter, while not a new concept for the early adopters and technologists within my circles, my sisters who live in an East Coast small town have never heard of it nor have my friends in Florida, Minnesota and Canada. In other words, it's still a relatively new way for consumers to order a product, especially one which in many cases hasn't been built yet and there's only a basic prototype to show when the campaign goes live.
We're in day four of the HAPIfork Kickstarter campaign and plenty of press gave HAPIfork some love this week as part of the kick-off, the kind that is, that would cover this kind of announcement. The good news is that as a result of heightened media activity this week which comes on the heals of over 900+ media hits worldwide from its initial unveiling at CES in January, more and more mainstream press are intrigued and want to play with the fork.
From Dr. Oz, Good Morning America, Good Housekeeping, Penthouse and Men's Health, we've had discussions and coverage; it's a no brainer for their audience since its the kind of device mainstream consumers would want to try out just as they did when electric toothbrushes first hit the market and dentists confirmed that they can clean your teeth more comprehensively than a regular brush. In both cases, there's a "mindful component" to it.
Why wouldn't consumers reading consumer magazines want to learn about a new digital device that can help them eat better, improve their digestion and eat less, thereby consuming less calories. In an eager-to-consume everything and anything country with astonishing obesity rates, the timing of HAPIfork couldn't be better. Even ABC News was intrigued and Jay Leno and The Colbert Report gave the smart fork a call out in mid-January while NBC News Scott Budman covered it the day after Kickstarter went live.
It is precisely the kind of device that will make people think more carefully about their eating habits and suddenly, a "new pattern" of thinking and eating more mindfully kicks in. The goal is to modify "speed" behavior at the onslought and then extend into more mindful habits beyond a plate of food over a meal.
The Benefits of an Early Community:
While there are clearly other ways to get funded, Kickstarter helps to identify the early adopters and fans who really understand the inherent value of a "smart fork". Beyond a fad, people who jump on board early assume faith in a product that embraces a way of thinking that goes something like this:
"A connected fork isn't the only way to get healthy and lose weight, because at the end of the day, it's always my own decision about what I eat, when I eat and how fast I eat. While human input is a big part of leading a healthier lifestyle, I for one, could use a little help. HAPIfork can remind me, prodding me with each bite I take, to eat healthier, slower and be more mindful in the process. Most importantly, I understand this is a starting point and realize that this fork can act as a digital coach to help modify my behavior over time...and alone, is an important first step to the path of mindful eating and living."
The above mantra or statement if you like, isn't an official statement from the company...it's how I personally think about HAPIfork as an enabler of healthy habits, starting with food.
Education will be a big part of this campaign, starting with Kickstarter and well into the coming months ahead. With Kickstarter, we will see the formation of an early community who is willing to take a healthy step into that universe, one that leads to a HAPier and more fulfilling life.
Building a community isn't new, nor was it new at the birth of social media. Smart marketers have always understood that the customer is king and he/she leads the way, not the CEO. Customers aka your community is critical at the beginning of a product launch and throughout its entire lifestyle.
30 years later and I still flash a smile and feel an emotional bond when I see the Pillsbury Doughboy on TV. Great branding? You could say so, especially since I'm not their target audience. For decades, they achieved sustainable success inside their community (moms and women who bake with their products) and outside their community, people like me who have a warm and fuzzy feeling about their brand even though I'm not a user.
Regardless of what kind of product launch you're doing -- inside a crowdfunding paradigm like Kickstarter or IndieGoGo or out -- it always goes back to the customer and making them happy again and again and again. In recent years, I've seen far too many companies forget how important customer feedback is, for without them, there is no sustainable growth. There is no product. There is no company.
For HAPILABs and HAPIfork, it's the start of learning about a community that embraces the concept of happiness, mindful eating and health early on. It's been a thrilling ride to be driving the marketing and PR efforts since the prototype kick off, but as I watch the Kickstarter numbers rise hour after hour, and excitement runs up and down my spine, I remind myself that this is just the beginning. The exciting days are ahead as we learn from customers using the fork, how it has positively affected their lives.
Here's the link to the Kickstarter campaign if you are interested in supporting the campaign at whatever level - as a supporter, or simply because you can't wait to get your paws on one of these magical HAPIforks.
April 19, 2013
Reflections While Boston, My Old Hood, Is Under Attack
Being on the road and in back-to-back meetings for the last three days, I haven’t had time to digest and process the Boston Marathon incident until tonight. In fat I heard about it during a meeting with a media buddy who was late to the lunch since he was covering the story and had to file before leaving the office. His brow was strained as he said, “sorry I’m late, but I was buried deep in the Boston tragedy.”
My heart raced…..he didn’t at first mention the Marathon, so after my mind darted from massive fire to another shooting along the lines of what happened in a Colorado theatre, he went on, seeing that I hadn’t had heard the news. I heard fragments: Bombs. Finish Line. Terrorism I asked? Chris didn’t know.
Since Boston had been my home for many years and I have experienced Boylston Street’s chaotic crowds for many a’ Spring watching friends and even on one occasion, a boyfriend cross the finish line. I worked with the Massachusetts Association for the Blind when I was in my twenties, while living there, and even watched blind runners I was helping to raise money for equipment they needed, cross that very same finish line.
Personally, I’ve never been a runner so have never quite understood the intense satisfaction and glorious reward a runner must feel after so much training, to then “high five” loved ones as he or she made it to the end, some not quite knowing they would. I’ve known many people participate over the years – some of them trying to improve their time from the previous year, some trying to prove that they had the endurance to make it at all, and others who flew in from other cities because they considered the Boston Marathon a race they must do at least once in their lifetime.
In my later Boston years, we stopped going every year since as I grew older, fewer and fewer people I knew participated and more often than not, friends wanted to avoid the crowds and the chaos of what those crowds brought, none of which is the chaos that poor Boston experienced this year. It wasn’t unlike New Yorker’s fleeing the city during New Year’s Eve or local Brazilians heading to the country at Carnival time.
That said, my early Boston Marathon memories are precious – we were young and so we’d do anything to support our friends and their causes, adventures and missions in life. When Chris referenced the Marathon as the location for the tragedy (oh god, terrorism my mind raced), I realized that my insanely overbooked schedule of the forthcoming few days wouldn’t allow me to digest this incident in a way I desperately wanted to and needed to.
And so, like doctors who deal with the dying every day, and can’t get emotional about every patient they treat, I forced myself to feel very little for 48 hours so I wouldn’t let emotion prohibit (in a way) my ability to execute the insane schedule I spent nearly 80 hours creating, with very little sleep in the process.
I nodded and shook my head in disbelief like every other American in our path over the last three days, but I kept those nods superficial to myself, for I knew that diving into the photos, the interviews and the stories of the victims, survivors and families which I spent time doing last night, would distract me too much to succeed in the delicate execution of a “schedule”, the one people were counting on me to deliver.
And so, I didn’t spend time reflecting on Boston like I did tonight, fighting the tears until I couldn’t fight them anymore, as I scrolled through photo after photo, seeing faces of dead children and twenty year old vibrant faces who never finished their lives, and all for what? And, then to see a visual of 27-year old Jeff Bauman’s tattered bloody limbs as he left the scene after a bomb blew his lower half to pieces, was enough to put anyone over the edge. I realized that I heard about 9/11 while shifting furniture around in my Boston apartment with an old high school friend from upstate New York. The phone rang. An old boyfriend from many moons ago. Australian. The line was muffled. Not clear. Slightly breathless, he asked if I was okay. Not a man to ramble, he began to, until I stopped him and said whoah, slow down. He spoke of bombs, of terrorism, of massive buildings collapsing. New York City. I heard snippets most of which bypassed my memory bank because all of seemed so Hollywood to me, so much so that I dismissed it as some “down under” TV sensationalism that was over exaggerating America’s sense of media humor. Then his voice became serious. Turn on the F-G TV and so I did and…..when I did, I still dismissed it. It must be some movie re-run of sorts I thought, until I saw that we were on CNN and then suddenly began to absorb what I had just heard.
I tried not to go to that place when I heard about the explosion, for when I lived in London, I prepared myself for several years of urban life in the city which consisted of occasional IRA explosions in bars, trains and on busy streets. I had lived in Johannesburg when bombs went off less than a mile away from the ritziest suburbs of the city….close enough where you could see smoke filling the air from the after maths while wealthy whites (at the time) sipped Sauvignon Blanc from crystal and ate strawberries with whipped cream as the men prepared a“braai” in the background. I lived in Israel at a time that was considered safer than others, but never entirely safe and within months, not years, friends I left behind were buying designer gas masks, something which became part of their every day life.
Maybe it’s not the kind of terrorism that we all fear most, the foreign kind from “over there,” in the religious lands American natives can’t get their heads around. And, maybe it is. We still don’t know, but those details right now don’t comfort those whose family members lost someone on April 15 near or on the finish line on Boston’s Boylston Street. All they can and must feel, is pain, terror, anger and excruciating loss of a senseless death of someone close to them.
A few days into the incident, more than sixty victims of Monday’s bombings at the Boston Marathon remain hospitalized, including a dozen who are in critical condition. Seeing the faces of those who are no longer with us — Lu Lingzi, a 23-year-old Boston University student from China; 8-year-old spectator Martin Richard; and 29-year-old spectator Krystle Campbell — brought tears to my eyes just when I thought I could shoo them away. As I dove deeper into stories, I learned that more than 170 people – runners, couples, spectators, children – were injured, some in critical condition and some who have lost limbs or senses. From a hairstylist on upscale Newbury Street, to an 11 year old with serious leg wounds and newlyweds who both lost their left legs below the knee, they are among dozens and dozens whose lives will be forever changed.
And for what? We are all asking ourselves that question. For what purpose? What message is it that they are trying to convey? Who are they trying to scare and why? What does this victimization and terror that they have created do for them and for those who are spearheading potentially a greater and much more dangerous mission?
Dr. Oz spoke about love and how love and community will be the healing factor necessary for this community. President Obama praised Boston’s resilience, their compassion and their strength. The community has bonded together people say, in a way that New Yorker’s did after 9/11. Americans are not accustomized to terrorism on their own soil — not before 9/11 and not after, until now…..if this is in fact what it is. This country may forever be changed if subsequent incidents become part of every day life, as they have in Ireland, London, Israel, South Africa and other volatile places in the world.
On this white slab of paper which isn’t really paper, but a glaring white digital screen that calls for my feelings to be conveyed, I write and write and write and this is what pours out on this very sad evening as I reflect on those we have lost and those who loved and knew those we as a nation have lost. I embrace you Boston, my old home, and send you strength, courage, love and faith, to get through this tragic time, a city poorly chosen as Obama had said, but one which will endure and hopefully heal with much support from communities around this resilient country.
HAPIfork on Kickstarter: Nearly 3 Days Into the Campaign
I remember being in the offices of a well known mobile and software company ten or so years ago after having lunch with the CEO. They had just completed an IPO and as we walked into the main office space, increasingly becoming overcrowded with cubicles, he noticed how many employees were watching the stock price on their screens.
With me trailing behind him, he abruptly stopped and addressed his teams with a sense of urgency that surprised me. He said in a bold voice: "I don't want to see you starring at numbers on your screen all day - spend your time doing whatever you can to make our existing customers happy."
Hear hear. At the start of the HAPIfork Kickstarter campaign two days ago, I found myself obsessed with checking the screen constantly, even during meetings. The addictive nature of a campaign that has $$'s attached to it is impossible to ignore. After day two, I stopped and returned to a quick check every other hour, as a way to quickly check the progress but not be consumed by it.
That said, a campaign of this nature takes on a life of its own. After four hours, the Kickstarter HAPIfork campaign was 10% towards reaching its $100K goal and on day three, we are at 42,544 at the time of writing this blog post.
Here's a glimpse of my addictive screen grabs on Wednesday and Thursday.
We're off to a great start and kudos to the HAPILABS team, which is operating across five time zones. Please support us on the Kickstarter HAPILABS page so we can make inventor Jacques Lepine's dream come true.
Here's a sample of the fabulous media coverage since our campaign hit two days ago.....
- CNET - Donna Tam | 4/17 | HapiFork: Vibrating novelty or health revolution?
- Cult of Android - Eli Milchman | 4/17 | Hapifork Tattles To Your Phone About How Much You’re Eating [Kickstarter]
- Engadget - Christopher Trout | 4/17 | HAPILABS launches HAPIfork Kickstarter campaign, we go hands-on and in-mouth
- Fodors: http://www.fodors.com/news/best-new-travel-tech-for-2013-6387.html
- Forbes - Larry Magid | 4/17 | A HAPI Meal That You Eat Slowly
- Fox - New York - Luke Funk | 4/17 | Fork vibrates when you eat too quickly
- Fox 10 TV - Alabama - Lenise Ligon | 4/17 | HAPIfork; Bluetooth enabled fork
- Health 2.0 News - Laura Montini | 4/17 | An Afternoon with the HAPIfork
- International Business Times - Esther Tanguintic-Misa | 4/17 | Problem Controlling Weight Gain? Curb It With Hapifork…
- Mashable - Chris Taylor | 4/17 | Hands On With the Fork That Tells You to Eat Slower
- Medical Daily - Susan Scutti | 4/17 | Vibrating Forks to Help You Lose Weight? The Unusual Intersection of SmartProducts and Crowdsourcing
- Nature World News - Tamarra Kemsley | 4/17 | 'Smart' Fork Vibrates When You Eat Too Quickly
- Science World Report – Kathleen Lee | 4/17 | Don't Put Your Fork Down, HAPIfork Vibrates if You Eat Too Quickly
- Slash Gear – Craig Lloyd | 4/17 | HAPIfork Kickstarter campaign officially launches
- TechCrunch – Gregory Ferenstein | 4/17 | Eating Fast Is Destroying Your Body. The HAPIfork’s Buzz Can Help
- The New Zealand Herald – AFP | 4/17 | Would you buy a vibrating fork to stop you getting fat?
- The Washington Times – Jessica Chasmar | 4/17 | Obesity battle gets French weapon: Forks that vibrate on quick eaters
- TUAW – Mike Schramm | 4/17 | HAPIfork Kickstarter campaign goes live
- Ubergizmo – Hubert Nguyen | 4/17 | HAPIfork Starts Crowdfunding on Kickstarter
- Venture Beat – Rebecca Grant | 4/17 | World’s first connected fork could help you eat healthier, slower, and less
- Wall Street Journal – N/A | 4/17 | HAPIfork Now Available for Pre-Order on Kickstarter
- Xconomy – Wade Roush | 4/17 | Testing Kickstarter’s Appetite for a Digital Fork and 'Positive Punishment'
- Boot Camp - Fred Fishkin | 4/18 | HapiLabs opens Kickstarter campaign for the HapiFork
- Financial Everyday - N/A | 4/18 | HAPIfork Now Available for PreOrder on Kickstarter
- Gearburn - Bianca Budricks | 4/18 | Is HAPIFork a dumb fad or smart new eating tool?
- Gizmag - Dave Parrack | 4/18 | HAPIfork smart fork hits Kickstarter
- Health Care Asia - AFP | 4/18 | Vibrating Fork Helps Combat Obesity
- CBS Radio & Larrys World - Larry Magid | 4/18 | HAPIFork Helps You Eat More Slowly
- NBC - Bay Area - Scott Budman | 4/18 | 'HAPIfork' a New Tech Diet Tool
- NBC News - N/A | 4/18 | HAPIfork Now Available for PreOrder on Kickstarter
April 17, 2013
HAPIfork Launches Kickstarter Campaign: World's First Connected Fork Now Available for Pre-Order
For the last few months, as anyone in my circle can affirm, nothing has consumed more of my time than a magical little device called HAPIfork, referred to as the vibrating fork and also its claim to fame: the world's first connected fork.
Since our initial unveiling at CES, the world has embraced HAPIfork, eager to try this unique device aimed at helping you slow down how fast you eat.
Today, we're kicking a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds for the manufacturing and distribution of HAPIfork, so alas, people can finally pre-order the device which aims to transform people's relationship with food.
In January, HAPIfork was the recipient of the CES Innovations Award, Health & Wellness category and soon thereafter, the word quickly spread to over 50 countries globally culminating in hundreds of articles, blog posts, tweets, television and radio appearances as well as a fun shout out from The Colbert Report and Jay Leno.
Keeping in line with Kickstarter rewards at various funding levels, the HAPIfork will be offered as a perk for up to 2,500 people funding $89, and at the $99 level for anyone else who would like to be in the first commercial batch. In addition, the opportunity to be part of the beta testing program, receiving the HAPIfork at the earliest possible availability date, is offered at the $300 level perk. The campaign, which starts today and runs until May 31, 2013, has a fundraising target of $100,000.
HAPIfork was designed by French entrepreneur and inventor Jacques Lépine whose idea was based on research which shows that by eating slower, people can improve the way they feel, improve their digestion and lose weight.
Unlike other health related tools, the HAPIfork is inconspicuous and appropriate for out-of-home use. The smart fork also collects information for future analysis or monitoring in clinical settings. All data is transmitted to a ‘personalized online dashboard’ when the user connects their HAPIfork to their computer or mobile device making it easy to monitor eating habits and health improvement at home or on the road.
The fork will be released in three colors (blue, green and pink) and will ship to Kickstarter funders first before the general public. The product will initially go on sale in the US and EU in the fourth quarter of this year.
Bravo and a well deserved High Five to the entire HAPILABS team. We're excited to move HAPIfork closer to distribution and grateful to Kickstarter for their support to get this campaign to GO!
SO, c'mon over and support us, order a HAPIfork and start eating more slowly, transforming the way you think about food, eat food and digest food.
Onward & upward to a Healthier and HAPier place!
April 15, 2013
Fourth Annual TEDxBerkeley Event To Kick Off April 20
The fourth annual TEDx Berkeley Event (a 501c3) will kick off on Saturday, April 20, 2013 at Berkeley’s Zellerbach Hall with 13 thought provoking and renowned speakers and three performers, set to tackle this year’s theme: Catalyzing Change.
This decade presents significant and global change that will impact how we use technology, how and where we work, communicate and use utilities and applications across industries, from education, mobile technology, biotech and biofuels to healthcare, government, sustainability and beyond.
Learning and sharing ideas in a way that provokes change and making the world a better place is what TED events are about. Given that Berkeley is an epicenter of innovation, inspiration and talent, it’s the perfect location for speakers and attendees alike to participate in this important global conversation.
Below is a list of the 2013 TEDxBerkeley speakers and performers:
- Chris Anderson: Chris is the co-founder and chairman of 3D Robotics, former editor of WIRED Magazine and author of The Long Tail, Free: The Future of a Radical Price and Makers: The New Industrial Revolution.
- Louann Brizendine, MD: Louann is a practicing neuropsychiatrist, a New York Times best-selling author, a professor at UCSF, founder of Women’s Mood & Hormone Clinic, and a media commentator specializing in sex differences and The Male and Female Brain.
- Mallika Chopra: As a media entrepreneur, Mallika is the founder of Intent.com, The Chopra Well, author of 100 Promises To My Baby and 100 Questions From My Child, and a notable voice in the fields of parenting, meditation and intention.
- Alexei Filippenko: Alex is a UC Berkeley Professor of Astronomy and member of both teams that discovered the accelerating expansion of the Universe, who was honored with the 2011 Nobel Prize in Physics.
- Eden Full: Eden is the founder of Roseicollis Technologies and spearheaded the solar panel tracking invention called the SunSaluter.
- Dan Millman: Dan, an author of 16 books which have been translated into 29 languages, have influenced millions of lives. His most popular book, Way of the Peaceful Warrior, was adapted to film in 2006.
- Robert Neuwirth: Robert is the author of two books on alternative social and economic structures: Stealth of Nations, an up-close investigation of the value of street markets and underground trade and Shadow Cities, which looks at squatter communities as normal urban neighborhoods.
- Kim Polese – Kim serves as Chairman of social finance startup ClearStreet, was founding product manager for Java at Sun, co-founder of Marimba, CEO of SpikeSource & was named to President Obama’s Innovation Advisory Board.
- Ananya Roy: A UC Berkeley professor in City and Regional Planning and distinguished chair of Global Poverty, she authored City Requiem, Calcutta: Gender and the Politics of Poverty and Poverty Capital: Microfinance and the Making of Development.
- Karen Sokal-Gutierrez: Karen is an associate clinical professor at the University of California and Berkeley-UCSF Joint Medical Program and School of Public Health.
- Curt Tofteland: Curt is the founder of Shakespeare Behind Bars, and has produced dozens Shakespeare Productions at correctional facilities around the US.
- Cecily Sommers: A global trends analyst who helps organizations understand and prepare for the emerging technologies, markets, and ideas shaping our world, Cecily was selected as one of Fast Company’s Fast 50 Reader’s Favorites, founded Push Institute & authored Think Like a Futurist.
- Erica Wides – As national authority on how to find, afford, cook and eat minimally processed natural food, Erica is host and co-creator of Let’s Get Real: The Cooking Show About Finding, Preparing and Eating Food on the Heritage Radio Network.
Performers include Ambiance Lights, a student group dedicated to glove lightshows, which is a style of dance that involves finger and hand manipulation with strobelights, California Golden Overtones, a UC Berkeley all-female completely student-run A Cappella group and Victoria Theodore, keyboardist, musician and background singer who was in Stevie Wonder’s band since 2007. Yaelisa is an Emmy Award-winning flamenco dancer/choreographer and the artistic director of Caminos Flamencos and The New World Flamenco Festival.
For the first time, TEDxBerkeley also falls on Cal Day, UC Berkeley’s Annual Open House. This independent TEDx event is operated under license from TED. Visit the TEDxBerkeley speaker page for more information. Mobile users can also download the AppBaker-created iPhone app for the event.
April 03, 2013
Kundera's Immortality: A Person is Nothing But His Image, But a Woman is Nothing But Her Truth
I just finished yet another Milan Kundera novel: Immortality. He is, as always intense. I happen to be one of his fans, one who patiently understands the flow of his meandering style, knowing the poetic philosopher in him who needs us to read each and every line.
It's as if I'm in his head when I really listen to his meanders, and can even sense where and how he is sitting as he writes a passage, can feel the women he has known and not known and all the intricate details which make up his life, or least the bit which give it meaning.
The first meander centered around image and the premise was that a person is nothing but his image. "Philosophers can tell us that it doesn't matter what they world thinks of us, that nothing matters but what we really are. But philosophers don't understand anything. As long as we live with other people, we are only what other people consider us to be. Thinking about how others see us and trying to make our image as attractive as possible is considered a kind of dissembling or cheating." (I'd add, dying).But does there exist another kind of direct contact between my self and their selves except through the mediation of the eyes? Can we possibly imagine love without anxiously following our image in the mind of the beloved? When we are no longer interested in how we are seen by the person we love, it means we no longer love."
I thought about a kind of love which isn't whole, one which leaves behind fragments...mere fragments, as if flashes in time like two ships passing in the night, a long weary night. Or the kind of love that leaves behind the violent yet exciting sound of a thunderbolt on a stormy night, one which will never be repeated in precisely the same way again.
These are loves we never fully understand just as Kundera's characters never fully understand theirs. As humans, we ache to understand love and what went wrong in love. We grasp for that understanding and repeat the story in our heads as if its a mathmatical equation we must analyze, even if only in our mind's eye. In that analysis, which we continue to play over and over again like a broken record, we must have an answer, a truth of some kind, for surely it can't possibly just be about an image, of an image...hers, his, your own.
We look for the truth amidst that analysis as a way to better understand ourselves and perhaps to better understand humanity; in that understanding, we think we will find a love which is whole, the kind that is rich in color and texture and full of so much vitality and connection, there is no space for fragments.
If we speak of image and of love, we must of course speak of and to the feminine voice, which brings me to my second favorite meander. It couldn't be a Kundera novel without women, who are brought in as almost subcategories into bigger themes of existence, like Chance, the Dial of Life, Image and of course Immortality itself.
From painters Rubens and Goethe to author Hemingway and a radio host, lawyer and professor in Paris, we hear about their desire of women, their inability to escape from women and their adventures with women.
He asks, isn't the story of Ruben's life nothing but a story of physical love? For the artist who looked at women as "life itself?" We hear from Rubens as Kundera's character, an acute observation when one day he can't remember anything substantial about any of the women he bedded. The details, their names, their parents, their childhood, any anecdote other than a flash of an instance.
Rather than continue to conquer a future of a string of women, he decides to revert to the past, as told to him by the hand on the dial (of life), of which Kundera dedicates an entire chapter to.
Rubens reflects, "but how is one to be obsessed with the past when one sees it only a desert over which the wind blows a few fragments of memories?" He decides that yes, one can in fact be obsessed even with a few fragments.
But then, Rubens discovered a peculiar thing. In those fragments, they are not moving. In other words, memory does not make films, it makes photographs. What he recalled at most were a few mental photographs. He didn't recall their coherent motions, but only short gestures, but only in the rigidy of a single second."
One day, a lover he saw over many years decides not to see him again, an incident he he becomes fixated on trying to understand, certain that something must be wrong, something he could somehow resolve. Then, he thinks of an Australian woman he decided never to see again and she too, was rejected for reasons she couldn't understand. He wonders if he can understand them himself.
Throughout our lives, don't we all have stories or chapters of stories which have ended yet we didn't understand the reasons why? Maybe later, at some future time, we begin to understand those reasons and other times, we don't and perhaps never will. Time marches forward, each of us never understanding why her or his story ended with yet another person, another association, another encounter.
He quotes Aragon's "Woman is the future of man." One of the main male characters in the book explains what he thinks Aragon must have meant.
"This means," he says, "that the world that was once formed in man's image will now be transformed into the image of woman. The more technical and mechanical, cold and metallic it becomes, the more it will need the kind of warmth that only a woman can give it. If we want to save the world, we must adapt to the woman, let ourselves be led by the woman, let ourselves be penetrated by the Ewigweibliche, the eternally feminine!"
Later he goes on to say: "Either woman will become man's future or mankind will perish, because only woman is capable of nourishing within her an unsubstantiated hope and inviting us to a doubtful future, which we would have long ceased to believe in were it not for women. All my life, I've been willing to follow their voice, even though that voice is mad. But nothing is more beautiful than when someone who isn't mad goes into the unknown, led by a mad voice....The eternal feminine draws us in."
It reminded me of how important it is for us as women to go to our source of strength through that eternal feminine, each and every time we need an answer...the real truth.
It is that source that will guide us out of muddy complicated waters which are led by masculine ego, give us the power to say no when the world forces us to say yes, provide us with the clarity when it is being fogged up by mindless chatter aimed at sinking the very core of who we are and most importantly, ensuring we return to a place of authenticity, love and purpose so we won't look back years from now as we pass along meaning to a child and not be able to say: I embraced and lived a true life.
Yes. To be able to say I lived a true life, one which I painted on a bright white clean canvas, one which was virgin before I myself lay down the paint brush.
To be able to say I decided what was me and what wasn't me and along the way, returned to that eternal feminine strength for the truth. In this truth, I'd be my own character and not a facade of another in a novel I didn't write, nor would I dance to another's drums I didn't subscribe to or respect.
Oh, such a noble way to live, I can hear my great grandmother saying. And yet, it has less to do with noble, and more to do with truth. Men have this instinct too, even if it shows up with a different voice, a louder thunder and in an external embrace.
When we become lost, which will happen often on this long life journey, we mustn't forget our truth, that for which we will accept and not accept as a definition of who we are. We must never ever forget that.
It's ironic that Kundera weaves Goethe in and out of his chapters because just then, at the moment I had turned the corner of the final page of the book, I thought about a quote that I return to often for a source of strength, one which rests on the front page of this blog and has since the very beginning. As I thought of the source of the quote, my heart began to race....it is nothing shy of a quote by Goethe himself...Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. It may be only ten words of Johann's wisdom, but they are ten very powerful words: Just trust yourself, then you will know how to live.
Photo credits: hplusmagazine.com, templeton.org & artmarketblog.
March 25, 2013
HAPIfork Parades Around Austin Taking in the Energy of SXSW
HAPIfork, which has taken on a mind of his own, decided to embark upon Austin during South by Southwest (SXSW) with Andrew Carton and I. He made a few interesting stops along the way and had quite a few encounters, starting with a little saloon action in the lobby of the Driskill Hotel. After all, we were in Texas after all.
Then he headed to the Rackspace party where he met Travis.
A little more Western cowboy and rope action along Fourth Street.
When the bartender at Eddie V's Steakhouse remarked on his color, shape and design, he asked the chef to write Congratulations across the top of our dessert plate in delicious chocolate. It isn't quite HAPIfork's birthday yet, but he wasn't displeased to see the surprise. Nor were we.
It's hard for HAPIfork to stay away from a dinner table, after all, it's one of his favorite places to hang out.
The guys at the Connected Health booth on the SXSW Convention Center floor said hello to HAPIfork.
There were even a few musicians who got into HAPIfork, after all, we don't need to tell you how fabulous great music is with fabulous food...and the slower you eat, the more present you can be with those tunes.
He kept returning to the Hotel Driskill night after night since he loved nestling himself up against that incredibly historical statue in their lounge area as he listened to live music play till late.
HAPIfork even went to support Jen Lim, CEO of Delivering Hapiness and others at a HAPPINESS panel, because after all, he believes like the rest of us do, that eating slower and taking time with your meal equates to a more fulfilled, healthier and happier life after all. He was thrilled to hang out for a stint with Jen albeit short.
Alas, HAPIfork was sorry to say goodbye to Austin but excited to be visiting more cities, towns and great restaurants in the near future.