September 22, 2013
Being Human & The Power of Storytelling at the United Nations
Costa Michailidis opened the Being Human Session, the very last session of the day for TEDxUNPlaza, now in its first year, an awe-inspiring TEDx event held at the United Nations on September 16, 2013.
Michael Marantz, the first speaker is an independent director and filmmaker. After being diagnosed with cancer at the age of 21, he rediscovered a new passion for being alive, constantly looking to discover more about life, technology, and why humans do what we do.
This re-ignition in life is what continues to inspire him in his work today. He reminds us how powerful storytelling is and what powerful stories can do for people and for the world. He says, "you need others to collaborate with and to push you along your journey. Your experiences along your life journey becomes your story and that story becomes your guide."
So true. Ultimately, the most important story is the one you tell yourself since it becomes your compass in life, often one you rarely deviate from. When something out of the ordinary or uncomfortable comes up in your life, you ask yourself: does it fit into my story?
Given that Michael is also a composer, cinematographer, editor, writer, digital artist, and experiential designer, he has added perspective on how to tell more cohesive stories.
Take Away: We all have stories to tell including the one about our own lives, who we are and what we stand for in the world. The good news is that we get to create that story, not let the world define it for us. Easier said than done, however life can be like a clean white canvas waiting to be painted anew if we only decide that it is so. It's up to us to decide that it can be painted anew!
Jack Thomas Andraka is a 16 year old inventor, scientist and cancer researcher and also the recipient of the 2012 Gordon E. Moore Award, the grand prize of the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair.
Jack was awarded the $75,000 Award and named in honor of the co-founder of Intel Corporation for his work in developing a new, rapid, and inexpensive method to detect an increase of a protein that indicates the presence of pancreatic, ovarian, and lung cancer during early stages when there is a higher likelihood of a cure. A child prodigy, this teenager is a genius!
He spoke about his obstacles along the way and about the issues of high costs getting access to knowledge for important articles. He says, "there's a knowledge elite. There's the knowledge middle class who have access to 10% of articles and knowledge, then there's the knowledged underclass and the impoverished class."
He reminds us that 80% of this world has no access to this information altogether and says, "we're living in a knowledge aristocracy when what we really should have is a knowledge democracy." In other words: we should all have access to the same information.
Take Away: Support the information/knowledge democracy not the information/knowledge elite or aristocracy. We should all have access to the same information and everyone should have access to knowledge. Science is not a luxury: access to date for higher learning should be a basic human right.
Corinne Woods currently serves as Director of the UN Millennium Campaign, which supports citizens’ efforts to hold their governments accountable for achieving the Millennium Development Goals and leads the outreach to citizens and stakeholders to get their voices and concerns to feed into the Post-2015 global development agenda.
"Sometimes you work with people who are smarter and younger than you," Corinne says. "The voice of the people is the voice of God," she adds. "It's not just right that we go out and tell the stories of what is going on and make sure there's action to a million people. We need to get it out to ten million people and beyond."
She asked the audience to help her understand whether they're doing the right things at the UN. In other words: how do we make sure we tell the stories of that data and ultimately make sure those people who really should be listening don't say its just madness?
Her belief is that we can unite together to transcend these obstacles. Consider Jack's passion she says referring to the 15 year old Jack Andraka who didn't know what pancreatic cancer was but then found a new way to attack pancreatic cancer: Imagine the impact we can have if we work on hard problems together.
Take Away: We can't move major obstacles, issues and problems in healthcare and our economy to a sustainable successful place alone. Only by uniting together as a community can we come up with creative and effective solutions to move things forward.
Juan José (JJ) Rendón is a Venezuelan political strategist, consultant, film director, and teacher and had us smiling fairly quickly after he entered the United Nations stage.
Considered one of the world’s political gurus, he has consulted for presidential campaigns and legislative elections in Latin America. JJ has been recognized for his defense of democracy, support for human rights, freedom, and education.
JJ shared the four things he defines as being human: sense of humor, intelligence, creativity and sex for pleasure. The latter brought a smile, especially to a non South American crowd.
He reminds us the importance of making up our own minds about issues. For example, what doctors tell you are permanent may not be permanent. What people tell you may live with for the rest of your life may not be true. As an extension of his beliefs, he recommended a collection of essays called Laughter by French philosopher Henri Bergson.
Take Away: Define your own life, don't let others do it for you. Just because an expert tells you your life will be one way becaue of a disability or a limitation, don't let their definition become your own; create your own definition and your own journey regardless of what an expert or anyone around you says. Hear Hear JJ. I'm sure Mallory Weggemann would agree.
David L. Cooperrider, Ph.D. has quite a lofty list of titles, from a Fairmount Minerals Professor of Social Entrepreneurship at the Weatherhead School of Management, Case Western Reserve University to being past Chair of the National Academy of Management’s OD Division. He has also lectured and taught at Harvard, Stanford, University of Chicago, Katholieke University in Belgium, MIT, University of Michigan, Cambridge and others.
Aside from his countless lectures and long list of accolates, David's work as Chair and Founder of the Center for Business as an Agent of World Benefit is a key passion for him. The center’s core proposition is that sustainability and that every social and global issue of our day is an opportunity to ignite industry leading eco-innovation, social entrepreneurship, and new sources of value.
In other words: let's get social, let's move hope to action, let's get inspired and let's change the horrid in the world to beautiful. He pauses and reflects on the word gratitude suggesting that perhaps we don't understand the profoundness of such basic things like hope and joy or the power of hope and inspiration.
One of David's goal is to reverse the tendancy to focus on the 80% of what's wrong to the 80% of what's right. In other words: let's get the 80/20 rule reversed. We need to elevate these human strengths around the world including igniting the notion that business is a force for eradicating extreme poverty.
He says, "we need to create urgent optimism that spreads these epic meaning making kinds of stories." His vision is that we circle the planet in an appreciative kind of intelligence. In working with the Dalai Lama on an occasion, he asked him what would be his leadership design for management and business school? Dalai Lama responded after scratching his head and said: "I can't manage a thing. If I were asked to manage anything, it would end up as a mess. But I do believe that we need a radical reorientation of the preoccupation of the self to a reorientation of others, which revolves around empathy and compassion."
He talked about the role of the positive and that positive things don't come by nature. For positive things to work, we must make the effort. David ended his talk by thanking the audience for letting him "dream out loud." I love it!
Take Away: Business is a force for eradicating extreme poverty and we often forget that. By working together and creating a united optimism that gives true meaning to epic stories, we have an opportunity to change the world for the better. The world is so much about our stories - let's make them count and add compassion, empathy and a true sense of social responsibility into the mix and together, we can make a real difference.
Last up was the ever so inspiring Dr. Jess Ghannam who is a clinical professor of Psychiatry and Global Health Sciences in the School of Medicine at UCSF. His research areas include evaluating the long-term health consequences of war on displaced communities and the psychological and psychiatric effects of armed conflict on children.
He is also a consultant with the Center for Constitutional Rights, Reprieve and other international NGO’s that work with torture survivors. While Jess cares about global health across the board, he is particularly passionate about the hidden giant: mental health, which is increasing at an alarming rate worldwide.
“We Have No Choice But To Transform the Way We Think About
Global Health, Practices & Training.”
He shared a story about his first trip to Gaza when there was only one psychiatrist for 1.5 million people compared to five psychiatrists for every one person in San Francisco. Jess and his team created a Mental Health Development Diploma Program in Gaza where they trained people to go into the community and schools and work with people directly, promoting basic techniques around wellness. His work which also set up community health clinics in the Middle East to focus on developing community-based treatment programs for families in crisis have been a huge success. As a result of his efforts in Gaza, today everyone has access to mental health assistance within a twenty year period.
Although he is most known for his mental health and humanitarian work in Palestine and along the Gaza Strip, he is working on transporting this program to India and Latin America. Says Jess, “we’re seeing radical shifts in health issues around the world and they’re more chronic diseases, like heart disease, diabetes and depression and these are not things that require a pill.”
Witnessing an increasingly disconnected world and the impact that this shift has had on people’s health has led him to the work he is doing now, at home and abroad. The global challenge is how to make people more conscious and aware of the factors that have a negative impact on their health and implement things that can change the paradigm we are seeing today.
“We Need a New Model. We Need To Train Healthcare Facilitators Who Can Bring Awareness To Millions of People About How To Re-Engage With Their Families, Communities and Bodies.”
He says, “good global health means that we need to be able to relate to each other and communities in a very different way. A lot of difficulties we have globally and locally is how we are nurturing relationships. How do we manage to relate to one another? Are we doing so in a healthy way?” In other words, technology has to be treated as an enhancement and along the way, we need to be conscious about how we related to “it” on a regular basis.
Moving forward, the bulk of his work will be on the mental health effects of the disconnectedness and adverse conditions people are going through, whether its political prisoners who have been tortured or people who live in slums.
Take Away: Health & Wellness are Human Rights, Not Privileges. While technology and a digital lifestyle "overload" can add to mental illness and stress, effective use of it could be beneficial in many cases. Sharing devices and the data on those devices can lead to positive changes in people's lifestyle in many communities. It’s not that technology itself is having the negative impact on our mental health but how we relate to it. Being consciousness about how much time we spend in the digital world versus the human world will be important in keeping us, our families and our communities healthy and in balance.
Photo credits: Renee Blodgett.
September 22, 2013 in America The Free, Client Announcements, Conference Highlights, Events, On Health, On Innovation, On People & Life, On the Future, TravelingGeeks, WBTW | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack
September 19, 2013
TEDxUNPlaza: 3 Women on Empowerment & Trusting In Yourself
I was involved in the first ever TEDxUNPlaza event this week in New York City, a full day TEDx event focused on the theme BRAVE with 24 speakers who inspired over 300 people at the United Nations Building.
Considering how many conferences and events I've been to over the years where there have been so few women on the main stage or on panel discussions, it was refreshing to see the very first session of the day focus on women empowerment.
While two fabulous men were also in this session: Steven Rogers, a professor at Harvard Business School and Dr. James Doty, the founder and director of the Center for Compasion and Altruism Research and Education at Stanford University, this post focuses on the three awe-inspiring women who moved me with their passion, commitment and perserverance this week.
New age yogini Deepika Mehta, writer and animator Brenda Chapman and healthy living educator Sarah Hillware rocked the TEDxUNPlaza stage Monday morning.
Deepika Mehta faced a severe emotional challenge when she was told she may never walk again. Today, she speaks from a place of gratitude now that she is not only walking again, but entertains people with her dancing and yoga movements.
She has also trained with some of the top Indian film stars and is one of the youngest instructors to teach at one of the most celebrated Yoga festivals in the world, The International Yoga Festival in Rishikesh at the Parmarth Niketan Ashram.
Brenda Chapman is another great model for resilience who credits her mother for giving her the courage to be where she is today. She says that young girls are trained to be passive and reactive whereas young boys are trained to be proactive. While that may be less the case today than it was twenty or more years ago, old habits are still engrained.
Role models can teach resilience she asserts. And, she says, "they can be family members, teachers, role models...they can be women, they can be men, they can be you."
Brenda has always had a passion for storytelling and movie making and ever since she was a little girl, her dream was to work at Disney. Not only did she achieve her dream, but she became the first woman to direct an animated feature for DreamWorlds Animation's The Prince of Egypt and more recently directed the Pixar film, Brave, the very theme of this TEDx event.
Like Sarah Hillware would echo later on in the session, Brenda talked about the importance of girls having role models, even if they're distant ones. She also reminded us that it's not just about the successes that result from what we learn from those role models, but failures as well. "Failures are just as important as our successes," she says.
"Inspiring by example is a key way you can pass along your inspiration," she adds. "If you can look into a little girl's eyes and let her know that you believe in her, you might just transform her life."
So true, I reflected as I thought about a few people who did that for me when I was 5, 10 and later as a teenager. Was there someone who inspired and encouraged you along the way?
My Take Away: maybe the nieces, daughters and cousins in our lives won't have to fight some of the same battles we had to fight, but there will be battles and stepping up to be a mentor can make all the difference.
Sarah Hillware started her talk with the same tone, as if she was picking up the thread from Brenda's important messages but extending the importance of mentorship to education and health awareness, which is both her strength and her passion.
Says Sarah, "when you educate a boy, you educate a person. When you educate a girl, you educate a family and a community."
Her background in health and educational systems and as founder of Girls Health Ed, she asserts that health education isn't just about physical health, its about inside out wellness. She asks: how do we translate these ideas and the energy that we have into concrete action?
Perhaps having a community base in adolescent health in schools is a key ingredient to getting things moving.
Some of her stats back this up, including the direct correlation between health, particularly mental health and school attendance. Based on her work's outcome, she focuses on three core goals: Positive Development, Individual Goal Setting and Community Inclusion.
In order for these goals to be achieveable, she believes that all interventions need to be relevant to the individual and the community depending on the challenges they face every day. For example, in the western world, standardizing a course on body image in our schools would greatly benefit women. In the developing world, a course on menstruation and menstruation management would be more relevant and therefore more beneficial.
Sarah ends with encouraging people to get behind programs and behind girls we can help in our own lives, thinking from a proactive not a reactive place. She also strongly believes we need to redirect research towards prevention. Hear hear Sarah. We couldn't agree more!
All photo credits: Renee Blodgett.
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 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!
January 24, 2013
My Top 12 Picks for CES 2013: From Speakers & Robots to Accessories & Backpacks
The Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas earlier this month was once again a flurry of new products and as always, I felt as if I was constantly surrounded by pitches of TV flat screens, new speaker designs, casing, docking stations, chargers, dancing robots, iPhone accessories, surround sound substitutes, and more. What stood out was the increasing number of vendors participating in the Digital Health pavilion this year.
Clearly, the marriage of technology and health is increasing at alarming speeds, with products and solutions aimed at helping consumers take charge of their health by collecting and analyzing their own personal data, something that wasn't available to us even ten years ago.
It was no surprise that Fitbit won a Best of CES award, a product which tracks your fitness and has been on the market for awhile now. It's inevitable that the health and wellness category is primed to explode in the coming year.
As for other categories? Sure, I'm a geek, but I'm a female geek who loves great design and rich colors. I'm always a sucker for products in luscious colors - the problem with so many of these products is that they're created and designed by men, so often our choices are limited to neon green, bright girly blues and pinks, or red, black and white.
If women designers were behind more products, I'd imagine we might actually see a high end stereo system in an eggplant purple, burgundy or an olive green, something that wouldn't clash with our sofas, curtains and painted walls. I spoke to four speaker companies about this conflict and guess what? Weaving a color design into a living room hadn't even occurred to them.
As a traveler and writer, most of my top picks were focused on products that would be useful for the mobile warrior, often lightweight, reasonably priced and compact.
Degauss Labs Earphones
The SPKRS Series is a line of earphones by Degauss Labs that is focused on top notch sound quality. They tout that the bass is amazing (I haven't received them yet but did see them purr on the show floor). In its price range, SPKRS are durable and comfortable.The all aluminum housing absorbs vibrations and preserves the sound quality. The housing is coated with a special technique making the housing as matte and clean looking as the rest of the earphone, rarely found on metal housed earphones. They feature an enhanced acoustic design that helps music sound smoother.
SPKRS comes in a variety of carefully selected AND fun colors. SPKRS is UNIVERSAL and works with Apple iPhone, and the latest version of Android phones from Samsung, HTC and Sony. Windows phone by Nokia is also supported.
Ranipak Backpacks & iPad Cases
I loved the slick design of Ranipak's new Y.U.M.C. Series. Great for travelers on the go, there are tons of pockets and great colors (particularly liked the eggplant).
All products are done in a great European design with a global appeal.
HyperJuice External Batteries
One of the funkiest designed products I accidentally came across were the HyperJuice external batteries for Apple MacBook, iPhone, iPad, iPod and USB products. Behind the products is Sanho Designs, which design, manufacture and market IT accessories with a focus on Apple accessories, portable power and storage.
Their product brands include: HyperJuice - External batteries for Apple MacBook, iPhone, iPad, iPod, USB products, HyperDrive - Portable digital data storage products for Apple devices, digital cameras, memory cards, HyperShield - Cases, stylus pens and other accessories for Apple devices, and HyperThin - World's thinnest most flexible HDMI cables.
For travelers, their products are a Godsend, particularly for those who carry more than one digital product with them like me. Let's just say I can't wait to test out the HyperJuice Mini, Micro and PLUG and I have a feeling, I'll be a prolific user. The company also is smart about design...and they offer a number of rich and fun colors.
SwitchEasy offers some stylin' products for the iPad and iPhone as well as great compact keyboards, ideal for the digital traveler. They offer iPad cases and iPod Touch cases in a number of designs and rich colors.
Their mission is to provide more reasons for PC users to "Switch" to a better digital lifestyle through our innovative little add-ons.
See below for the Safekey Keyboards Protection, which I plan to try out soon on the road. To the left of the keyboards is one of many beautifully styled iPad cases they offer.
Edifer offers a few speaker options that are perfect for those on-the-go.
Sound To Go PLUS is all about portability - they do an all-in-one micro speaker with re-chargeable Lithium battery. Encased in a brushed aluminum chassis, it features 2 channel stereo with 2 full range 1.25" drivers on each channel (magnetically shielded). It also features a built-in 'Class D' amplifier and a 3" x 1.25" oval passive radiator, which means someting to those in the audio world.
GeoPalz, creators of the first decorative pedometer for kids, introduced the ibitz PowerKey for children and ibitz Unity for parents to its suite of products. With ibitz, a family’s electronics are powered by physical activity. Each ibitz connects wirelessly to select Bluetooth 4.0 phones, tablets and laptops to track physical activity. For kids, the ibitz PowerKey converts physical activity into “keys” that unlock rewards, while the ibitz Unity for parents tracks the overall progress of family health goals.
The ibitz PowerKey for kids not only unlocks access to games and apps, but also allows each user to maintain the health of their own GeoBotz virtual pet character within their app.
Foldable Rubber Keyboards by Chin Fai
Chin Fai has a host of incredibly useful rubber roll up keyboards which are bluetooth enabled, a seriously must-have companion for any traveler.
They also have a host of brightly colorful rubber products which encase iPhones, iPads and other devices to help protect them against wear and tear - you can even drop your product encased by one of these and it protects the outer layer and edges of the device.
HAPIfork, the world's first connected fork that slows down how fast you eat received a substantial amount of attention, so much so that the booth was always full of broadcast cameras, producers, doctors, health afficiandos and people who have lost weight or were looking to...among other eager enthusiasts.
While (full disclosure), I am involved in the company, it is on my picks list because it is a product I was excited about even before their launch and a reason I decided to jump on board. There is no other product like it on the market and for someone like me, who travels incessantly and never seems to have time for a 'slow' meal, it makes for a perfect "throw-it-in-your-bag" utensil which not only will help me slow down how fast I eat on the road, but track it on my desktop and mobile phone as well.
HAPIfork received so much buzz, we had to turn away opportunities knocking on our doorstep because we were limited with only 3 prototypes on the show floor.
I think the "smart" HAPIfork struck a chord with people because it's such a device that can modify your behavior, prompting you to slow things down, thereby eating less, which is better for your overall health and well-being in the short and long term.
Action Camcorders by Astak
For under $300, you can get one of Astak's action camcorders, which comes with a 170 ultra-wide angle lens that supports 1080p HD video recording. You can shoot 8 megapixel photos hands-free and there's a built-in LCD screen, which includes real time display and video playback. The nice thing for adventure travelers, is that there's waterproof housing which goes down to 197 feet or 60 meters. I could have used this handy device when I was swimming with baluga whales this summer in northern Canada.
It also comes with a rechargeable lithium battery and has four recording modes: 1080p 30fps, 720P 60fps, 720P 30fps or WVGA 60fps. It connects via a USB 2.0 and has a built-in microphone. Additional sports accessories are also available. I haven't tested it yet but hope to do a more extensive review if and when I get product in hand.
House of Marley Headphones
I was running to get to an appointment and House of Marley's booth stopped me dead in my tracks. Creative, compelling, and loaded with well-designed noise-canceling headphones in fabulous colors with a deep, rich sound. Their headsets are the culmination of natural materials and technology coming together to make beautiful music.
Stainless steel, leather and high-quality recycled aluminum blend to create a striking, sophisticated look. And the performance meets that look. With battery powered noise-canceling headphones, it reproduces an intimate, authentic sound that lets you truly feel the music.
I can't wait to test these out!
Mizco's iPad, iPod, iPhone Accessories
From Mizco, I came across the iEssentials products. For around $30, they have a 2-in-1 Car and Wall Charger that lets you charge two devices simultaneously, whether you're on the road, in your office or at your home.
I also loved their Diamond Cases for iPhone 5. Their cases are form fitting, so they fit snugly around your phone and includes embedded rhinestones for additional style. Unlike so many products of this ilk, they come in richer non-pastel colors. What I loved most was how durable they felt in my hands.
Moneual Robot Cleaner
Another product I'd love to test out and use is the Robot Cleaner by Moneual, which I saw a demo of on the show floor. A high performance BLDC Motor outputs stronger suction, and is powered by the latest long lasting Lithium Iron Phosphate Battery.
Great for both hard floor and carpeted floor surfaces, the vacuum's mop attachment can be attached for hard floors, allowing for vacuuming and mopping to function at the same time. Twin side brushes allow for a wider, effective cleaning width to brush debris towards the main brush for collecting.
The vacuum can cover up to 1,200 square feet on one charge, depending on clutter, as maneuvering around clutter may impact cleaning time. Additional specialized cleaning modes include corner, shadow, and scheduled cleaning. It even has the ability to return to the charging dock after a cleaning session!
January 24, 2013 in America The Free, Client Announcements, Client Media Kudos, Conference Highlights, Events, On Health, On Innovation, On Mobile & Wireless, On Technology, Travel, WBTW, Web 2.0 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack
January 18, 2013
Integrating HAPIness Into Your Life: Reflecting on the HAPIfork Launch
Another CES has come and gone and the HAPIfork is now officially launched. While I’ve attended hundreds of trade shows, probably 20 CES’s and launched dozens and dozens of products over the years, this launch was different.
In the course of one week, HAPIfork, the first connected fork that helps you slow down how fast you eat, garnered media attention from outlets on every continent except for Antarctica and I expect that will come soon given the hype.
People tweeted about HAPIfork from about 80 countries and wrote about it from 73 more. In less than two weeks, nearly 10,000 tweets mentioned #HAPIfork from around the world.
From Good Morning America, CNN, Fox News, ABC, NBC, The Today Show, Dr. Oz, World News Tonight to USA Today, the WSJ, Rolling Stone, Jay Leno, the Colbert Report, Huffington Post, Techcrunch, Scientific American and CNET, HAPIfork was brought the world’s attention.
Frankly, given that I think like as much like a journalist as I do a marketing pro, I knew HAPIfork would be hot. After all, it has a lot of unique selling points.
First, it’s a handsome looking gadget with a clean design that comes in five fun colors.
Second, it is unique in what it does: helps you slow down how fast you eat.
Third, it was developed by the French, a country known for enjoying their food and taking long meals.
Fourth, there hasn’t been an innovation to the fork in….I don’t know, perhaps since the invention of the fork itself?
What I didn’t anticipate was how fast HAPIfork’s “hotness” would accelerate, particularly at a show like CES which shows off thousands of new products and innovations from around the world. In other words, it’s a crowded show to make a new product from an unknown company in the U.S. truly shine.
So, what is the sensation really all about? HAPIfork addresses an emotional issue we all have as humans - eating. As a woman, I’ve dealt with issues around weight and eating fast since I was a teenager and there probably isn’t one person who can’t relate to both at least on some level.
While I’ve never been heavy and come from lankier family stock than not, as a teenager and in my twenties, there was a lot of pressure to be thin largely because of the way the media flashed images of models the size of toothpicks. For men, the pressure may not be as acute, however whether it’s for “image” or peer pressure, maintaining our ideal weight isn’t easy for most of us.
And, at the end of the day, it’s not healthy to be overweight and it doesn’t get any easier as we age. In addition to known benefits of having a healthy diet, eating the right food can change your energy levels, your mental attitude and reduce if not eliminate the cravings you once may have had, e.g., starchy and processed foods with excess amounts of sugar.
While I’m not a dietician or a doctor, I celebrate health benefits from a cleanse once a year and notice positive differences in my body when I eat a more alkaline diet. While eating unhealthy food and too much of it is an obvious known issue, what we don’t pay as much attention to as a society is how FAST we eat and the impact it has on our consumption.
When we eat slower, we consume less calories (roughly 11%), we improve our digestion and decrease issues related to gastric reflux. If you’re over the age of 35, ask yourself how many TV ads you remember seeing as a child on antacid products and how many you see today? It ‘feels’ like there’s an antacid commercial on the hour.
HAPIfork is unobtrusive. When you are eating too fast, you’ll receive a gentle vibration, reminding you to slow things down. Some people argue that they don’t need a fork to make them eat slower and can do it on their own. While some people may have that level of discipline, there are thousands of others who need a little help.
We all know people who are so disciplined; they're the people who find themselves at the gym seven days a week. There are others who fare better with a trainer and others who can’t stick with a program at all.
Think of HAPIfork as a personal coach which can prompt you to slow down one aspect of your busy schedule: your meal.
For me personally, the busier my day, the faster I tend to eat and so a $99 investment in a device that can help modify that behavior is a no brainer. Reality check: Apple charges close to that for a plastic adapter cable that merely charges a laptop.
And, let's not forget the countless other plastic gizmos that are priced above $99 in places like Brookstone, airline magazines, TV advertorials and beyond, that don’t help improve your health.
The second issue that HAPIfork touches on is behavior modification, which is important if people want to see improvements in their health or anything for that matter.
Consider This: a coach asks you to work out for 60 minutes a day and yet when you start off, you can’t even make it past 15 minutes without huffing and puffing. In the back of your mind, you think “this is impossible,” and feel like quitting. What if he came back to you and said, “start off with 20 minutes a day for three weeks and then increase it to 30 minutes a day,” and so on. Suddenly you feel that this might be possible after all, you start to see some progress even if its small. Now, how do you feel?
Consider This: you’re a smoker and while your Uncle John quit cold turkey and your family is hounding you to do the same, you don’t seem to have the same willpower as Uncle John. And so, you start to wear the patch and chew the gum so you can reduce the number of cigarettes you smoke a day. Suddenly, your one pack a day is down to four cigarettes a day and then ten a week. Now, how do you feel?
Enter the world of behavior modification and the impact that even slight shifts in behavior can have on your overall health and well-being. Slight behavior modification can lead to moderate and/or dramatic behavior modification over time.
HAPIfork offloads your eating patterns to an online dashboard which you can check on a daily or weekly basis, data you can also access from your phone (Windows 8, iPhone and Android).
The dashboard shows a percentage of how much faster you are eating than you should, so as you slow down, you can see that number improve over time.
The great thing about the data is that you can either choose to keep it private or share with your family or even a doctor who may be working with you on an overall dietary program.
When we start to see incremental improvements in our scores, we can feel not just a sense of ‘hope,’ that yes, we can actually do this, but empowerment.
With empowerment comes changes in behavior and with those changes, comes a healthier and I’d argue, a more integrated and holistic self. The more awareness we have about our habits, the more we can feel empowered to change them based on information we have personally captured.
After all, it’s your body and we only have one in this lifetime. Why not treat it right? It’s harder to do when we don’t realize just how badly we abuse it on a daily basis, whether that be less sleep than we should be getting, smoking, consuming processed food or eating too fast.
I am excited to be working with the HAPILABS team because of how we can help empower others to take control of their health and take control of their lives. If you were at CES, you may have heard HAPILAB’s CEO Fabrice Boutain walk around with his finger up in the air and saying “Join our HAPIrevolution” with a smile on his face.
If you weren’t in Las Vegas, you’ll see and hear that sentiment in our literature, on our website and at the core of the HAPILABS team across three continents. If you ever run into anyone on the HAPILABS team, you’ll bound to be affected by the contagious HAPI energy and desire to help people turn their health and well being into a positive force.
The goal here is not just to launch a fork, but a way of “being and thinking” about your health. In this HAPIrevolution, our hope is that together, we can raise the awareness and take charge of when we eat, what we eat and how fast we eat.
Help us help you so we can collectively reduce the rising numbers of growing disease and obesity in the U.S. and around the world.
Photo Credits: Screenshots from HAPILABS, woman with food from Sara Beyer/Flickr, slow eating and digestions panels from SlowControl, group shot taken in booth on my trusty Canon 7D. Voltaire image from Chanty Elise Designs.
January 08, 2013
HAPILABS Introduces HAPIfork, World’s First Smart Fork, at CES
CES kicked off this week with CES Unveiled, the official media event on January 6 at the Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas.
HAPILABS, a company focused on well-being in every aspect, whether that is achieved through fitness, diet, your sleep or how you eat, showed off their new HAPIfork at the event. Their goal is to make it easy for people to take control of their HAPIness, health and fitness through applications and mobile connected devices.
The world’s first connected fork that helps you lose weight by eating at the right time and at the right pace is also showing this new smart device at the Showstoppers media event on January 8 at the Las Vegas WYNN Hotel and all week at Digital Health at the Las Vegas Convention Center.
The smart connected device, which has a crisp, elegant and clean design, was created by French engineer Jacques Lepine. The HAPIfork will be available in five colors when it hits the market this year: blue, green, white, black and pink.
This smart fork knows how fast you’re eating and helps you slow things down using a patent-pending technology. By eating slower, you can improve the way you feel after every meal, enhance your digestion and reduce your weight.
When you are eating too fast, HAPIfork sends you gentle vibrations and indicator lights so you are aware of when you’re not eating at a pace that is optimal for your health, allowing you to slow down without a disruption to your meal or conversation.
All of your HAPIfork eating data is transmitted to your online account when you connect your HAPIfork to your computer via USB or your smart phone via Bluetooth. This flexibility means you can monitor your health improvement at home or on the road from a mobile device.
You can choose to keep this information private or share some or all of this data with friends who are supporting you, your health and lifestyle.
The complete suite, which will be priced at $99, will include the HAPIfork Device, an Online Dashboard, which stores and reviews your eating-related data and helps you track your progress meal after meal, a Mobile App which allows you to follow your stats from your mobile device, a Online Coaching Program for tips and tricks on eating smarter and healthier, and an Online Social Game, designed to motivate you to implement your new habits with your loved ones.
Below, HAPILABS CEO Fabrice Boutain shows a HAPIfork and HAPItrack prototypes in Paris this past December.
Disclosure: I am a consultant for the company.
January 8, 2013 in America The Free, Client Announcements, Conference Highlights, Events, On Health, On Innovation, On Mobile & Wireless, On Technology, WBTW, Web 2.0 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack
November 19, 2012
Thought Leaders, Technologists & Academics Re-Imagine Global Health
I'm a huge supporter of TEDx events given their goal to make the world a better place and because I know how much time and effort goes into each one since I'm a co-curator myself of the annual TEDxBerkeley event.
Organizers need all the help they can get since the success is based on the work, effort and love from volunteers...in other words, everyone works around the clock without getting paid.
TEDxSF (San Francisco) recently had their event in conjunction with UCSF, around health, a critical topic on everyone's mind in the U.S. and elsewhere in the world. Their theme was 7 Billion Well: Re-imagining Global Health."
They brought together thought leaders and emerging pioneers in academia and technology to discuss the latest multidisciplinary ideas around the most pressing health issues of our world today.
Christine Mason McCaull, Kunal Sood and their team did a smashing job with an incredible line-up of speakers, which included more women across the board than any other event I can think of outside of BlogHer. Hear hear. It's also Christine's last year curating the event, a huge loss for the TEDxSF team.
Speaker's topics included the Bay Area as a Global Health Hub by Jaime Sepulveda, issues around bleeding from Suellen Miller, embracing your children from Dr. Shefali Tsabary, investing in health markets from Yasmina Zaidman and corporate games for change from Adam Bosworth. (below)
Dean Ornish (below) always has such a wonderful presence on stage. He shared his take on Dis-Ease and how lifestyle, diet and mental attitude is critical to avoiding disease and reversing problematic issues in order to bring the body back to its natural state.
Ankur Jain and Vinod Khosla took on investing to expand health globally, Sam Hamner talked about 1000 knees, Piya Sorcar addressed the tough issues around HIV education, and Patrick Lee explored primary care and what the U.S. can learn from Liberia. Yes, Liberia.
Then there was Kumaré, a film which also played at the recent SAND Conference (nonduality - where spiritualty and science meet) which I attended recently.
Director Vikram Gandhi (above), who grew up consuming equal parts ancient Indian mythology and American movies, was incredibly amusing on stage as he uses satire to talk about his journey as a 'false prophet' to shoot the movie.
We then dove into the mobile world with Sandeep Sood, Montana Cherney, Michael Blum and Jeff Tangney and heard from David Bolinsky, an all time favorite, who never falls short of presenting beautiful information in a way that is both compelling and moving. (below)
Then there was a treat...a very special treat. Lebohang "Levo M" Morake from South Africa flew over to sing a song he arranged for the infamous Lion King: He Lives in Me.
This song is not a favorite of mine, but for anyone who has lost someone in their life, the words will resonate with the pain you felt when you first realized the moment that you called upon your deceased loved one for guidance and comfort.
In other words, the spirits of our ancestors watch over us, protect and guide us on our life journey. Did I cry? Yes. It was truly beautiful as was meeting Lebo after his performance.
June 11, 2012
When a Friend is Diagnosed with Stage 4 Cancer...
Roughly three months ago, I learned that a dear friend was diagnosed with Stage 4 Lung Cancer. He's Chinese American, in his early fifties, fit, in great physical shape and doesn't smoke. If you track cancer stats, personal quantifiers are important. I keep asking myself, how can someone who doesn't smoke, has never smoked and has never been the victim of second-hand smoke be given such a potential death sentence?
I went to visit him for the first time this past week. He is local to the San Francisco Bay Area but I met him back East when I lived in Boston where he was teaching and our connection was pretty much immediate.
He was teaching a dance class, I was taking it and while the cultures I most gravitate to tend to be in Europe, Southern Africa and parts of South America, not necessarily in that order, his 'very Chinese' way of teaching made so much more sense to me that anyone else I had taken lessons from, which was well over a dozen at the time.
He was a very effective teacher though many people in the class would struggle at first to understand the less traditional analogies he'd throw into the mix. He would say things like: "imagine your partner is a grocery shopping cart that you're pushing up and down the aisles" OR, "think of a rock or a boulder you've had to hold 'up' when you were ten. How did you hold it up? With force and struggle or could you imagine another way?"
OR, if you've ever waited on tables, how did you hold a large tray to get the maximum connection so you knew the plates and glasses on top of it were secure?" OR, "imagine a chicken in your backyard who's fast and yet you need to build rapport with him, what would you do? Fast or slow and why?"
He just had that way. AND, he taught with such passion and humor. To dance with him was and is nothing less than pure joy. When you're done dancing with him, what's left in your immediate and long term memory bank is gratitude.
And now, at such a young age, he has lung cancer. He's not my partner, my son, or my father but like so many others he has touched along the way, he has brought an incredible amount of joy into my life. Everytime we get together, I learn something from him.
Like me, he's an intuitive, so he reads people quickly although sometimes people can tell he's reading them. I love knowing that someone is taking the time to figure my shit out on the fly -- it means they're taking the time and that you're interesting enough to figure out -- yet, it can make some people uncomfortable.
Ever notice that sometimes when you're most uncomfortable with a situation or person, you might be on the brink of learning something deeper about yourself or the world around you?
Don't read this post as a tribute to someone who is on his way out, but one that is throwing out a strong intention and statement that says, regardless of what labels are put on us, by ourselves or by others, we have the option to change them....even when we've been given a severe warning about our health and well being.
If there's anyone who can beat Stage 4, it's my friend. It doesn't mean that the odds are not against him, but what it does mean is that intention and attitude matters, from others around him and from himself, which he thankfully seems to have. He spoke of gratitude and the fact that he doesn't expect the universe to grant him a free ticket if he doesn't step up to the plate and do the work. In other words, he's doing everything that he can in his power to increase his odds of survival, of bouncing back, and becoming strong enough again to participate in the world again in a more present and vibrant way than ever before.
A double Scorpio, he thinks about the world in a different way. As a friend assessed fairly quickly, "you just look at people carefully, spend a lot of time and analyze them and then quietly think, "that's an interesting unusual way of being a human being." I had to laugh because there was so much truth to it. He laughed too and said, "can I use that?"
When we lived back east, I remember that he slept on my couch for nearly a week after showing up a house party and helping with the dishes. We were both going through relationship break-ups at the time and while we were both 15 pounds lighter because of it, he reminded me every day that the universe has a plan, not to fight it, but to embrace it and when we come out on the other side, we'll be ten times stronger and smarter than we were before.
Years later, he worked at Esalen, a holistic retreat center on the west coast, so I visited him there for a week. Everyone walked around naked and ate nothing but tofu and broccoli. Classes were freeform, hot tubs at night were overflowing with people and conversation and the stars spoke their peace in the wee hours of the morning while the moon shone bright.
Because he had a roommate and space was tight, we slept on a thin mat outside under the stars every night. While we gazed up at the stars, we shared our life intentions and our pains and fears, and whenever something didn't feel aligned even if it was slight, he threw it back to me letting me know where it was 'off.'
By aligned, I'm referring to a decision we make in our lives that isn't aligned with who we truly are. It's in this place we get into trouble, both in our personal and professional lives.
Working with clients, I often see a company start to go south when I sense a misalignment with the CEO or senior executive, and then, it's only a matter of time before a major pivot needs to happen, they run out of money or have a dramatic management change.
There in the dark night with the mystical light from the moon, I probably asked him, "what do you mean by that?" a hundred times, digging deeper into each explanation until the 'meaning' was pure, with all the onions peeled back. In that place, the truth was unveiled.
During our recent visit, he talked about the first thing that went through his mind when the doctors told him he had Stage 4 Lung Cancer. They said they were shocked at how composed he was and he laughed when he told us the story saying that they didn't see the flying glass hit the walls when they left the room. Of course that didn't happen; his positive outlook is incredible as he talked about living in a reality world versus a fantasy one and how important it is when you do hear bad news, since it forces you to do everything in your power with all the facts at hand, to turn things around. In other words, there's no point hiding behind the truth. Isn't that the case for everything we do in our lives?
He said, "I knew I needed to get my life together, figure out a plan even though I had no idea where to start." After our 3+ hour visit, we were standing by the car and he said, "a close friend emailed my brother and told him to find a good Hospice unit quickly to make him comfortable for the rest of his short life." He said he felt offended (the word he used) but then later realized it wasn't that she wanted him to die but it was the best way she knew how to deal with her own internal pain.
Most of us have a hard time with sickness and death. You hear a friend has stage 4 cancer and then what? The first thing is often denial. My immediate thought when I heard the news was #1) NO, this can't be true. This can't possibly be true. I don't want this to be true. How can it be true? Why is it true? It's not fair that its true. WTF that its true? Then, #2) who do I know in my circles with the most knowledge in this area who can increase his likelihood of survival? What do I need to do to mobilize things?
He didn't tell anyone the news for two days although he realized he needed to act quickly. He also knew that whatever he did in life moving forward, he couldn't harm a thing or do a wrongful thing. He used very granular examples: "I can't even harm a beetle, fly or spider." It was an odd analogy but I get it. How could you not be more present than you've ever been in your life when you're cherishing every moment of every day?
He spends his days cutting up recycled paper and getting creative with bottles that have been thrown away. Collages and origami. He also slaps his body to wake it up and move the chi, anything and everything that has become stagnant. Behind the knees, between the forearm and shoulder where the arm bends, the back of the feet, the bottom of feet and the top of feet, the top of the hand, then the legs and upper arms.
He never said woe is me during our visit. He laughed, was grateful and is taking an active approach to his illness. I left feeling sad knowing that he's in this place and going through so much pain, yet I also left feeling inspired, knowing that he feels that whatever happens, there's a reason for it, a reason beyond what he can see today. He has hope and talks about sleeping on my couch again and hanging out in a garden or by the ocean in a future time, where we explore the sun, the moon, the solar system and our intentions all at the same time.
And as I made my way home, tears coming down my face, I also smiled thinking about all the joy he continues to bring to the world. And, every day since seeing him, I send intentions out to the universe that those days will be longer than the number of days we think there "should be" with a Stage 4 label. Intention can't cure a disease, but it can help healing and bring a sense of peace as someone makes their way towards recovery.
So, when a friend gets a diagnosis and the news reaches your ears, go to a place of hope, not fear and despair, go to a place of love and gratitude not hate and bitterness, go to a place of intention and abundance, not deprivation and loss, for it is in those unspoken walls of intention and love that our friends stand the best possible chance.
Photo Credits: candle: Alternate Economy blog, Stars at night from Babblefrommyhead Blog, Beam of light from Global Intelligencer Blog,