Aectual: Hedwig Heinsman’s Big Idea That Might Change The World

It’s my dream to democratize qualitative, beautifully designed, 100% circular architecture that enables people worldwide to customize their home or other building design directly online, get it 3D-printed locally and also be sustainable. I want people to know it’s possible to create something beautiful made from recycled materials some might initially think are imperfect materials.

As a part of my series about “Big Ideas That Might Change The World In The Next Few Years” I had the pleasure of interviewing Ms. Hedwig Heinsman, co-founder, Creative Director and Chief Commercial Officer of Aectual.

Hedwig Heinsman is co-founder, Chief Commercial Officer and Creative Director of Aectual, where she is responsible for leading the company’s strategic vision and roadmap, as well as its global commercial business, including the creation of all client design, production and deployments. A visionary serial entrepreneur, Hedwig is also the co-founder of DUS Architects, an award-winning architecture company that received international media acclaim and recognition for its XL 3D-printed Canal House research project whose success led to the founding of Aectual. She studied Architecture at Aalto University in Finland, and holds a master’s degree in Architecture from the Delft University of Technology, where she graduated Cum Laude. Hedwig is also a public spokesperson on how tech will disrupt the construction industry, a frequent keynote speaker at international conferences and a regularly invited international architectural jury member.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit. Can you please tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

I grew up in Lelystad, a city in the Netherlands that was built entirely below sea level on reclaimed land. Every single thing in my surroundings was conceived by people and man-made — even the forest trees were perfectly aligned in a grid. All of this fascinated me from my earliest memories onward, and empowered me with an incredible knowledge: that each of us have the ability to give shape to everything that surrounds us. It’s exactly what I’m heading now with my current company, Aectual: enabling others to design and give shape to their own homes and interiors.

Can you please share with us the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

I met my current business partners and already started collaborating with them while we were all students at the Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands. I have a wealth of fond memories of numerous adventures with my business partners since our early university days, but one in particular stands out. In 2012, I fantasized about 3D-printing a traditional Dutch Canal House. Instead of laughing it off, my business partners embraced the idea as the perfect way to demonstrate all of the possibilities of XL 3D-printing and as an opportunity to explore a new form of housing fabricated by cutting-edge technology. The idea and subsequent prototyping of the XL 3D-printed Canal House led to a whirlwind media circus and gave birth to a massive ecosystem of innovation partners, from inventors to multinationals. Less than a year later, the XL 3D-printed Canal House was presented to US President Barack Obama in 2014 by the Netherlands’ Prime Minister when President Obama visited The Netherlands. It goes to show — it’s always prudent to share your craziest ideas with your friends and colleagues because you never know where they will lead.

Which principles or philosophies have guided your life? Your career?

I love the term ‘betapreneurship’ and it describes my attitude perfectly. Do not be afraid to test and quickly share your ideas with an audience to gain feedback and allow them to grow, improve and expand. That way you create a community and common ground appears, and you can learn from each other. Don’t be afraid to create something unperfect — just start. It’s a principle that also relates to architecture. We frequently construct real-life buildings and parts, calling it ‘beta-architecture’. People see it, respond to it and we start to build from there — even literally sometimes. This is also easy since many of our 3D printed solutions can be easily shredded and directly reprinted in smarter iterated versions. I also have a magnet on my refrigerator that quotes Homer: “The word you speak is the word you will hear.” I do my best to live by these words.

Ok thank you for that. Let’s now move to the main focus of our interview. Can you tell us about your “Big Idea That Might Change The World”?

It’s my dream to democratize qualitative, beautifully designed, 100% circular architecture that enables people worldwide to customize their home or other building design directly online, get it 3D-printed locally and also be sustainable. I want people to know it’s possible to create something beautiful made from recycled materials some might initially think are imperfect materials.

All of this is what led me and my business partners and I to found Aectual, the world’s first design-to-delivery platform to rapidly produce bespoke 3D-printed XL architectural and interior products at industrial scale. Aectual offers beautifully designed, modern 3D-printed architecture and interior items, such as terrazzo artwork flooring, fixtures, wall paneling, columns, façades, stairs, room dividers, planters and table screens — even entire buildings — all made from 100% circular, recycled, renewable and sustainable materials. Additionally, the Aectual design-to-delivery process reduces the cost of custom-made architectural products by 50%, is up to 10 times faster, eliminates waste and reduces materials usages and CO2 emissions.

The Aectual platform utilizes customizable engineered parametric products, an easy-to-use, customized design dashboard and proprietary robotic XL 3D-print technology to allow users to customize and create their own product versions. AEC-industry professionals can upload and create their own product versions or simply go to the Aectual website, pick a terrazzo floor pattern, wall panel, room divider, or sun canopy, for example, and then customize it to their taste. Our products can also be designed with all imaginable colors (RAL, NCS, and Pantone) and transformed into a variety of patterns and textures. Prices start at €200 euros per square meter or $24 dollars per square foot, and items are also typically more affordable than their conventional, custom-made counterparts. Consumers can choose from a selection of circular furniture and decorative pieces to customize, such as room dividers, table screens and planters, which start at about €500 euros or $600 dollars. Once the product is ordered, we 3D-print and install the product.

The endless customizable design features we offer marries versatility with functionality, while the vast customizability of our XL 3D-printed products adds freedom and personalization to sustainable design. We already have commercial real estate projects deployed globally, including flooring in Amsterdam Schiphol International Airport, flooring in BMW World in Munich, flooring at Nike World flagship store in the Dubai Mall, printed display walls at Nike Town London, a tiny Bauhaus (aka studio shed or she-shed), flooring that uses recycled Budweiser bottles at Capital C offices in Amsterdam, the temporary EU building in Amsterdam, and more.

How do you think this will change the world?

The Architecture, Engineering and Construction sector is currently responsible for 39% of all global CO2 emissions. Aectual aims to bring this percentage back to zero, with an entirely new approach for the AEC industry, based on optimized product designs, plant-based and recycled waste materials and a 100% circular, waste-free 3D printing manufacturing process with materials that can even be leased instead of discarded.

We offer a way to create beautiful architectural and interior design products from 100% recyclable, renewable materials that minimize waste and don’t harm the planet. Next to that, the global real estate market is worth an estimated $230 trillion — more than three times the estimated value of all global equities combined, however the fundamentals of building haven’t changed for centuries. The construction sector is rather archaic, slow and capital intensive.

Another reason this will change the world is “Aectual Circular” — our new circular design and digital production service that allows products we make to be easily shape-shifted from one material into infinite interior design solutions over time. Aectual’s 3D printing technique has always been an entirely waste-free production method, but since a majority of our building materials are now also fully circular, material usage is significantly reduced. We use recycled household and industrial waste materials to create new building products, and a majority of our products utilize circular, renewable, plant-based plastic created in partnership with German manufacturer, Henkel, that is free from environmentally harmful elements. Sourced from natural linseeds, the plant-based plastic creates a ceramic matte appearance that complements the design of the architectural products. The plant-based printing material can also be shredded and reprinted into new products — up to seven times.

After use, we take back the building and design products and directly shred, recycle and directly reprint them into new products. Depending on the product type, this results in a 35% to 95% material reduction due to its parametric designs, the number of materials needed, special manufacturing and product design optimization. Our novel 3D-printing technology ensures no excess materials go to waste, and our specialized bio-based printing material contributes to more than a 60% reduction in CO2 emissions compared to traditional counterparts.

With Aectual, people worldwide will have easy online access to customize their architectural designs and create living environments that are much more personal and, therefore, much more cherished. Companies can easily create bespoke, 100% circular architectural products that don’t harm the planet. Architects have ultimate design freedom and can directly share and sell their designs to the entire world.

Ultimately, the expansion of Aectual’s online platform will democratize architecture — making customized design, high-quality products and qualitative architecture that is 100% circular and sustainable available to everyone.

Keeping “Black Mirror” and the “Law of Unintended Consequences” in mind, can you see any potential drawbacks about this idea that people should think more deeply about?

I’m a firm believer in the importance of qualitative public places, along with great housing and habitats where people from different backgrounds and economic classes can live, work and play. The design and creation of these spaces is something I believe should not entirely be controlled by capital alone. This is happening more and more. It is also one of the reasons why I’m do what I do — aiming to combine public and private interests.

Was there a “tipping point” that led you to this idea? Can you tell us that story?

The thought process behind the Aectual platform was — and is — an ongoing process. It essentially combines everything my colleagues and I have been working on ever since we started our architecture firm in 2004. We had become very experienced in developing analog tools to bring architecture and design to large communities. Online social platforms really started to rise around 2010 and at the same time small scale 3D-printing started to emerge. It made us wonder: “What if we could combine the two and give communities direct access to manufacturing their own habitats?” All of this led us to develop one of the world’s first XL 3D printers for building and construction products — and the story grew from there.

What do you need to lead this idea to widespread adoption?

Normally, it is quite hard to scale in construction. The reason being that every country, every state and sometimes even every different city, has its own building regulations. It’s why we’ve taken a strategic, incremental approach — one that focuses on building products vs. entire buildings or homes, which enables fast product development that’s also less capital intensive. Contrary to entire homes, products such as flooring, wall panels or façade cladding can be used in any building worldwide — whether new or rebuilt. And, because our products are built up from smart datasets, it is easy to digitally adapt them for different local conditions and regulations. All we need are local 3D-printing machines to do the manufacturing, which is a trend that has been going on for a while and is accelerating with greater frequency. To me, it is not a question of ‘if’ this transition will happen, but only a matter of ‘how fast’ it will happen. More funding in this area helps, of course.

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)

  1. The “Rocks, Pebbles and Sand in a Jar” story: I really wish someone had told me this earlier, to ‘fill my jar’ with family and friends first, and top it off with work. I tend to be a workaholic, but in the end family and friends are what matters the most.
  2. “Living is Meeting”: This is a quote I lend from a friend. He taught me that meeting people always gives you something and will lead to something else. He’s right.
  3. “Dare to Say No”: It takes a lot of “no’s” before you can give a great “yes.” I’ve wasted so much time on irrelevant clients and projects — when in doubt, it’s much wiser to say “no.”
  4. “Gentle Healers Make Smelly Wounds”: This is a Dutch saying, which means something akin to, “When something isn’t working, it’s better to be straight and upfront with people.” Don’t let the truth linger out of kindness — it will only backfire.
  5. Don’t try to reinvent the wheel: Surround yourself with people who are experts and are better than you — and don’t start from scratch by learning yourself.

Can you share with our readers what you think are the most important “success habits” or “success mindsets”?

  1. Leave the past behind. Talk about what you’re going to do today and don’t dwell on old issues.
  2. Trust your gut. If it doesn’t feel right, it’s for a reason. This one is very hard to execute though, and easiest to detect in hindsight when you’ve already made the wrong decision. I continuously try to harvest my instincts better.
  3. Respect your internal clock. I’ve finally acknowledged I’m not a night owl. I now wake up very early to get my work done and I stop at dinner time in order to get a relaxed night sleep.
  4. Make time for cultural pursuits and fun things: Read poetry or go to a museum — whatever inspires you. During the course of my career, I frequently cancelled on culture to make time for work, but ultimately discovered that when I do these fun things without having any agenda, I always end up being inspired in some way and getting new insights.

Some very well-known VCs read this column. If you had 60 seconds to make a pitch to a VC, what would you say? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂

We’re starting a new round of funding, so I’ll share my elevator pitch. Aectual is founded to bring customizable and sustainable architecture to everyone, offering an end-to-end 3D printing platform for a variety of customizable architectural features, such as floors, furniture, stairs and facades. Our data-driven solution offers a seamless design-to-delivery workflow and a very concrete value proposition: 10X faster, 2X less expensive, 100% circular and zero waste.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

https://www.linkedin.com/company/aectual/

https://www.instagram.com/aectual/

https://www.facebook.com/Aectual/

Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational.

Thank you! I appreciated this opportunity to share!


Aectual: Hedwig Heinsman’s Big Idea That Might Change The World was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

The Future Is Now: Kulmeet Singh of Twistle On How Their Technological Innovation Will Shake Up The

The Future Is Now: Kulmeet Singh of Twistle On How Their Technological Innovation Will Shake Up The Tech Scene

Raise capital from professional investors, as opposed to angels, sooner than later. Venture capitalists who understand a startup’s market can be exacting in their evaluation of investments. That process encourages startups to sharpen their understanding of the market and the problem they are solving. If a startup can persuade a smart investor, they’ve amassed market savvy that will be an asset for subsequent growth. On the contrary, angel investors tend to have a lower bar, and are betting on the founders, not on the business plan. Their investment is frequently not complemented with market intelligence, nor customer introductions. Their judgement of your company’s potential for success is clouded by their relationship with you, and they don’t clearly see the weaknesses in your plan, nor the obstacles you must overcome.

As a part of our series about cutting edge technological breakthroughs, I had the pleasure of interviewing Kulmeet Singh.

Kulmeet Singh is the founder and CEO of Twistle, Inc., which uses secure, patient-centric communication to drive adherence with care plans, improve patient outcomes and lower costs. Kulmeet previously founded MedRemote, a company which leveraged speech recognition and machine learning to change the economics of clinical documentation and medical transcription. Later MedRemote was acquired by Nuance Communications, where Kulmeet led strategic planning. His success is rooted in his commitment to a #patientsfirst philosophy, which prioritizes decision-making based upon the best interests of the patient. Mr. Singh holds degrees in economics from the University of Chicago and in computer science from Columbia University in the City of New York.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

I come from a family that is centered on faith and social activism. In fact, my parents were among the original instructors with the Peace Corps back in the sixties. While many in my family are physicians, I opted to follow a parallel path, one that would also allow me to help improve the health of populations.

My first venture was a social enterprise, which in a way was similar to the Peace Corps. The organization provided opportunities for Americans and Canadians to work in rural India. This venture taught me that operating a start-up, especially in the non-profit space, is much harder than most people think.

I was returning from the sub-continent when I read about growth in outsourcing of medical transcribing of physician dictation from the United States to India. It occurred to me that there had to be a better way than manual typing, especially with advances in speech recognition technology. Shortly after, in 1999, I started MedRemote along with a close friend Harjinder Sandhu. MedRemote developed speech recognition and natural language processing solutions for clinical documentation. Despite the challenges of the Dotcom Bomb and then 9/11, MedRemote prospered. We eventually sold it to Nuance, delivering a significant return for our investors. I stayed on with Nuance to lead strategy at their healthcare division until 2010, for what turned into a brief hiatus from business.

In 2011, even before we knew what we wanted to build, Harjinder and I incorporated a new venture, Twistle. Broadly speaking we resonated with the insight that most healthcare happens outside the four walls of the clinic or hospital. Yet when patients leave those settings, their only connection to their care teams was a phone call. More often than not, telephone interactions resulted in a frustrating game of phone tag for the patient and provider, and not meaningful support for the patient’s care journey.

Other colleagues — Jacob Reider, Dave Ross, and Henry Chueh — joined us on this journey, which started in the Cambridge Innovation Center. We worked like a think tank, exploring a range of ideas that ultimately led each of us to unique paths. Jacob joined the US Department of Health and Human Services; Henry continued to lead Bioinformatics at Massachusetts General Hospital; and after experimenting with a few patient engagement ideas, Harjinder left to start Saykara, a company that uses AI to automate physician charting. As a co-founder and investor, I joined the board of Saykara.

Dave and I continued to focus on Twistle, and in 2014 decided to automate care plans and build a platform that would serve as a GPS for patients, guiding them through any care journey. We made our first sale to a large health system in 2015 and went live in March 2016. And the rest, as they say, is history!

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

In the early days of MedRemote we beat several large competitors and landed a huge sale. The agreement was going to be signed on September 11, 2001. Needless to say, the attack on our country derailed the plan as we were all focused on friends and family in New York, DC and Pennsylvania. We were certain that for a number of reasons — political, economic, and social uncertainty to name a few — the deal would not go through. We were surprised and delighted when our customer called and reassured us that they intended to move forward. More important than the deal was her sincere concern for us, and our safety given the treatment some people were receiving because of their heritage. This unexpected kindness was touching and memorable, especially given its stark contrast with the murderous events of the day.

Can you tell us about the cutting edge technological breakthroughs that you are working on? How do you think that will help people?

The Future Is Now aptly describes the state of healthcare as we enter 2021. The advent of COVID-19 and the global pandemic accelerated innovations in healthcare, care delivery, and patient engagement. Changes that at first were thought to be stopgaps are now certain to become the norm.

None of these changes would be possible without bleeding-edge technology that can also be widely accessible to patients of all types. And, while there are many companies offering solutions, our unique approach drives near 90% adoption. This ability to activate patients in their care is foundational to our nation’s ability to meaningfully change patient behavior and improve health outcomes.

We developed an automatic navigation (GPS) system for health. It offers “turn-by-turn” guidance to patients — whether for preventive care, before and after an appointment, pre-procedure preparative steps and follow up care, or throughout a chronic care management journey. The key is our library of clinical communication pathways and best practices that keep patients on track as they navigate care journeys. Optimal clinical content, language and message frequency produces high adoption, satisfaction, and functional patient outcomes. We also integrate sophisticated automation with multi-channel communication, engaging patients through their preferred method: secure text messaging, interactive voice response, patient portals, or the health system’s digital applications.

How do you think this might change the world?

Imagine parts of the world (including places in rural America) where the nearest medical care is literally hundreds of miles away and the dire impact that has on the health of populations. Seeing a doctor for routine visits most likely doesn’t happen, often leading to serious illness that may have been prevented.

Twistle solves that problem. We provide the tools needed for medical practitioners to guide patients through their health journey and improve care, regardless of their location or condition.

This is how Twistle is changing the world.

  • We fill the gap between clinician visits and provide an extension of clinical care into the daily lives of people.
  • We meet people where they live their digital lives — their mobile phones.
  • We educate, engage, and empower people to take an active and informed role in their own healthcare.
  • We improve health outcomes.

Keeping Black Mirror” in mind can you see any potential drawbacks about this technology that people should think more deeply about?

At Twistle, we believe our technology is a force multiplier that enables healthcare providers to accomplish more, to see more patients, and to improve health outcomes with existing resources. We use AI and machine learning to augment healthcare providers so they can do more. But we don’t aspire to make AI that can replace clinicians.

This is a big distinction.

We believe that human interaction is a central component of good healthcare. In fact, there are numerous studies that provide evidence of the therapeutic benefit of clinicians who are empathetic in terms of major, positive impacts on outcomes. An article published in The Medical Futurist in October 2020 stated, “While some AI might eventually be endowed with ‘artificial empathy’ skills, they will not replace a real-life doctor-patient relationship. On the contrary, as these tools manage repetitive and monotonous tasks, they will free up time for doctors, nurses and other care providers meaning they can devote more time to nuanced empathy and compassion that treating patients requires, which is only achievable through the human touch.”

Our focus is to manage routine tasks so that clinicians can focus their time on patient care (work at the top of their license) and focus on elements of care that machines can’t provide or can’t provide well.

Was there a tipping point” that led you to this breakthrough? Can you tell us that story?

There were many influences, but I’d say the tipping point came after an interaction with a couple of extraordinary physicians in late 2014. I learned that providers who produce positive outcomes and are well-liked by patients also tend to engross themselves in the details of their cases, especially the complex ones. By the end of a workday they are drained but still have to document their work, often in poorly designed electronic health record systems, and also communicate, mostly through voice mail, with patients about care plans, or to educate or answer questions. To achieve a good outcome, competent care providers invest so much of themselves that last year 42% of physicians in the US reported feeling burned out. Data also showed that patients are not always active in their own care, nor do many understand or follow their care plans.

It occurred to me that we could automate physicians’ routine tasks and free them to focus on patient care. Automation could solve the documentation challenge, and also help address the mismatch between the shortage of providers and a growing patient population. We can use technology to get patients engaged and active in their own care through education, encouragement and monitoring. We rolled out Twistle’s care plan automation and patient engagement platform in late 2014. That year Harjinder and I also founded Saykara to automate documentation.

What do you need to lead this technology to widespread adoption?

We need to continuously improve the effectiveness of our automation using behavioral science, Natural Language Processing, and machine learning. This will lead to more intuitive messages for disease-specific populations, and hyper-personalized communications for individuals. As a result, patient understanding, activation, and care will continue to improve as well.

In addition we will continue to integrate with EHRs, wearables, sensors, and other devices to facilitate remote monitoring and assessments. The more we are integrated with the healthcare ecosystem, the more we can personalize and improve patient behavior. Ultimately we will become a fundamental part of that ecosystem.

What have you been doing to publicize this idea? Have you been using any innovative marketing strategies?

Our most powerful marketing strategy is delivering real value for our customers. Healthcare leaders look first to each other to find successful IT solutions and our clients have proven to be enthusiastic champions. They consistently recognize us as a partner that they can work with to make sure the solution we implement meets their patients’ needs and can be applied across the organization for almost any use case. We also monitor clinical, financial and operational ROI, and maintain real transparency around metrics so that organizations can understand the value of our platform and identify potential opportunities for improvement. The trust we have built with our existing clients gives merit and weight to our marketing claims and continues to open doors to new opportunities.

None of us is able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

Indeed my success has been the consequence of standing on the shoulders of those wiser and more experienced than I. While it is difficult to single out one of these role models, I would select my father, who turned 90 last month. He trained as a civil engineer, and then spent an intense decade and a half in public works building roads and bridges. This gave him extraordinary project engineering experience. He took particular pride in delivering major infrastructure projects under budget and within constrained timelines. He then chose to attend Harvard Business School and launch a successful career in social and commercial entrepreneurship.

Throughout my life my father has been a hard taskmaster. Even now as I have my hands full shepherding a burgeoning venture, my father continues to remind me of my social and civic responsibility. He has always inspired me to give 100% or more and to have a relentless focus on excellence. I am immensely grateful that he taught me the power of hard work, focus, and perseverance, to which I attribute my success in improving the lives of patients and caregivers alike.

Today at Twistle, that learning manifests in an internal focus on our “patients first” value. Our team is working to create a culture that pushes the envelope on behalf of patients. This culture is exemplified in various ways: an additional review of patient messages for empathy and literacy levels during implementation, an extra follow up after a patient support call, or refining the user experience during product development.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

In addition to my work at Twistle, I created a family foundation dedicated to providing education for underprivileged children so they can access top medical and engineering schools. It is named after a heroic Sikh figure, Bhai Jaita, who was born to a disadvantaged socio-economic background but had the good fortune of growing up in an enlightened community that exposed him to progressive ideas, holistic education, and practical training. This gave him the self-esteem to lead a heroic life.

I also hope to return to social entrepreneurship someday. In 1984, my father exited his business to focus on social ventures at the age of 53. He turned 90 in January yet he continues to work six to eight hours each day (even during the COVID-19 pandemic). I believe this work helps him lead a fulfilling life. I hope to have a similar path.

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)

1.) Build the company’s culture deliberately. Prior to my entrepreneurial career, I had heard Peter Drucker’s quote, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast,” but I never seriously considered the ideas behind the words. Early in my Twistle experience, an investor and mentor shared a powerful story of intentional cultural change and its sustained impact on growth and profitability. She shared how an important financial services organization had redefined its values, and the specific behaviors they expected from each staff member. These values and behaviors were strongly aligned with the company’s strategy, the people it hired to drive growth and manage risk, and its distinctive approach to remuneration, taking a long term perspective. Most impressively she evidenced that this organization’s annual net profits went up by nearly 300 times over a 30-year period.

I was inspired by her story and the impact of an intentional culture change on employee satisfaction, productivity and effectiveness in growing the company. We worked with key advisors and colleagues to define the company’s values — Patients First, Be Transparent, and Win As A Team — and the behaviors associated with these values. They now shape our culture and continue to have a meaningful effect on strategy, morale, and growth.

2.) When launching a startup, identify, focus on, and master a single market segment, even if it is only a niche. We originally built and pitched the Twistle platform to address all specialities in healthcare because we felt that large health systems would not want to buy separate solutions for each. Despite well-received sales presentations, we did not get market traction. We’d leave a sales meeting with multiple ideas on how Twistle could be deployed, but it seemed our buyers couldn’t figure out where to start. Then we narrowed our focus to one surgical service line, clearly defining the value proposition for a specific set of patients, and we achieved success. Even before our first deployment, we were introduced to other surgeons and made two additional sales. This momentum gave us a network of surgeons, anesthesiologists, and surgical administrators who all knew each other. We were able to generate data to develop compelling case studies and credible journal articles. Even though we served a small addressable market, preeminence in that niche created synergies and network effects that helped a young company build confidence and credibility. This success allowed us to expand into adjacent market segments, and new specialities, and we were able to raise additional capital.

3.) Raise capital from professional investors, as opposed to angels, sooner than later. Venture capitalists who understand a startup’s market can be exacting in their evaluation of investments. That process encourages startups to sharpen their understanding of the market and the problem they are solving. If a startup can persuade a smart investor, they’ve amassed market savvy that will be an asset for subsequent growth. On the contrary, angel investors tend to have a lower bar, and are betting on the founders, not on the business plan. Their investment is frequently not complemented with market intelligence, nor customer introductions. Their judgement of your company’s potential for success is clouded by their relationship with you, and they don’t clearly see the weaknesses in your plan, nor the obstacles you must overcome.

4.) In addition to shrewd investors, building a set of astute advisors and seasoned board members can contribute to success. It is important to be selective, however, and to work with a few proactive advisors rather than many renowned advisors. For instance, I brought on several physician advisors who were well-known in the industry, expecting their reputation to translate into value. However, these physicians had limited bandwidth. Many were engaged with multiple startups. Almost all were reactive, and not proactive. I had to actively reach out to them to get their attention and time. But the management team of a startup has limited time too, and pushing multiple advisors to extract value became untenable. Eventually we settled on one or two really engaged and productive advisors that generated considerable value. Similarly, on the board, diversity of experience matters, but I’d give significant weight to operating experience. Building companies is difficult, and someone who has walked that thorny path is a fountain of wisdom.

5. Finally, learn how to strike the right balance between accepting failure and persevering through obstacles. Grit is an important quality for success in any field, especially with startups. However, sometimes a difficult path may mean accepting that you have chosen the wrong road. You shouldn’t give up too soon, but also not be bullheaded. In Twistle’s early years we started working on a solution to reduce the noise of the physician inbox, which is flooded with messages everyday, and most of them don’t need attention. We probably wasted a year before realizing that we were pursuing the wrong problem. Dispassionate reflection on the first few unsuccessful customer conversations would have helped us save time.

On the contrary, we knew that our care plan automation platform was a good idea because we generated a lot of conversation every time we spoke about it. Health systems were trying to solve a serious problem and we were pitching an intriguing idea, but as I mentioned before, they got a bit overwhelmed with how to execute. That’s how we knew that our product was good, but we had to keep searching for a way to pitch, package and market our idea.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

The rise of the Internet, mobile devices, social media, and digital tools has eroded what some writers have termed “deep literacy.” In a recent article, Adam Garfinkle writes: “Deep literacy is what happens when a reader engages with an extended piece of writing in such a way as to anticipate an author’s direction and meaning, and engages what one already knows in a dialectical process with the text. The result, with any luck, is a fusion of writer and reader, with the potential to bear original insight.” Today, the noise of the digital world has contributed to shortened attention spans. Consequently, we spend less time engaging with material that is longer than a page or two, and even less time writing long-form prose. Though I have never been a prolific reader, and I don’t consider myself a clever writer, I’ve noticed that in the last decade or so, my reading and writing habits have declined.

For my own sake and that of my children, family, and society, I would like to spur a “deep literacy” movement. At Twistle, for example, we recently added a new value — Strive to be Better. Deep reading and long-form composition will be among the behaviors we will encourage and measure. I am confident that this will help us gain more original insights and benefit patients and the company in a number of ways. If we could extend this value to wider society, we might build a better country and world. But minimally, we will accelerate our ability to empower patients in their own care, which will improve outcomes and quality of life for millions of people.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

I am inspired by so many poems and couplets that selecting one is difficult. Perhaps because I am visiting northern India as we speak, I am drawn to two lines revealed to Punjab’s most enlightened master, Baba Nanak. Though much is lost in translation, his sentiment might be captured by:

I am the lowest of the low castes; low, absolutely low; Nanak stands with the lowest in solidarity and companionship, not with the wealthy and powerful. For where the dispossessed and disenfranchised find comfort, there falls the favor of Your Grace.”

I’ve always been drawn to initiatives that help vulnerable populations, especially in the context of education and health. When people are managing a healthcare encounter or illness, they are often scared, lack relevant knowledge, resources and/or mental capacity, and in some cases, the motivation, to recover or live their healthiest life. Twistle’s mission is to ensure that every patient is activated, supported and reassured throughout their lifetime care journey.

Someday, like my father, I also hope to return to active social entrepreneurship in education, which can be an avenue for upward social and economic mobility. I expect that this quote will continue to be my north star for that phase of my life too.

Some very well known VCs read this column. If you had 60 seconds to make a pitch to a VC, what would you say? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂

Twistle is expanding into new markets, and delivering a more complete digital front door patient experience, which starts with a patient feeling symptoms, searching for help, scheduling, preparing for a visit or procedure, engaging with clinicians, and remaining active in their follow-up, and ends with being monitored safely at home. In this quest we are investing heavily in product development, but we will also be partnering and acquiring great technology. We are looking for the right financial partners to deliver a comprehensive digital front door and virtual care solution that truly puts patients first.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

@TwistleApp

@Kulmeets

Linkedin:

Twistle Linkedin

Kulmeet Singh Linkedin

Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational.


The Future Is Now: Kulmeet Singh of Twistle On How Their Technological Innovation Will Shake Up The was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Nita Sanger of Idea Innovate Consulting: How Diversity Can Increase a Company’s Bottom Line

Increases innovation — Having a diverse team that brings together people from dissimilar walks of life who approach the world from a wide range of perspectives provides the company with unique intellectual capital. Listening to the viewpoints of those who have had different experiences enables richer brainstorming sessions, which fosters outside-the-box thinking and higher levels of creativity. These sessions in turn could lead to an idea or invention that will help a corporation distinguish itself from its competitors and become more successful.

As a part of our series about “How Diversity Can Increase a Company’s Bottom Line”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Nita Sanger, the CEO of Idea Innovate Consulting, who brings over 20 years of experience transforming businesses for growth in financial, professional, and legal services. After successfully transforming several large, complex, global, regulated businesses, Nita now works with PE firms advising them on businesses to invest in financial, legal, governance risk, and compliance and business services, in addition to optimizing the performance of companies in their portfolio. Nita also advises mid- and small-sized businesses on growing revenues and optimizing operations and talent models.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dive into the main part of our interview, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit more. Can you share a bit of your “backstory” with us?

I grew up in India, where I often faced a gender bias, as women were not treated as equal to men and had to work extra hard to be treated as an equal. I was fortunate to get the opportunity to live, study, and work in multiple countries before coming to the US to go to business school. I believe my global experiences during my formative years played a key role in shaping my perspectives as they provided me with unique insights into how bringing together diverse people, thoughts and ideas were so critical for success. My experiences helped me as I worked with various leading global financial and services businesses, bringing together global teams with diverse backgrounds to innovate, transform and grow businesses for continued market success. After successfully innovating and transforming several large global businesses I started Idea Innovate Consulting, to guide mid and small-sized companies to innovate and grow and advise PE firms on how to improve the performance of companies in their portfolio.

Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career? Can you tell us the lesson or take away you took out of that story?

One of the funniest mistakes (which was mortifying at that time) happened at the beginning of my consulting career. My firm had been brought in to transform the investment banking division of a large well reputed investment bank. I was still learning how the busines world operated in the U.S. The investment banking partner was talking about a recently held football game, discussing his favorite team and its performance. I did not realize that American football, is different from football in the rest of the world (football is called soccer in the U.S). I made some remarks about a recent soccer game that I had watched which was totally out of line with the discussion and made me come across as ignorant. After I made the comment, my partner quickly stepped in and covered up my lack of knowledge of American football. We then moved on to the presentation, but I realized that my credibility had been somewhat diminished in the eyes of the banker because I was unable to discuss American football with him. What this experience taught me was that it is critical to understand the cultural nuances of the people who you are working with, and it can be an effective way to build a personal rapport, which translates into a stronger working relationship. After that I always made it a point to do my homework on the background of the person/people I was going work with.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you tell us a story about how that was relevant in your own life?

My favorite quote is “You live every day, you only die once” by Gautam Buddha. I believe that this philosophy is key to being successful in today’s world, as we are living in a time of constant change and need to be open to living and learning new things and having a growth mindset. During my first experience with drastic change, which included moving countries, going to an international high school, and dealing with students from 80 different countries, I threw up every day for the first month. Then I started building skills and coping mechanisms to deal with change and now now tend to get bored with “steady state” and relish the challenge of a new situation. I believe the skills I developed and the lessons I learned, have underpinned my approach to life as I lived worked and studied in multiple countries, worked with some of the leading financial and professional organizations, and learnt about the new tools and exponential technologies, that are changing our professional and personal lives in ways we could not even imagine a few year ago.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are?

Yes, I have been lucky to have many great leaders guide and help me. The one I would like to talk about is the CEO of the Global Audit business at Deloitte, who gave me the authority and the responsibility to transform the business. He was of Cuban origin and came from a family of strong women. He made it a point to have several women on his team and empowered them speak and execute on his behalf. He was also a true visionary and recognized that the business needed to change drastically if it was going to continue to be profitable. He brought me in from the consulting side of the business. When I mentioned that I was not an auditor and did not know how to do an audit, he stated that he wanted someone with a different perspective and mindset who was not hindered how things were done in the past, to drive the change. He encouraged diversity of thought, so that we could get to a better outcome for the business. As we were driving change across the organization, he pushed me and the team, to be bolder and think about how we could disrupt the business before an outside firm came and disrupted us. He showed me what a true leader should be, by being bold in his vision, encouraging diversity, giving the necessary funding, air cover, and the authority and responsibility to drive the change. In many ways, he set the benchmark for what a great leader needs to look like.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

I think what makes my company, Idea Innovate Consulting stand out is that our focus is on helping our clients be successful as they deal with a volatile, uncertain, changing, and ambiguous (VUCA) business environment, which has been exacerbated by the current market conditions. We strive not to sell our services but instead meet the needs of our customer. We do this by reexamining their external environment including the business and competitive landscape, changing customer needs and traditional and non-traditional competitors, reassessing their internal environment, products and services, go-to-market strategies, business operations and talent models and then reengineering the business, by developing customized approaches and solutions that would enable them to be successful.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

I use my skills and capabilities to give back to the community and support efforts that align with my passions. I am on the Board of Peer Forward, an organization that works with low-income youth to increase their post-secondary completion rates. In addition, I am an Executive Board Member of I.WILL (Inspiring Women Igniting Leadership and Learning), an organization with a mission to empower women in business. I mentor junior talent from various financial services businesses, and founders that are part of the Columbia Technology Ventures accelerator program.

Ok. Thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the main part of our interview. This may be obvious to you, but it is not intuitive to many people. Can you articulate to our readers five ways that increased diversity can help a company’s bottom line? (Please share a story or example for each.)

Studies have shown that diversity can help a company’s top and bottom line in the following ways:

  1. Improves overall business performance — According to a 2020 McKinsey study, firms that have gender and ethnic diversity at the C-suite and Board level tend to outperform their less diverse peers, by 25% to 35%. Also, by having a diverse leadership team, the C-suite is setting the “tone-at-the-top” regarding the importance of diversity to the business.
  2. Has higher market penetration in new markets — Studies have shown that businesses that have a diverse product development and marketing team can improve their market penetration of new products and services by up to 70%. A diverse team introduces the potential to reach new demographics in ways that may not have come to light with a homogenous group at the helm, as the team is more likely to relate to a particular audience’s wants, needs and pain points.
  3. Resonates better with customers and investors– Increasingly, customer and investors want to do business with firms that are diverse and reflect the makeup of the community in which they operate. For e.g., private equity firms that were white male dominated are being pushed by their investors to have more gender and ethnic diversity in their own firms and to invest in firms with diverse founders. Law firms, which tend to predominantly have older, white male partners, are being pushed by their corporate legal department buyers, to have more diverse legal teams and are penalizing those law firms that are less diverse.
  4. Increases innovation — Having a diverse team that brings together people from dissimilar walks of life who approach the world from a wide range of perspectives provides the company with unique intellectual capital. Listening to the viewpoints of those who have had different experiences enables richer brainstorming sessions, which fosters outside-the-box thinking and higher levels of creativity. These sessions in turn could lead to an idea or invention that will help a corporation distinguish itself from its competitors and become more successful.
  5. Attracts better talent — Talent is going to be the single differentiating factor between successful and less successful companies. Companies that have ethnic, gender and age diversity appeal to a broader spectrum of job seekers, giving those companies a better chance at attracting top talent. Today’s companies are in a fierce competition for the best employees and are always looking for ways to draw them in. Diverse companies appeal to a diverse workforce and have a distinct advantage over companies that do not have a healthy percentage of women and people of color and varying ages on staff. When recruiting, businesses that source candidates from a diverse base are more likely to hire people with diverse characteristics.

What advice would you give to other business leaders to help their employees to thrive?

I would advice business leaders to create an environment, where there is a common understanding of the vison, mission and values of the firm. Leadership should establish a diverse leadership team, that encourages open dialogue and dissent, as necessary, to achieve better outcomes for the firm and its clients. At the same time, the key is to recognize that employees are part of the solution. Employees usually brings deep insights into the business, provides various perspectives and skills that would end up creating a better end solution. The leadership should create a feedback mechanism for the talent to provide their thoughts and insights to improve the businesses to better meet customer needs and encourage open and honest dialogue without fear of repercussions.

What advice would you give to other business leaders about how to manage a large team?

The advice I would give to leaders managing a large team would be to “play to people’s strengths.” I will use a soccer analogy to illustrate my point. When I coached soccer to the kids in my town, I learnt that to win a game, we needed a diverse team, with strong offenders, defenders, and a goalie. We did not lose when we had a strong defense as no goals would get scored against us, but we did not win till we had a strong offence, to score the goals. Some kids were better at offence, while others preferred to be on defense. Finally, the entire team had to work together for success. Similarly, a team needs people with diverse skills and each team member may have a skill that they are good at. A good leader needs to establish a common goal for the team, identify the strengths of each member, and then assign them tasks that best fit their strengths. The role of the leader should be of a coach, who establishes the guardrails,, advises the team on action to take, and guides them, while allowing the team to work together for success.

We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this 🙂

I would like to meet with Jane Fraser, the new CEO of Citigroup. She was the first woman CEO of a large financial institution. I believe the banking industry is going thorough significant disruption with no end in sight, and incumbents like Citigroup are going to need to drastically innovate and transform their business to continue to be market leaders. I would like to be able to support and guide Jane in transforming the business and positioning Citigroup for long term success. I believe that Jane’s success would, demonstrate the value of diversity at the highest levels of the business and pave the for other diverse talent to move into leadership positions.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

Readers can go to my LinkedIn profile: https://www.linkedin.com/in/nita-sanger/ and read my various articles or go to my website at https://ideainnovate.com/reports-tools/ for my articles, media appearances, etc.

Thank you for these excellent insights. We wish you continued success in your great work.

.


Nita Sanger of Idea Innovate Consulting: How Diversity Can Increase a Company’s Bottom Line was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Heroes of The Homeless Crisis: How Gabrielle Clowdus of Settled is Helping To Support Some Of The…

Heroes of The Homeless Crisis: How Gabrielle Clowdus of Settled is Helping To Support Some Of The Most Vulnerable People In Our Communities

Education & Outreach — read and watch the hand selected resources we have on our site. Learn in community (either with your family, friends, or church) and the true causes of homelessness, addiction, and mental illness — and relationship, long-term responses! Join local outreach teams to meet with people on the streets regularly. Get to know the poor in your community by face, by name, by story. Take them a meal and share it over conversation. Take the time to invest in relationships! It is relationships that lead to change.

As a part of my series about “Heroes Of The Homeless Crisis” I had the pleasure of interviewing Gabrielle Clowdus.

Gabrielle Clowdus is the CEO and co-founder of Settled, which activates and equips faith communities to pursue home with the homeless through sustainable housing, purposeful work, and supportive community. She is also a research fellow and PhD candidate at the University of Minnesota studying housing and homelessness. Gabrielle holds a Bachelor’s and Master’s in Architecture and is at the end of a 5-year Ph.D. program in Housing Studies where she brought a “Community First” approach to homelessness to the academic community for the first time, comparing it with the prevailing “Housing First” model.

Thank you so much for joining us! Our readers would love to ‘get to know you’ a bit better. Can you tell us about your personal background and how you grew up?

I went to Guatemala at age of 12 and then Russia at age of 13 and saw people living in extreme poverty. I saw a community of three thousand people living in a landfill carving their homes out of compacted trash. It completely changed my life in every way. I came home to a place of privilege and with that came a responsibility. So for the past two decades, I have been studying and responding to poverty, both globally and in my own backyard.

Is there a particular story or incident that inspired you to get involved in your work helping people who are homeless?

I was hired by the University of Minnesota about five years ago to study local poverty. Before then, I had only studied global poverty. It was the defining moment of my life to look in my own backyard.

We live in downtown St. Paul, transplanted here six years ago from California, where there was a huge homeless crisis. We didn’t see nearly as many people on the streets as we do now. We started building relationships with people on the street, getting to know them, getting to know their stories, inviting them into our lives, our meals and celebrations. They got to know my children and husband. But it was really unsustainable because at the end of the night, they would go back to a park bench or under a bridge and I would go into my warm bed.

We realized there has to be a better way. Waiting for affordable housing isn’t enough. Or waiting for multi-million housing complexes that don’t get built fast enough. We looked at the tiny home movement and thought that could make an impact on the housing crisis. As a nation, we take a “Housing First” response based on the assumption that people just lack housing and access to supportive services. While that might be true for people who are temporarily homeless, it is not true for the chronically homeless, the segment of the population that’s hardest to serve. They are the smallest percent of the homeless population and use the greatest amount of the resources.

Homelessness has been a problem for a long time in the United States. But it seems that it has gotten a lot worse over the past five years, particularly in the large cities, such as Los Angeles, New York, Seattle, and San Francisco. Can you explain to our readers what brought us to this place? Where did this crisis come from? Also, for the benefit of our readers, can you describe the typical progression of how one starts as a healthy young person with a place to live, a job, an education, a family support system, a social support system, a community support system, to an individual who is sleeping on the ground at night? How does that progression occur?

For 25 years, our country has taken a “Housing First” approach. Studies show that it reduces the cost of that homeless person on the public and increases their stability, but out of those hundreds of studies, no study shows that it increases social belonging, civic engagement, interest in purposeful work, volunteerism, connection back to faith roots or community, essentially all the reasons that you and I get up every morning and have a reason to keep going. “Housing First” just housed people, often in isolated housing units next to neighbors who didn’t know them and couldn’t relate to them, and it furthered the stigma and stereotypes of who the homeless.

I did my PHD research on the “Housing First” movement and then compared it with the “Community First” movement. In Austin, TX, a group had similar questions to mine about 25 years ago, and to find answers to those questions, they began sleeping next to the chronically homeless. They walked alongside them during the day, getting meals with them at food shelves and kitchens, staying on the sidewalks, same cockroaches crawling up on them at night, and just learning. The homeless all have such unique stories. There is a strong theme of childhood neglect, abuse and violence. These are not only just homeless adults, but they might have never experienced the feeling and the warmth of a true home. Folks have grown up in very broken homes and often broken environments and adverse communities. People of color are disproportionately homeless, and they have adverse childhood backgrounds and adverse community environments.

We realized we have to start creating solutions that take that into account. People are not homeless because they don’t have a house. They aren’t houseless, they are homeless. They don’t have the feeling of a real home, the feeling of coming to a place after a long trip, walking in the the door and saying, “I am home.”

“Community First” response says “You are welcome here.” We walk alongside people and build trust and relationships. Many homeless people are coming from an abusive background and have trust issues, so coming into someone’s life humbly, listening with humility, responding with generosity…that changes everything.

We have built what we believe is a holistic response to homelessness. First and foremost, it’s not just lack of housing, but lack of belonging and social connection. We try to build social belonging through an intentional community.

A question that many people who are not familiar with the intricacies of this problem ask is, “Why don’t homeless people just move to a city that has cheaper housing?” How do you answer this question?

I don’t know if there is cheaper housing anywhere. Maybe from slumlords in a city. The poor often get swindled and taken advantage of a lot. If you’ve been homeless for years, you aren’t set up to advocate for yourself. You only get the leftovers, you have no choice, no opinion. The waitlists are closed in many cities for quality affordable housing. There are not enough government dollars to build our way out of this problem, so we have to take a community response with lower cost.

If someone passes a homeless person on the street, what is the best way to help them?

We meet with people on the street. Walking with a Purpose is our outreach partner; they meet real needs of people on the street and that’s our pipeline into Sacred Settlements. We encourage other organizations to start with relational outreach, offer people choice, meet them regularly, get to know them and gain trust.

What is the best way to respond if a homeless person asks for money for rent or gas?

Follow your heart. Do it in relationship. Try to build a relationship that’s reciprocal, so it’s not about charity, but what we can learn from each other.

Can you describe to our readers how your work is making an impact battling this crisis?

In Minnesota, we are taking a “Community First” approach through what we call a Sacred Settlement. We are building tiny homes that are made to last from generation to generation, just like a single-family home. And they are $25–40K, a fraction of what affordable housing costs. We invest in our housing stock, and ordinary groups can sponsor, pay for, fund and build them. More people can help to invest in our poorest neighbors and in their lives. Beyond the cost of the housing, it is the land. There are often sentiments that neighbors don’t want homeless people in their neighborhood, they don’t want a development to affect property values, or be around their children, or to increase crime.

How do we enable this intentional tiny home living where housed and unhoused can come live together? We found a very strong federal land use law called the religious land use act. It allows churches to use their land in conjunction with their mission. I would argue every faith community has a mission to care for their poor. So they invite the poor into their land that is highly underutilized. They can put a Sacred Settlement on their land, so the “not in my backyard” sentiment falls flat. But we also want to love those neighbors too. We want homes that are beautiful and valuable, well designed, and an asset to the neighborhood. We hope to have Sacred Settlements across the nation.

Our homes rent for $200–300 a month. We have a rule at Settled that we don’t put anything in the house that we wouldn’t put in our own home. So they are fully furnished with 100 percent cotton sheets, spices on the spice racks, new mattresses, a cast iron skillet, and a comfy chair. We provide simple things that are quality and built to last.

Everyone pays rent and abides by civil law and the good neighbor agreement. We have an advocate befriender team for Sacred Settlements, who are trained lay volunteers to help the homeless meet their life goals. This means getting on SSI or SSDI and food stamps, getting an ID card or birth, but we put the team together to help them meet their needs and do it in relational way. We use our abundance to overflow onto folks. We hope they find it’s a good place they want to live. We want them to become settled.

How has the COVID-19 pandemic affected the homeless crisis, and the homeless community? Also how has it affected your ability to help people?

Covid has absolutely affected and increased homelessness, as shelters are overrun, and people don’t want to share a room with sixty others because of the risk. Sacred Settements is an idea that has come into its time since these are individual, single homes.

Can you share something about your work that makes you most proud? Is there a particular story or incident that you found most uplifting?

I’m most proud of the people part of this work. The amazing people that have come into this vision, into this work to see it become a reality. With every new person bringing their gifts and passions and talents into the larger vision and mission, our work becomes stronger, clearer, and more defined. I am so amazed by the creative, devoted, loyal people that have said ‘yes’ to bringing about a community first approach to homelessness. It’s humbly to see so many enter into this sacrificially, entering into their role to see a kinder, more generous community for us all.

Without sharing real names, can you share a story with our readers about a particular individual who was impacted or helped by your work?

I have realized over the years that we’re not a charity or a homeless ministry, we’re a group of people radically committed to homemaking with the homeless — inviting them into our abundance, our lives, our traditions and celebrations, game nights and walks and family meals, and eventually being invited into their sacred spaces. And so, it’s not just who have we impacted, but how have we been impacted by welcoming the poor into our lives and them welcoming us into there’s. Some of the most remarkable moments for me in this work has been watching folks coming off the streets from under bridges and on benches and extending hospitality and love to my family, my girls. Simple acts of love by using their limited dollars to buy my girls an ice cream or bring them a birthday cake. It’s in these interactions that the paradigm is changing — it’s no longer one sided. Me, the resourced person on one side of the serving table, them on the receiving end — but it’s relational, reciprocal, and we’re both be changed and loved and cared for. This way of service is sacred and good, authentic and eternal.

Can you share three things that the community and society can do to help you address the root of this crisis? Can you give some examples?

  • Keep things in your car and bag in anticipation of coming across someone homeless. Looking them in the eye, ask their name and let them know you were thinking about them and planning for this interaction. Then speak from your heart. I often say, “I’m so sorry you’re here and I believe it will get better for you. I will be thinking of you and praying for you!”
  • Sponsor a home or plant a Sacred Settlement — Talk with your faith community about using their land for the greatest good — to plant a Sacred Settlement with the support of other business and faith communities in the area. Or, supporting another Sacred Settlement by sponsoring a home and investing long term in making sure that settlement thrives through community events, meals, and service projects.
  • Education & Outreach — read and watch the hand selected resources we have on our site. Learn in community (either with your family, friends, or church) and the true causes of homelessness, addiction, and mental illness — and relationship, long-term responses! Join local outreach teams to meet with people on the streets regularly. Get to know the poor in your community by face, by name, by story. Take them a meal and share it over conversation. Take the time to invest in relationships! It is relationships that lead to change.

If you had the power to influence legislation, which three laws would you like to see introduced that might help you in your work?

We are lobbying the state of MN to recognize our movable tiny homes as permanent housing, distinct from an RV. They are built on wheels, so we can overcome strict building codes that don’t allow to build under 400 square feet and require every home be plumbed. So then, we build a new common house or remodel part of the church or building as the common house to have a kitchen, bathrooms, dining space, showers and laundry. We need the law to allow for Sacred Settlements — clusters of tiny homes where housed and unhoused can come and live intentionally together, gather in the common house, share in maintaining the settlement, and extending radical hospitality to the surrounding neighborhood so that these places might be cities on hills, beacons of light and hope to the larger community!

I know that this is not easy work. What keeps you going?

I cover everything in prayer, and invite God into the little and big things, I don’t have to take credit for closed or open doors, as He gets all the credit. It takes a load off when the work can feel burdensome and overwhelming.

Do you have hope that one day this great social challenge can be solved completely?

We can work together to solve this crisis. Families can team up to sponsor homes since the price point is small enough. There’s so much potential for faith communities to rise up, get to know their homeless, sponsor a home, and start a Sacred Settlement on their land. Our role is to inspire a national conversation around a “Community First” response to homelessness.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.

  • I wish someone had told me that just because it’s hard doesn’t mean it’s not working.
  • Just because people of influence or positions of power don’t latch onto the idea, it doesn’t mean it’s not a good idea.
  • Opposition doesn’t mean defeat.
  • Tilling the ground for a great harvest requires time, tenacity and others that see the same vision and willing to be loyal to that vision. Look for people that are loyal. Look for people who are willing to sweat, cry and break bread with you. Devotion and loyalty are so much greater than any skill set or job title.
  • You can’t do it alone and can’t do too much, so stay focused on your calling. You can’t solve everything, so do your calling well and faithful and you will see great fruit.

You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I would like to inspire a “Community First” response to homelessness movement. We need housed and unhoused living together; we need advocate befrienders and purposeful work opportunities. We need faith communities to rise up and use their land, with local governments supporting those communities.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

I have a reminder on my phone phone screen saver that says, Philippians 4:6 “Worry about nothing, pray about everything.” I recognize there is a good God who goes before me and behind me, and while I lean on my own understanding and wisdom, He’s fighting those battles. I try to live by that.

Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂

My husband. We have three young kids and we’re pretty busy. We haven’t had a private date since we started Settled seven years ago. So maybe just a really nice breakfast with the two of us on a beach somewhere. There are so many beautiful people in the world doing what they are called to do. I think ordinary people saying yes to an extraordinary calling to “love your neighbor as yourself” is what unites the world.

How can our readers follow you online?

You can follow us at Settled.org, Twitter, FB and Instagram.

This was very meaningful, thank you so much!


Heroes of The Homeless Crisis: How Gabrielle Clowdus of Settled is Helping To Support Some Of The… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

The Future Is Now: Ray Almgren of Swift Sensors On How Their Technological Innovation Will Shake…

The Future Is Now: Ray Almgren of Swift Sensors On How Their Technological Innovation Will Shake Up The Tech Scene

Engineers are supposed to build things to make the world a better place. When I was at National Instruments, we did just that and at Swift Sensors, we’re making products that people can use to monitor and make their operations better and hopefully to make the world a better place.

As a part of our series about cutting edge technological breakthroughs, I had the pleasure of interviewing Ray Almgren.

Ray Almgren is the CEO at Swift Sensors, a developer of cloud-based wireless sensor systems for industrial applications. Prior to his role at Swift Sensors Ray was the Vice President of Marketing at National Instruments. Ray received his BS in Electrical Engineering from the University of Texas at Austin. Ray is the founder and current board member of FIRST in Texas, a member of the National FIRST Executive Advisory Board, and has served on several engineering advisory boards including The University of Texas at Austin, Southern Methodist University, and Tufts University. Follow on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter @swift_sensors, or visit https://www.swiftsensors.com/

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

Like most people, it was a little bit of planning and a whole lot of luck. There are two people I can point to in terms of people that brought me to my career path: my dad and my high school sweetheart. My dad and each of my brothers worked for IBM and it never really dawned on me that I shouldn’t pursue anything else besides electrical engineering. My dad never pushed me on it, but I chose that field myself. I attended college at the University of Texas at Austin — in the same city I grew up in. The university has such a large and well-respected engineering program that I didn’t even apply to any other schools! When I graduated, UT Austin wasn’t as massive as it is now. Back then, there weren’t many job opportunities for electrical engineering in Austin, like there were in Houston and Dallas.

A small company I interviewed with, named National Instruments (NI), offered me a position and it was the only job offer I received that was in Austin. I decided to accept that position because I didn’t want to leave the city and my high school sweetheart who also attended UT Austin was just one year behind me from graduating.

Ironically, I took that job and my high-school sweetheart and I broke up nine months later and then I ended up staying in Austin for 30 years! Truthfully, I just happened to work for a sensors company because of pure luck.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

This story speaks to the common example of how misapplying a technology into a field that it isn’t intended for, yields incredible benefits. When I worked at National Instruments, the most popular product was this advanced software tool called LabVIEW. It was used to take measurements in labs and factories all over the world. It was exclusively used by scientists, engineers, rocket scientists, and for working with robotics.

One day, I received a phone call from Tufts University. This professor apparently used LabVIEW for his research at Stanford and was quite familiar with the software. He said that he was interested in licensing the LabVIEW software for a new product from LEGO called Mindstorms. Mindstorms was a robot inventor kit intended to teach children how to build and program robots. It was a huge hit with elementary and middle school kids as an engaging way to teach STEM concepts. This was around 1997–1998 and the product had just been released and received a lot of publicity. However, this professor believed that the software that LEGO was using wasn’t the best and they wanted to use LabVIEW instead.

He came to Austin with the Director of Research and Development at LEGO. I was a young product manager at the time at NI and they asked if we would allow them to license LabVIEW for less than $5. LabVIEW normally sold for approximately $2,000 a copy, so there was a lot of risk involved in this decision. Many at NI were skeptical about having our software that was specifically designed for scientists and engineers, to be used for kids and have our name be associated with a toy. However, I saw this as a great opportunity to be associated with a household brand and enrich children’s learning and understanding of STEM concepts. I championed the opportunity and eventually LEGO used LabVIEW for Mindstorms. That decision ended up being one of the most valuable experiences that happened to our company.

Four years later, LEGO wanted to do an update of Mindstorms. The retail group at LEGO was considering using Microsoft’s software for this update. We were competing with Microsoft for the deal and did everything we could to show that we could write the software and create a better experience. We ended up getting the deal over Microsoft and we became the supplier of software to LEGO for all of their robotics products, which resulted in millions of children and adults using our product all over the world. To this day, that product is used in STEM education and it’s by far the most popular product of its kind. I learned a lot about brand marketing from LEGO and the product gained a lot of publicity when it launched. It was incredible to see that our software encouraged kids to pursue technical careers through an engaging and fun experience.

Can you tell us about the Cutting edge technological breakthroughs that you are working on? How do you think that will help people?

What we’re doing at Swift Sensors is democratizing measurements for the world. We’re trying to make it easy and inexpensive for people to improve the safety of their employees’ environments, improve the quality in how they produce products, and better the conditions in the buildings they’re living in. The technological breakthrough is that the sensors make those goals simple. The idea is that we take this sophisticated wireless technology and package it to place anywhere and prevent mistakes from happening. You can monitor hazardous gases and chemicals which will improve the quality of buildings so they can be safer. We’re making sensors available to organizations so they can have better insights and make better decisions that improve the safety and productivity of businesses.

How do you think this might change the world?

It can bring awareness to things that are largely invisible to the general population. People don’t realize that there could be harmful air-borne substances in the areas they live by or that the systems that control temperature in their building are not good and waste energy. If we can share that information to them in a digestible way, and it’s not that expensive, then they will realize there are better ways to do things. Sensor technology is helping people understand that if you monitor temperature at an affordable price, then you can improve the system that tries to control that whether it’s a manufacturing process, food safety, or employee safety. It will ultimately lead to more productivity and safe environments.

The recent Texas snowstorm disaster is a good example of this. There was no real technology problem that wasn’t solved that could have mitigated some of the challenges caused by the Texas snowstorm, but it points to the importance of monitoring to help prevent situations like that from occurring to begin with. Our most popular sensor is the temperature sensor because temperature is the most monitored thing in the world. 70% of the world’s data measured temperature. If the temperature isn’t right in any part of your business or personal life, things get very challenging and uncomfortable. Life is not good when the temperature is not where you want it to be and that was evident in the recent snowstorm.

Keeping “Black Mirror” in mind can you see any potential drawbacks about this technology that people should think more deeply about?

The potential drawbacks fall under the personal responsibility category. The biggest drawback is a theoretical problem. If you make sensor technology so automated and simple that you can forget about it, it might become an issue later on. I think about how my daughters who don’t have the slightest idea of where things are because they use Google Maps so much.

If you’re in the restaurant business, our product obviates the need to monitor temperature because it will be monitored for them. However, that does not mean that employees shouldn’t worry about temperature and just completely put it in the hands of automation because food safety is important. Having awareness is important.

Was there a “tipping point” that led you to this breakthrough? Can you tell us that story?

The convergence of sensors, wireless, batteries, and cloud. That’s what makes all this possible. When you put them all together, you have a breakthrough because now you can do this easily and at a low cost. This is how IoT started and became available and understood. For us, the battery is the long pole in a tent. The better the battery becomes, the better we’re able to do what we do and take better measurements. Our problem is how can we make this battery last for 5 years and how we can measure it because customers don’t want to replace batteries. From a strategy point of view, that technology is improving, however there is a massive amount of monitoring and improvements that aren’t accessible at this point.

What do you need to lead this technology to widespread adoption?

Better batteries because it is the limiting factor for all this great adoption. In the industrial sector, if you want to measure ammonia, which is important if you’re a chicken farmer, you need a lot more power to do so. The dance between how to eek out more and more power in a small space is one of the keys to widespread adoption. The second key is showing significant examples in industrial IoT where businesses made vast improvements in how they operate and how it has helped them eradicate losses of their inventory. Those are the kinds of things that will lead to widespread adoption.

What have you been doing to publicize this idea? Have you been using any innovative marketing strategies?

For us, what’s most important is building awareness or educating the public about the benefits of sensor technology and how it is applicable in different industries. We do this through various marketing efforts, such as thought leadership, blogs, showcasing case studies, by hosting webinars, and doing interviews like this one. All of these efforts work together and have helped establish our company as an authority in the IoT and sensors industry.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

Dean Drako, the founder of Swift Sensors. He’s an extremely successful technical entrepreneur. He has made many companies successful, has a great career, and became a great mentor and leader for me to look up to. Dean needed someone with both a technical and marketing background to help with Swift Sensors. And he took a chance on me. I had been working at a billion-dollar company for my entire career up until that point. Dean offered me to take a job at a startup with no marketing resources and essentially take it out of stealth mode. It was a risky move because often when you bring a big-time company exec into a startup it often fails. I was way overqualified, but it ended up being the right thing to take this position. When I reflect on that situation, I was able to see Dean’s vision. He must have seen the upside in hiring someone who had the potential to do other things as the company grew. I’m really grateful to Dean because I get to do now what I was trained to do at NI.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

Engineers are supposed to build things to make the world a better place. When I was at National Instruments, we did just that and at Swift Sensors, we’re making products that people can use to monitor and make their operations better and hopefully to make the world a better place.

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

For people to think about their actions and decisions from a long-term perspective. Often if people do that, they get much better results in every aspect of their lives. Think about how something is going to last and have value more than just in the immediate future. I try to live by that, particularly as it relates to the company. That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t care about the short-term. The long-term is made up of a bunch of short-terms, so you can’t just punt today’s decisions. Looking ahead and thinking things through is something that I value. In meetings, I pay very close attention to how quickly people answer questions. I prefer when people are more thoughtful when they’re answering a question.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“Everyone’s right from their perspective.” — Mike Maples

Mike Maples is the business genius behind Microsoft Office. He came to National Instruments back in the day to give us advice as a company and shared this quote. What I took from it was how accurate the statement is. People come from a perspective and think they’re going to be right. Therefore, if you want to influence someone, consider and approach the problem from their perspective and ask why their perspective is this way. I don’t get mad at someone who disagrees with me. Instead, I try to understand where they’re coming from.

Some very well known VCs read this column. If you had 60 seconds to make a pitch to a VC, what would you say? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂

There’s not a single business out there that doesn’t know of things they could measure or wish that they could monitor. And the only reason that they’re not doing it now is because the costs seem too high. We have an opportunity to improve the business productivity and safety of every employee on the planet.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

To see what Swift Sensors is up to, you can follow us on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter @swift_sensors, or visit https://www.swiftsensors.com/. You can also connect with me on LinkedIn.

Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational.


The Future Is Now: Ray Almgren of Swift Sensors On How Their Technological Innovation Will Shake… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Jim Bean & Christine O’Sullivan of ‘BRAND Napa Valley’: Five Things You Need To Build A Trusted And

Jim Bean & Christine O’Sullivan of ‘BRAND Napa Valley’: Five Things You Need To Build A Trusted And Beloved Brand

Jim Bean: Good is the Enemy of Great — Never settle. To create things you are truly proud of, you have to get used to putting yourself into the ‘uncomfortable zone’. We’re constantly pushing ourselves and our team to produce the best wines possible, which means going beyond what feels safe and familiar.

As part of our series about how to create a trusted, believable, and beloved brand, I had the pleasure to interview Jim Bean & Christine O’Sullivan, Co-Proprietors of BRAND Napa Valley.

Long-time Napa Valley residents, husband and wife duo Jim Bean and Christine O’Sullivan are the proprietors of Pritchard Hill’s iconic BRAND Napa Valley estate. O’Sullivan was born and raised in Southern Ireland before moving to Northern California, where she pursued a storied career in software engineering at Apple, managing the release of Mac OS X. Bean was born and raised in Pennsylvania, enjoyed careers in finance and business development, and eventually landed in the Bay Area managing international retail operations at Apple. Together, Jim and Christine have cultivated their personal and professional love in Napa Valley, and now bring their ambition and hands-on approach to the BRAND estate every day as they work to produce exceptional estate wines and unique tasting experiences that are inextricably linked to Pritchard Hill’s sense of place.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

O’Sullivan: I remember the moment vividly: 7:00 a.m. on a beach in Barcelona. I had left Apple years earlier, establishing a successful family venture fund in the interim, and Jim had just exited his role at Apple. We had acquired 65 acres of vineyards on the Napa valley floor and had become equally immersed in Napa Valley as we were in Silicon Valley. So, as we walked along the beach that morning, he asked if I was ready to do “one more thing,” and this time, to do it together. Little did we know how quickly that conversation would catapult us into the world of wine — six months, to be exact. Our July 2018 “what’s next” conversation led us directly to our purchase of BRAND Napa Valley, a stunning 110-acre estate atop of the infamous Pritchard Hill, in January 2019. I guess it was meant to be! We were very clear on what we wanted for our future and for our family-owned business, and the rest as they say is history…

Can you share a story about the funniest marketing mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

O’Sullivan: It was a rookie mistake, but a fundamental one. Shortly after the purchase of BRAND, I was actively working on product placement with local on-premise accounts. A local restaurant agreed to sell our wine, but the official timing was unclear. We were frequent customers at the time, and one evening, we proudly brought a few of our wines to enjoy over dinner. The director of wine was very gracious, though obviously displeased, and called me a few days later to explain my ‘rookie’ mistake. While BYOB is very common in Napa Valley, bringing your own wine (as owners) when it’s on the wine list is not. I quickly learned 2 things: 1) be grateful for the feedback — many people would not take the time to give it to you — and 2) it’s okay to make mistakes — own it. It wasn’t clear that our wine was on the list that night, but we learned a valuable lesson and that same wine director has become a close friend and a wonderful supporter of BRAND.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

Bean: Authenticity and leading by example. Knowing your business — and your customers — requires you to be hands on, which is critical to create a culture of innovation. In our case, you have to own your own vineyards and walk them every day. You have to physically show up, see what your winemakers are doing, and be a part of those decisions.

O’Sullivan: At BRAND, we work hard to earn your business and are continually learning from our customers. Early on in the pandemic, we knew we had to get creative and focus on our clients and our community. After hearing from the business world about how hard it was to host relaxed yet productive virtual business meetings where deals could be closed and client relationships could be fostered, we launched our “PRO Program” virtual tastings, specifically targeting CEOs and executives. After hearing our customers ask for ways to give back to front-line workers, we dedicated our time and resources to create the #FromBRANDwithLove giveback program in support of first responders. We pivoted quickly to ensure we were providing services and opportunities that were serving our clients and staying true to our identity.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

O’Sullivan: We are always working on exciting new projects! The most exciting unveiled earlier this winter: our new look and logo. The purchase of BRAND was significant, and making it our own — with our story and our vision for the future — was paramount. The concept of place was the overarching inspiration for this new project, which consists of three key elements: location, a physical point on a map; locale, the physical setting; and sense of place, which are the emotions we attach to an area. These elements derived a clean and contemporary new look for BRAND, a look that we feel identifies with the artistry and character of who we are and what we represent.

Bean: We needed a new look and feel in order for people to understand us and our vision for the future. At BRAND, it’s all about the wine and our customer experience, hence the enormous amount of energy going into the winery, the vineyards, and our winemaking practices. Our redesigned tasting room has an understated ‘wow’ factor, which is elegant, fun, and welcoming, and the new branding calls upon the estate’s deep sense of place. At the center of it all though is our wine. The reason we exist is to make phenomenal wine, and the exciting projects we’re working on in the vineyards and throughout the winemaking process will be reflective in our future vintages.

Ok let’s now jump to the core part of our interview. In a nutshell, how would you define the difference between brand marketing (branding) and product marketing (advertising)? Can you explain?

O’Sullivan: We think about this in a slightly different manner. In my opinion, the difference is that branding is recognition and advertising is relevance, and both are intertwined. When I worked at Apple, Steve would say that the difference between marketing and engineering was precision. I guess one could say the same applies to branding and advertising. Reflecting on Jim’s earlier comments regarding how our team and company are so different, marketing (branding) is a reflection of our core values and a key element for customers to resonate with, while product marketing (advertising) helps to surprise and delight the customer with a product derived from those values.

Can you explain to our readers why it is important to invest resources and energy into building a brand, in addition to the general marketing and advertising efforts?

O’Sullivan: You won’t survive in the long term without it! We operate in a unique world today, and consumers are far more educated regarding purchases. In our business, there is lots of competition and the barrier to entry is low. Napa Valley has over 475 wineries and over 3300 labels. At BRAND, we take (brand) marketing to the next level. Our connection with the customer is integral to maintaining and growing our business. The connection goes both ways, and we learned during COVID-19 that our personal touch extended way beyond the sale. The lesson is simple: our brand must exude customer-centric thinking in everything we do. Surprising our customers with amazing wine is at the forefront, while continuing to solidify a consistent and rock-solid customer experience.

Can you share 5 strategies that a company should be doing to build a trusted and believable brand? Please tell us a story or example for each.

  1. Challenge the Status Quo
    – Bean: We learned at Apple that nothing comes before having an amazing product. We hold ourselves very accountable to ensure we’re constantly producing the best wine and pushing the boundaries, especially in times of adversity. You can’t differentiate yourself if you’re doing the same thing as everyone else.
  2. Say No
    – O’Sullivan: Learn to ‘say no’ to good ideas that just aren’t right for your business or your customers. Saying no allows you to remain focused and carefully zero in on the right ideas. Sometimes you have to say no to good ideas in order to put the right amount of energy into the great ideas that produce something amazing.
  3. Stand for Something
    – Bean: We’ve looked at the bigger picture — wildfires, energy consumption, and creating balance in the ecosystem — and we want BRAND to be part of the solution. In the last two years, we’ve evolved our farming to be completely organic and have implemented a number of new biodynamic practices. From an environmental and brand perspective, sustainability efforts have to be a priority.
  4. Be Fearless
    – O’Sullivan: Don’t be afraid to take risks. Our new look and feel is a huge change and one we realize will invoke varied emotions. Nonetheless, we remain authentic and are not afraid to show the world who we are.
  5. Good is the Enemy of Great
    – Bean: Never settle. To create things you are truly proud of, you have to get used to putting yourself into the ‘uncomfortable zone’. We’re constantly pushing ourselves and our team to produce the best wines possible, which means going beyond what feels safe and familiar.

In your opinion, what is an example of a company that has done a fantastic job building a believable and beloved brand. What specifically impresses you? What can one do to replicate that?

O’Sullivan: Chanel. I have long admired this company and have the good fortune to know a few of their senior executives. When I think of Chanel, I think of excellence. Aside from brand awareness, product distinction, and design, Chanel has impeccable execution. They focus on elements that we also care about deeply at BRAND: product, place, and people. The Chanel products are obviously wildly successful and their stores are a step above the rest, but most importantly, their people are masters of their trade. Whether they represent the product in-store or hand-stitch a one-of-a-kind gown at Rue Cambon in Paris, there is an astounding thread of excellence throughout this company.

In advertising, one generally measures success by the number of sales. How does one measure the success of a brand building campaign? Is it similar, is it different?

O’Sullivan: We are in this business for the long haul, so it has to be our customers. Having an active and loyal customer base is everything. One can argue it’s easy to get a sale, but it’s not as easy to retain your customers and keep them coming back for more. You have to constantly be thinking of how to surprise and delight your customers.

What role does social media play in your branding efforts?

O’Sullivan: Social media is a wonderful communication forum and an easy way to advertise and control your message. Consumers are making purchasing decisions based on their social media feed, so it has to be part of the marketing equation in today’s world. Having said that, our focus has always been authentic and personal relationships with our customers. We will continue to develop a social media strategy that is consistent with our long-term vision, and will be curious to see how these technologies continue to evolve.

What advice would you give to other marketers or business leaders to thrive and avoid burnout?

Bean: Be fearless — remaining engaged and excited by the work has so much to do with challenging yourself. Learn to say no — both in business and in life, because you simply cannot do it all. Finally, ask why — question everything, learn as you go, and challenge the status quo.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

O’Sullivan: Save the world and focus on climate change. Regardless of the debates, climate change is real and anyone who disagrees is kidding themselves. If we start with one small change — for example, drinking water from a refillable bottle — then we’re already making a difference by reducing the amount of plastic going back into the environment. Walk or cycle more, plant a tree, or start to compost. At BRAND, we’ve employed new organic and biodynamic farming practices to ensure that what is below the ground is as full of life as what grows above. There are many ways to help the environment, but start with educating yourself. Climate change is real.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

O’Sullivan: “Imagine what you could do, if you knew you would not fail.” I relish the opportunity to operate in the ‘uncomfortable zone,’ because it brings the greatest reward. I’ve always been fearless in business, but this quote continually guides me in taking risks throughout my life. For instance, I am scared of heights, and when I ski, this quote always pops into my head. (To be fair, it only helps me conquer that particular fear some of the time, so reader discretion is advised on this one!)

We are blessed that very prominent leaders in business and entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world with whom you would like to have a lunch or breakfast with? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂

Bean: Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos, or Elon Musk. These three game-changing leaders are focused on one of the most important and urgent topics impacting mankind — climate change — and I’d relish the opportunity to speak with them on the subject.

O’Sullivan: We are blessed with so many amazing leaders, and depending on the timing of this question, my choice would change. For now, I would choose Bill Gates. It may sound like a weird answer considering I spent my entire career at Apple, but as Jim stated, Gates is focused on a few of the world’s most important issues, including climate change. His new book ‘How To Avoid a Climate Disaster’ is scary stuff, but he is putting his money where his mouth is and drawing upon the resources available to him to endeavor to address this massive and imminent disaster.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

You can find us on Instagram at @BRANDNapaValley, on Facebook at @BRANDNapaValleyWines, and via LinkedIn at BRAND Napa Valley.

Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational.


Jim Bean & Christine O’Sullivan of ‘BRAND Napa Valley’: Five Things You Need To Build A Trusted And was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Adam Kayce of Home Show Management Corp: Five Things You Need To Build A Trusted And Beloved Brand

Be consistent. Consistency is the most important thing. You can’t have days off. At the end of the day, people rely on you. If you are not consistent and always present, mentally or physically, that is going to reflect in your brand. When you’re a service-based company like us, you always have to be consistent. Clients want to get exactly what they are promised.

As part of our series about how build a trusted and beloved brand, I had the pleasure of interviewing Adam Kayce.

Adam Kayce is a nationally recognized exposition producer and innovator, specialist in personalizing brands and the ultimate content and experience creator. For over twelve years, Adam has driven over one hundred thousand attendees annually and established the Home Design and Remodeling Shows to be the largest economic driving force for the South Florida home design and home improvement industry. As the event and expo industry has come to a halt, Adam has worked directly with the home design and improvement professionals as well as homeowners to deliver value, education, and awareness for the local industry trendsetters, brands, products, and services. Adam began his career in sales and was promoted to Show Director, Vice President, and now President of Home Show Management Corp.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

I’ve always had a passion for business development and working with brands to help put them in a better position through branding and telling their stories. Prior to this I went from medical venture capital, working with a number of small practices and local businesses, to acquire and put them in a better business position, so we alleviated all of their stress of running a business. Later, I transitioned to the Home Show business, which I was able to convert my passion of business development into. The entire principle of producing home shows and expos is this support, in this case, of local industry and help build individual businesses through a platform that we are able to create through a collective effort of hundreds of brands. Let’s call this “collective and personalized marketing.”

Can you share a story about the funniest marketing mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

I can’t say this in necessarily funny but when I first started, I quickly learned the power of “if as it is non-committal, but it puts people in the position of whatever you are looking to sell. Like in my case, “if I could bring thousands of people to your showroom, what would you make of it?” I learned that lesson quickly when I was trying to get people to see the value of investing in themselves. People need to be able to visualize possibility.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, our company stood out in the way that we curate and produce some of the leading home expos in the United States. Most show producers look to fill space, meaning a lot of times they will place businesses that don’t necessarily belong in the theme of the show, just to sell. The reason why we are so successful with producing a show of this size and caliber, is because we make sure that the theme of the event not only stays consistent and everything in the show belongs, but we also maintain a level of expectation from our exhibitors. We don’t position the sale over the priority of delivering a true event and marketplace for the attendees coming to the event. We make sure that they are seeing and experiencing everything that they expect to see at our show. We are unique in the industry with putting caliber ahead of just monetary purpose.

Now, we are probably one of, if not the only Home Show in the entire country that completely reimagined what their platform is. We repositioned ourselves as a media company. We truly excel in before, during and after the event. To add a greater level of value and exposure for our clients, we began to produce video content through Zoom since we could not meet in person, at the time. From overwhelming feedback that we received from South Florida and some national brands, we invested in bringing on our own video production and editing team to truly go into the content space. What makes us unique and authentic is that all of our content aims to educate, inspire and connect South Florida businesses with the local marketplace and community to not only position them as the authority in their trade, but also make home ownership and improvement more approachable and less intimidating. Every piece of content that we produce in any format must have a takeaway to educate and inspire.

We also published a digital magazine, which tells the story on a local level and provides content in another way where we showcase professionals but focus on the information that they have to continue with educating and inspiring. All of the content that we produce has the reader in mind, versus just celebrating or spotlighting individuals and telling everyone how great they are. We have found that “WHY and WHAT” is what the content consumer wants to know. We have created the formula for what keeps homeowners and industry professionals engaged with content and wanting more. Our purpose is to benefit the featured professionals and brands to be the one that is most knowledgeable in that field, which in turn positions them as the authority in their specific niche.

We went through an entire rebrand, redeveloped our entire website, reimagining it to be a year-round resource as opposed to just the shows. We’re cultivating a community of people who are using our platform to get information, get inspired, but most of all connect directly and have a resource that they can count on. “Shop the Pros” on our website is that dedicated resource to connect people looking for home needs throughout the entire year. We continue to position industry innovators as the authority in their field. Brands are great and they are exciting, they are important in the sense of marketing, but what makes brands special are the people behind them, and we aim to personalize and bring those individuals with the most valuable information forward, which is what makes the brands that we know so special.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

The past year has been our project, and everything now is coming into fruition. People consume information differently, and we are looking to repurpose everything we do in every single way to keep conversation. We want to make sure that we are the resource celebrating people with the most knowledge, as well as bringing the products and surfaces found in our own local market to light and assure South Florida what is available to them. The one thing that we haven’t launched yet is our new podcast, where we’re going to have weekly guests brought in to address the questions that both homeowners and industry look to have answered. The Home Design Podcast will be real talk about the home improvement and home design industry to offer the insiders look for our viewers.

By putting ourselves in the homeowner’s shoes, we can make their lives easier when they look to hire a contractor or purchase a product. They might not know the questions to ask or what the failures might be once the project is completed. In the sense of functionality, not everyone is knowledgeable, or why is it so important to make sure your contractor is licensed and insured? What’s the difference between construction grade and designer grade? What are these things that contractors use when quoting a job to get a sale, but you may not realize the terminology until halfway through the project when you are not getting what you wanted? We’re looking to educate and give that information to avoid disappointment down the road in home improvement.

Ok let’s now jump to the core part of our interview. In a nutshell, how would you define the difference between brand marketing (branding) and product marketing (advertising)? Can you explain?

To me, when I talk about branding, it is the overall perception of a company. Whether it be luxury, attainable to the masses, exclusive versus inclusive. It is more of a lifestyle. It answers, what do you get when you work with this type business or wear this label? Branding is ultimately the association and the lifestyle type of perception. What my efforts have done has resonated most with luxury brands that have always wanted to be exclusive. They could never properly tell their story to the potential clients they were excluding. Public perception has always carried more value both personally and for brands, which has alienated many individuals and brands from who they actually are. By doing that, the average person probably won’t want to pick up the phone and go any further. But what the average person does not know is that the luxury brand might hold the most valuable information. With that, this “luxury brand” may actually be the perfect fit for what their needs are. We focus on breaking that barrier of perception to reposition the purpose of branding.

When it comes to marketing, I think of specifically targeting an individual for a very specific product or need. When it comes to product marketing, people are looking to position that exact product directly in front of the right person. That is why digital marketing is so impressive. You are specifically marketing to a person who is already looking for your product or service. Marketing caters to the individual’s needs at a specific time and typically generates near term results where branding is more of an investment and long-term play.

Can you explain to our readers why it is important to invest resources and energy into building a brand, in addition to the general marketing and advertising efforts?

Building a brand, I use it in the sense of creating users. A big part of proper branding is creating trust. The most important part of a business is to put a consumer at ease that they are getting quality and getting what they want. It is important to invest resources to give the public perception of what the overall mission is or what they truly stand behind.

When it comes to the advantage of general marketing, that is what creates the day-to-day cashflow. Because you are individually targeting specific people that are looking for specific products. You can’t lose sight of the overall brand, but at the end of the day in order to drive revenue product and general marketing is short sight type advertising, where branding is long term advertising.

Can you share 5 strategies that a company should be doing to build a trusted and believable brand? Please tell us a story or example for each.

Be authentic. Be real. The most important thing is to be truthful, not to present your brand as something that you are not. There is a need for every brand. The only way to provide that need is to truly serve the type that really needs you. Everything I try to do is to make individuals feel like we are speaking directly to them. A lot of brands lose sight of being authentic. Sometimes the way is to be personable, show yourself instead of just a pretty picture. Showing individuality behind a brand is the authentic aspect.

Be relatable. It is a matter of telling your story in a way that shows people your brand or products are for them, using real life experiences. Make your brand relatable in the sense of showing insights, not just a pretty website. For example, you might see a photo of a beautiful kitchen, but people want to see how it’s being used, in what type of home, making it relatable to the person you are speaking to. Product specific marketing and targeting campaigns tend to be more relatable

Be accessible and easily reachable. A big part of building that trust is accessibility. Speaking on my industry, you want to feel you can reach the contractor you hired when you need them. Somebody who stands behind their product or service will be easily reachable.

Have a value proposition. Know your value. When we talk about trends in the design world, and a trend that is here to stay is “value” or otherwise seen as “approachable luxury”. People want to know they are getting the greatest value for their product. I look at myself as a value-based company, I try to deliver value in every way. From shows, to video, to magazine, to online, every single asset is not about dollars. To truly benefit the client, I position our brand to be an overall value to them. By doing business with us, you can be assured we are thinking about your brand 24/7 and as a true extension of your business.

Be consistent. Consistency is the most important thing. You can’t have days off. At the end of the day, people rely on you. If you are not consistent and always present, mentally or physically, that is going to reflect in your brand. When you’re a service-based company like us, you always have to be consistent. Clients want to get exactly what they are promised.

In your opinion, what is an example of a company that has done a fantastic job building a believable and beloved brand. What specifically impresses you? What can one do to replicate that?

Amazon is incredible, in every aspect. They have become a household name. Everyone believes that they are a premium service, you can get everything you ever need for your life at your fingertips. Its impressed me to how they’ve literally gone from being a bookstore to having devices in your home that are learning your most private habits in order to figure out how to service you better with exactly what you are looking for. Listening to your clients, in my opinion, is the key to a successful business. Amazon listened to who their clients are, identified those pain points and formulated their strategy, and that has turned them into an empire. Engage with your “users” and more people will become a user of your brand and believe in your brand. I think the smartest brands are the ones that do less talking and more listening and providing.

In advertising, one generally measures success by the number of sales. How does one measure the success of a brand building campaign? Is it similar, is it different?

Sales are reflective of trust. While sales are important, I think the most measurable aspect of a successful brand is retention. If someone comes back to use you over and over, then you have built a successful brand. If companies focus on the individuals that make them who they are to facilitate more branding aspects, then to me that is what creates a stronger identity. If someone can relate to that brand, they will go back more than a one-time buy. It’s kind of like being in a relationship (friendship, marriage, partnership), if you stay with people long term that means you trust them.

What role does social media play in your branding efforts?

Social media keeps engagement for us. It allows us to consistently celebrate the companies we work with and always show our followers what’s new, what’s different and what’s available to them on a daily basis.

What advice would you give to other marketers or business leaders to thrive and avoid burnout?

PURPOSE! Stay excited and passionate about your purpose. If you start dwelling on the struggle and hardship, then you lose sight of what the purpose is.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I would want to work towards removing the political motivation out of life. Rather than people making decisions for a political purpose or agenda, I would make it be done more rationally and effectively. We are living in such a political environment and as funny as it sounds, if politics were not so political and were not done for the motivation of an agenda, but rather for results, then we could all find common ground and work together towards the same goal. In my opinion, the competitive aspect of politics is what has ruined it.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

Sports has always been a big part of my life, and one that my dad has always said to me throughout my entire life has been “a team resembles that Together Everyone Achieves Miracles, because one person cannot achieve as much as the right players in each position”. I’ve always lived my life surrounding myself with great people in every position, and it is something that has always stuck with me. To me, it means the power of team is greater than any one individual. To achieve a miracle, you need great people around you to help execute it.

We are blessed that very prominent leaders in business and entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world with whom you would like to have a lunch or breakfast with? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂

I would love to have lunch with Bill Belichick, not only because I’m a huge New England fan, growing up in Boston, but because he is probably one of the best people in the history of sports to maximize every single individual’s potential. In my eyes there is no better leader. He will take people who are not known and turn them into the best person in a specific position for an exact roll. Their motto is that every single person has a job and if they can be the best at it, and they’ll be the best in that space. He is able to build that comradery within a team to buy into that concept and get every single person to put on blinders and execute their exact role.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

You can follow the Home Design and Remodeling Show on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, Pinterest and LinkedIn, as well as on our site, https://homeshows.net.

Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational.


Adam Kayce of Home Show Management Corp: Five Things You Need To Build A Trusted And Beloved Brand was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Richard Brydson of Aligned Choices Meditation: 5 Things You Need To Know To Survive And Thrive…

Richard Brydson of Aligned Choices Meditation: 5 Things You Need To Know To Survive And Thrive After A Divorce

Balanced self-care: An indispensable part of a good life after divorce involves good self-care. The approach I say works best while getting started is a routine focused on both mind and body health.

As part of our series about the “5 Things You Need To Know To Survive And Thrive After A Divorce Or Breakup” I had the pleasure of interviewing Richard Brydson.

Richard Brydson is a Family Mediator and the Owner at Aligned Choices Mediation in Ontario, Canada. In his work as a Family Mediator, he assists couples to formalize the end of their relationship without the need for financially and emotionally costly court proceedings. When he isn’t working, Richard enjoys reading, hiking, and cycling.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to ‘get to know you’. Can you tell us a bit about how you grew up?

I had a childhood that I am very grateful to have had. I didn’t know or feel it at the time, but I know now how much my parents deserve the recognition for making it as happy and loving as anyone could hope for. From a young age they made it a point to have me find my own way. They enrolled me in any activity that interested me, but as I got older they wanted me to feel free to explore my choice of major belief system — whether spiritual or philosophical. This really got me started and hooked on the many gifts of a life of self-discovery.

Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

My road to becoming a family mediation started in my previous line of work in the healthcare industry. As a privately employed care worker in long term care facilities I had many opportunities to work one on one with and advocate for my senior clients who were often unable to speak for themselves.

These interactions left me looking for ways to balance how I supported the rights of the vulnerable people I cared for while protecting the collegial and friendly relationships I had with staff in the facility. Learning about conflict resolution taught me how to soften the activist spirit in me, and especially how to ‘separate the person from the problem’. Nowadays it’s not difficult for me to model kindness amidst adversity.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started this career?

In December 2019, I left my part time office job — at a time when my work in healthcare was slowly winding down — with the intention to devote all my time to becoming a full-time family mediator with Aligned Choices Mediation. When the pandemic hit, my grand plan had to change considerably and I shifted focus into pounding the pavement virtually to build inroads into both my professional community, but also with family lawyers and therapists in order to build a referral network.

The interesting part of this story was that I learned there were many ways to build a business with almost no start up capital. Learning to use as little money as possible was definitely worth the effort and helped me build new resiliencies and areas of competence that I would not have had if I had hired a marketing firm to launch my practice. I have many good connections these days including a regular social call with other mediators, and the referrals have started flowing both ways between me and other helping professionals.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

Early on in my internship, I brought the wrong notepad into the first session with a couple who were separating. I had spent hours working on my part of the topics to be discussed and, needless to say, it was a revelation when I discovered my error.

Thankfully I ended up not needing my notes at all because there was an unexpected spirit of collaboration between the clients. I learned that sometimes my meeting preparation was overly focused on having my talking points ready, and that I needed to balance this with a presence of mind that helps motivate cooperation in others — as well as making sure to check that I have the correct notes with me.

Do you have a favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life or your work?

“The dangers in life are infinite, and among them is safety” Goethe, J. W. von

Seeking safety is a normal and healthy response to adversity within a relationship.

From a broad perspective, what can happen when this natural reflex becomes an ingrained habit is that our sense of safety will become more difficult to maintain over time. Our feeling of safety will be eroded by having to re-confront our aversion to certain feelings and a growing list of situations that threaten us.

I learned over many years that, because the experience of feeling unsafe only returns with a greater intensity everytime we turn away from it, that there is immense value in turning into it thus exposing myself to the unwanted feeling as a way of emotional strength building.

Conditioning yourself to welcome the fear you have of getting hurt can result in a greater tolerance of relational hardships, and in time you may be able to meet people who are expressing strong judgement with non-reactivity and fearless understanding.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

I have made some inroads recently with a few family lawyers in my home city of Toronto, Canada. This has afforded me the opportunity to mediate cases where lawyers have negotiated an almost complete agreement between a separating couple.

The new challenge with these cases is that the councilors are representing their clients in the room as I’m working. This has not only helped me begin to adapt to a new type of process, but also gives me the opportunity to help people settle issues that they would otherwise have to litigate.

Ok. Thank you for that. Let’s now shift to the main part of our discussion. Can you tell us a bit about your experience going through a divorce, or helping someone who was going through a divorce? What did you learn about yourself during and after the experience? Do you feel comfortable sharing a story?

I was coaching a client a few months ago on his dilemma of whether to continue trying to reconcile with his spouse. We had had a couple of conversations on how it had affected his presence in his daughter’s life and resulted in the loss of several mutual friends. He did choose to stop trying to revive the relationship, and to devote energy to healing, growth and his daughter.

Through helping a client verbalise their feelings of being torn between staying and letting go — or validating the experience of someone who is ready to leave through reflective conversation — I have found myself acting with greater care and less attachment while guiding the person to what’s true for them.

In your opinion, what are the most common mistakes people make after they go through a divorce? What can be done to avoid that?

I think there are two main trends that can come up for people after they get divorced. The following examples are interchangeable and could apply to either the party who initiated the separation, and the one who was caught off guard by it.

  1. Moving on with their life with the emphasis firmly on action. Feeling motivated to move forward may just be a joyful expression of a new found freedom after divorce. However, if the pace proves to be unsustainable the overactivity may indicate an avoidance that will need to be addressed lest it lead to unavailability in other important relationships. Be on the lookout for unexplained stress or habits which have a “strained activity” to them as when someone is holding onto a “making up for lost time” or “now I can finally…” mentality, they may be heading towards a burnout.
  2. Feeling stuck or unable to rejoin the world. It will be no surprise for me to say that the shock and hurt of a separation can take a long time to heal. The inertia in your life during the period of grieving is not one that can be rushed. Although you may have thoughts about changes you want to make for yourself, take the time to breathe deeply while considering them, feel into the potential of the actions that seem to be good for you.

Most importantly, be aware of negatively reinforcing thoughts, and be kind to yourself by letting them go. Asking for help is a good idea, whether you have a support network, or have to start out in search of one. You are worth it, and deserve compassion and support.

People generally label “divorce” as being “negative”. And yes, while there are downsides, there can also be a lot of positive that comes out of it as well. What would you say that they are? Can you share an example or share a story?

For those looking to make the best of the end of their marriage I can think of no more important time to learn about yourself than after it has dissolved. A reflective practice such as meditation, or meaning making through journaling are indispensable tools for this kind of inquiry. A rich and rested understanding of why the conflict was happening can renew and sustain your peace of mind, leading to potentially stronger intimate relationships in the future.

I value this rested understanding because I see it as a product of my self-inquiry and the insight I gathered about my contribution to the conflicts I used to experience. It turned out that my actions were inseparable from the stories I told myself about others.

I learned that the beliefs which sparked the most difficult conflicts had hard or tense physical descriptions associated with them. This clue gave me the frame of reference to later discern that if I felt tense, or said something was hard that my self-knowledge on that topic was not complete.

I invite you to see the appearance of tension as an opportunity to learn about yourself, as opposed to why another is making you feel a certain way.

Whether you find out what is underneath the tension reflexively, or by playing out the scenario that happens in your life the next time it re-surfaces, the insight and a rested understanding will come about eventually.

Some people are scared to ‘get back out there’ and date again after being with their former spouse for many years and hearing dating horror stories. What would you say to motivate someone to get back out there and start a new beginning?

When someone asks me for advice my involvement is to share a story from my life that feels connected to their needs or desires. If I felt they were open to starting a new intimate relationship I would motivate them to first find a creative life pursuit where they could meet other like minded people.

I value this as a launching point for a relationship because all my best relationships — especially the one I have with my wife — came when I wasn’t actively searching for someone. The pairing is more intuitive if we notice someone while enjoying ourselves. There is also something to be said of how we may miss the clues or red flags that come up during the dating phase when we really want or need to find someone.

What is the one thing people going through a divorce should be open to changing?

Looking deeper at the reasons you have accumulated for why your marriage has ended would be my number one invitation for those who have gone through divorce.

I say this because perhaps you have oversimplified the situation, or totalized the other person’s contribution to how it unravelled. These kinds of thoughts can lead to our anticipating another experience of hurt from those we are in conflict with. We may either lash out first in the moment, or withdraw again from the other person.

Not wanting to be blamed or having a fear of experiencing more pain stimulates greater reactivity in people over time. I ask that the reader consider shifting their conflict perspective from harshly spoken words like “responsibility” and “intentional harm” for concepts like “mutual contribution” and seek their equal need for repair and acknowledgement.

Attribution of wrongdoing is common activity is intimate relationships which diverts our attention away from talking about our deeper meanings that need to be felt and honored if we are to express our love freely.

Ok, here is the main question of our discussion. If you had a close friend come to you for advice after a divorce, what are 5 things you would advise in order to survive and thrive after the divorce? Can you please give a story or example for each?

I haven’t organized my list in order of importance, and have included some points that are obvious and essential along with a few that may be new for you.

  1. Balanced self-care: An indispensable part of a good life after divorce involves good self-care. The approach I say works best while getting started is a routine focused on both mind and body health.
    Take care of your body as much as possible. From balancing your diet, to activities like yoga or Qi-gong, there are few practices like these that will not serve your wellness moving forward. I would make time for these activities every week, but be kind to yourself if you get busier at work or with family responsibilities and your routine is temporarily affected.
    Learning something new. For me there is nothing more rewarding than a life of learning and discovery. There may be things you’ve had on the back burner for some time or perhaps there is a team sport you want to start up again. I would leave out major life shifts like returning to school for a second degree or masters program for a later date.
  2. A retreat or at least a trip: As it will likely be some time before long distance travel becomes a safe and available option for most of us, in-home virtual retreats and long weekend getaways are alternatives to consider. If retreats are not your thing, I would encourage you to not plan out every minute of your getaway in advance. I ask you to consider either of these options because much of my wellness and peace of mind have become pretty effortless to maintain because of the silent retreats I’ve been on. Whether at home and abroad, making time to let go of all my responsibilities for a while gave me a chance to reflect without interruption. Finding perspective through retreat frees up the energy to willingly recommit to your current life choices, or act with greater clarity about the changes that needed to be made.
  3. Suggested activity for your retreat time — Give time and space to acknowledge the good in the marriage along with what wasn’t working. One element in a mediation process that I ask my clients to consider is for us to spend some time during our first joint session talking about their origin story, how they came to be in mediation and what they want moving forward. I do this because on one occasion it led to an unexpected apology. My co-mediator and I were stunned and very happy to see the flowering of a co-parenting relationship without much assistance from us. If there is little chance to work through these three topics with your former spouse I invite you to do them on your own. You could contemplate them on a walk, or in writing if it helps you focus your attention.
  4. Giving can be no different from receiving: For those who are starting out without a strong support network a practice that really helped me in the past was volunteering my time to make others important for a few hours a week. The shift in perspective on the topic of giving came while caring for seniors in my previous career. Many of my clients had dementia and communication difficulties and I found that when I was fully there for them my devoted attention became something I recognized as a gift in itself.
  5. Learning about letting go: For those who think that it’s not possible or are seeing little benefit from how they have learned to let go, I have an alternative context that I think could be of use. My revitalived understanding of this concept comes from my experience of reconciling with my father a couple of years ago, after a long estrangement. If you have chosen to let something or someone go, but the memories keep resurfacing, I would urge you to spend the time to see what’s underneath the hurt feelings. I have written about my insights at length on my blog, but to sum it up, I was unable to be at peace with the separation because I needed to live through the hurt feelings and the buried love I had for him. This was an internal work I needed to do alone to make the reconciliation possible, and it really helped me stay present for all the conversations we’ve had since.

The stress of a divorce can take a toll on both one’s mental and emotional health. In your opinion or experience, what are a few things people going through a divorce can do to alleviate this pain and anguish?

For those with a support network this is time to seek the connection that will bring you the validation, and perhaps even give you the opportunity to blow off a bit of steam. This seems like an obvious statement, but I feel it bears repeating as many people may be worried about imposing on friends and loved ones in tough times. I would say to push past that worry and reach out, and let the other tell you how and to what extent they can help you.

Reconnecting with a creative activity that used to be special in your life is a great way to play into a healthier frame of mind. Whether you like playing music on a saxophone or piano, an hour a week can begin to enliven your spirit and even become part of your long term return to wellness. If your past was without musical pursuits, perhaps you used to create art in your spare time. I never considered myself artistically gifted, so to process pain in the past I did coloring exercises in art therapy books, and even a few collages made of images and patterns I tore out of art magazines. It was very cathartic and helped me make things with my hands that my inner critic temporarily speechless.

Starting to look at living your life as a single person will, at some point, be an area to work on. Donating or putting keepsakes away that remind you of the other person is an important part of letting go. Additionally, there are likely daily activities that your former spouse took care of exclusively. Maybe they handled certain important aspects of the everyday finances or were always available to fix the next thing that stopped working. During your transition to feeling secure as a single person there are areas that you will gradually turn into new competencies.

Do you have any favorite books, podcasts, or resources related to this topic that you would recommend to our readers?

I have two favorite books that are related to helping people thrive after divorce. They are helpful because they broaden understanding of why people behave aberrantly and explain in detail how people develop these adaptations to the social worlds they were born into.

The first book is by pediatrician and researcher W. Thomas Boyce. For more than 30 years he studied stress in children, and how both biology and social conditioning contribute to how resilient an adult will be to stress. His research and revolutionary insight is presented in a book called, “The Orchid and the Dandelion”. I highly recommend it for both people who have ended a relationship with a highly sensitive person, as well as to parents of a child who is hypervigilant to their rights being transgressed or has recurrent and unexplained illnesses.

The second book is called, “The State of Affairs” by Esther Perel who is a bestselling author, speaker and psychologist. In this book she discusses questions like, “Why do people in happy marriages cheat on their spouse” and “Why does an affair hurt so much?”. I would say that this book is sensitive to those whose life has been upended by infidelity, but is also an eye opening examination of the complex life experiences of couples who experience it.

Because of the position that you are in, you are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.

To live a healthy life as an individual is not possible without other people, nor can we participate positively and sustainably without caring for ourselves. Knowing how to draw flexible boundaries is what I would want to inspire a movement on as it has been a primary product of all my work on communication and conflict resolution.

Balancing the needs for autonomy and connection is no easy task. For those looking to live a free but rich relationship with their spouse, I have come to see it as an indispensable area for self-inquiry. I will now outline how you can start engaging differently in your relationships for the better. There are many in all but two perspective shifts in particular come to mind that will help you grasp the potential of my proposal.

The first has to do with exploring where our sense of responsibility to our spouse starts to breakdown during a conflict. If you found yourself asking for something repeatedly during your previous relationship, I would invite the keen observer to be honest with themselves and ask if they were practicing what they were asking for. If this is an automatic, “yes, of course”, slow down your thinking and find out what makes you so certain.

If you found your actions didn’t match your expectations, I would invite you to explore the many meanings underneath. This way the next time one of your boundaries are crossed you have the opportunity to emphasize your needs while communicating with the care and understanding you have needed from others.

The second has to do with verbalizing how someone could reliably show care in a way that matters to you. This point is crucial because it could be that you have never consciously thought about how to speak about your needs and ask for change mindfully. Further questions could be, Is there only one way? can another’s way of expressing closeness be admitted into our understanding? The truth is we can be us, and they can be them. That it’s possible that often they will give in their natural way, and that if they receive recognition they can then freely act and reciprocate in the ways more natural to you.

Knowing ourselves in these ways can help us ask questions and learn about our former partner and could very well lead to greater peace of mind, as well as feelings of both greater independence and connection moving forward.

We are very blessed that very prominent leaders read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them.

My number one choice for this special meal is Mediator, Arbitrator and Author Kenneth Cloke. Ken has been active in many areas of peacebuilding in the US and around the world for decades.

He inspired me to be fearless when building my practice as a family mediator and I am so grateful that I read his book, “Mediating Dangerously”, and to my mentor Mike MacConnell for suggesting I read it during my training. Ken is consistent in his invitations for practitioners to self-inquire, as well as in advocating the equal importance for conflict resolvers to be bold in taking chances, but for them to learn to do so without losing kindness or compassion in the process.

I had the pleasure and honor of taking a course with Ken at his home in Santa Monica in the fall of 2018. When the opportunity came up to train under his guidance I had my travel arrangements made in less than 3 days. I would love to speak with this genuinely good human being for a private meal.

Thank you for these great insights and for the time you spent with this interview. We wish you only continued success!


Richard Brydson of Aligned Choices Meditation: 5 Things You Need To Know To Survive And Thrive… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Twistle: Dave Ross’s Big Idea That May Change The World In The Next Few Years

It’s OK to be afraid of failure. You will worry about running out of money, not finding a “fit” for what you’ve built, and many other spectacular ways to fail. Eventually those thoughts will just become background noise. The quicker they do, the better your focus will be. I think in the beginning I was often thinking or worrying about an “exit” — trying to make sure I had my ducks in a row in case our venture went south. While it is good to have a plan, without confidence that “failure is OK, you will land on your feet” — you might miss the “scary fun” of doing a startup.

As a part of my series about “Big Ideas That Might Change The World In The Next Few Years” I had the pleasure of interviewing Dave Ross, Chief Technology Officer, Co-Founder of Twistle. Mr. Ross has spent more than 20 years in health IT, leading software development and deployment in a wide range of technology and product areas; he focuses on mobile applications and interoperability. Prior to Twistle, Mr. Ross served as Director of Information Services for more than eight years at Albany Medical Center in upstate New York. Mr. Ross holds a bachelor’s degree in Information Systems from the State University of New York.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit. Can you please tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

I grew up in a physician family — my father, brother, and sister had long careers in medicine by the time I started to think about my own path. There were many formative moments where I witnessed the impact that technology had on both healthcare and education. I saw first-hand that you could create data-driven processes which had a direct, positive impact on human beings. Early on I wanted to improve the daily lives of healthcare workers or educators, but as I began to think bigger, I realized that there was massive power in technology to “reach out” to patients directly, and that’s how Twistle got started.

Can you please share with us the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

The first time we pitched the idea of Twistle’s automated patient pathways to a surgeon we came prepared with a number of bells and whistles ready to go, like a complex series of steps, rules/logic, alerting, etc. The surgeon (who was most concerned about dehydration risk after his patients left the hospital) took one look at what we had and said, “Can this just make sure that my patients drink 6–8 glasses of water every day?” That one simply-stated goal and our ability to effectively adapt on the fly (we changed the pathway during the meeting to target dehydration) really accelerated our growth. It led to our first real contract with a large enterprise and put us on a trajectory that we couldn’t have imagined at the time.

Which principles or philosophies have guided your life? Your career?

I have always valued “meaningfulness” as part of my paycheck. If I feel like I’m helping others in some positive way, many of the day-to-day difficulties don’t seem nearly as difficult. Whenever I’ve thought, “What should I do next?”, I think about how much purpose there would be in it. I wonder if it would lead to a story I would tell my grandkids?

Ok thank you for that. Let’s now move to the main focus of our interview. Can you tell us about your “Big Idea That Might Change The World”?

90% of the world’s population has access to a cell phone. That means that with the right technology and strategy, 90% of the world’s patients can be reached via secure texting with patient education, coaching, and reminders that can fundamentally improve population health.

Simply sending messages, though, is not enough. There is a unique patient at the other end of each communication and the value is ultimately determined by them. Asking questions and responding intelligently is a huge part of achieving meaningful engagement. The ideal solution will:

  • Be optimized to meet unique patient needs
  • Enable health / quality outcomes analysis
  • Help patients achieve goals that are both important to them *and* the healthcare organization

Our big idea is a “navigation” system for health that offers “turn-by-turn” directions to patients throughout their care journey by way of their mobile phone. Additionally, it should reach the masses, and not require specific levels of tech-literacy. It will explore key insights gleaned from years of patient engagement data; a wide array of factors will drive an optimal patient experience ranging from the use of empathy to the technical features of a message delivery method. The future implications of machine learning on our ability to personalize communication pathways in a way that uniquely addresses each patient’s needs will also be explored — but AI/Machine Learning doesn’t have to live front and center to deliver real value.

How do you think this will change the world?

Globally, healthcare delivery is stressed in many ways. Costs are difficult to control, and healthcare providers are often incentivized in multiple competing directions. I think solutions like Twistle will allow measures of health within broad populations to be maintained or improved, while at the same time decreasing overall cost. We are doing the “heavy lifting” of keeping massive numbers of people “on track,” which allows healthcare providers to focus on patients who actually need extra attention. If we can get healthcare costs under control, there will be less financial pressure on all involved parties, and many more people will be happier and healthier overall.

Keeping “Black Mirror” and the “Law of Unintended Consequences” in mind, can you see any potential drawbacks about this idea that people should think more deeply about?

The obvious one here is the use of AI in making clinical decisions, even if it is just “supporting” a human decision maker. The consequences of those decisions may not be what anyone wants to hear at an individual level, e.g., “This computer decided you don’t need an MRI, due to the predictive likelihood of it not finding anything significant.” But we then rejoice in the result at a population-level, e.g., “unnecessary imaging costs are way down this year.” It’s something everyone should think about as they go through their own healthcare journey. I think the risks here can be mitigated through data transparency, e.g., allowing individuals to understand at a deeper level how decisions are made, even when advanced technology is playing a role.

Was there a “tipping point” that led you to this idea? Can you tell us that story?

In the early days of Twistle we were struggling to find product-to-market fit. We knew we wanted to have a positive impact on the broader population(s) of patients, but we were only focused on building asynchronous messaging tools and not thinking about the role of automation in patient engagement. However, I was also exposed to quite a few healthcare technology systems that are deployed to measure quality, specifically as a component of reimbursement. These systems did not support real-time intervention and I thought, “What if we could detect that an individual was at risk of negatively impacting one of these quality measures?” If we did, we could automatically intervene using our messaging technology and actually change that outcome in real-time. That led to us developing a true return-on-investment story and was a real tipping point for us as a company. We could now point to a meaningful change in the bottom line of our customer segment. Framing our solution in this way rapidly took us to new opportunities and successes.

What do you need to lead this idea to widespread adoption?

I consider Twistle to have already achieved widespread adoption in our target market of large healthcare provider systems, who typically have robust processes established for deploying new technology. This becomes more challenging as we move down-market to smaller organizations and freestanding healthcare practice(s). We know we need to improve our product so that it is more approachable and “turnkey” in order to find that same widespread adoption down market. Another battle we fight is one of perception. Many healthcare providers are forced to constantly enter data into systems with poor usability and efficiency. When we try to introduce Twistle, there is a perception that *any* new technology is unwanted due to the burdensome state of healthcare technology today. So there is a hurdle for us to climb in order to change that perception and help our adopters understand that deploying Twistle will not make their problems worse, but it will instead alleviate them.

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)

  1. It’s OK to be afraid of failure. You will worry about running out of money, not finding a “fit” for what you’ve built, and many other spectacular ways to fail. Eventually those thoughts will just become background noise. The quicker they do, the better your focus will be. I think in the beginning I was often thinking or worrying about an “exit” — trying to make sure I had my ducks in a row in case our venture went south. While it is good to have a plan, without confidence that “failure is OK, you will land on your feet” — you might miss the “scary fun” of doing a startup.
  2. Pivot fast, but don’t try to re-invent everything when you do. There were a few times where good ideas were left by the wayside because of the shiny new toy in front of us. At Twistle, the first 1–2 years were spent on an idea(s) that didn’t have great product/market fit — basically a “messaging app” for healthcare. We shifted our focus and core value proposition to automation, but we continued to iterate on what we originally built in order to find our success. By not throwing out what we had built, we gained an advantage that we would not have had if we just “pivoted” and built something new from scratch.
  3. Be as transparent as possible. When things aren’t going in a direction that you believe will be successful, don’t worry about the career/social harmony aspects of letting other(s) know your thoughts. It can be done respectfully, and others will appreciate knowing where you stand. I think one thing we struggled with in the beginning was being open and honest with ourselves about the business prospects of our solution(s). We had a lot of great ideas coming from opinionated leaders in the room, and while many of those ideas were aspirational and motivating, they were sometimes too idealistic to be successful. We may have waited too long to narrow in on the intersection between idealistic and realistic, and I believe some of that may have been an inherent unwillingness to disrupt the status quo.
  4. Hire people that scare you. It’s cliche, but it almost always works out in your favor to bring people on-board who could do your job better than you. Elevate those around you, and we all rise together. As a CTO, there’s a mental trap in trying to be the best at everything. The best developer, the best architect, the best agile coach, etc. I think a CTO’s role is to set context for the product development team(s), make sure all the roles glue together successfully. You must make sure that business ideas blend perfectly into an engineering/product organization. It’s important to make meaningful technical contributions to your product, but you should expect to be out-classed by people you hire in many different ways.
  5. Keep your life outside of your career intact. I think many startup-ers forget that in order to be successful they need to find balance. Working long hours, forgetting about self-care, and ignoring loved-ones are easy things to do when you are trying to get a new company off the ground. In the long run, it will benefit neither you nor the company. This advice is easier to give than to follow. I’ve done a team meeting while simultaneously descending mountain chutes in the backcountry on a snowboard. Letting your work permeate many aspects of your outside life is both easy and sometimes the only option. You might at some point look back and realize that you haven’t truly disconnected from work in months or even years. One key thing to do is to have great operational backup — where you can “disappear” for a few days and have complete confidence that things will generally be OK with your product/service/customers/etc.

Can you share with our readers what you think are the most important “success habits” or “success mindsets”?

Make sure your work reflects your personal values. For me, as I mentioned, work has to be meaningful. I think to some extent we all want this, but maybe in different ways. I’ve adopted a big picture tactic to transform my life and the way I live each day. For example I ask myself everyday, “What did I learn? What could I have done better? Did I make a difference?” This sense of purpose helps keep me focused and moving forward.

Directly related to this is the willingness to grow and change. Change is a constant and being open to it leads to success — you just might not follow the path that you originally thought would get you there.

Some very well known VCs read this column. If you had 60 seconds to make a pitch to a VC, what would you say? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂

I would say that Twistle has perfected a broad, platform-based approach to patient engagement that has already achieved significant widespread adoption at many large US-based healthcare institutions. Our own customers have measured the impact our technology has, and have found significant return-on-investment in deploying Twistle. We are continuing to grow organically into new areas that we never dreamed of, and additional capital would only accelerate this growth and broaden our horizons.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

Twitter:

@TwistleApp

@Dave_Twistle

Linkedin:

Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational.


Twistle: Dave Ross’s Big Idea That May Change The World In The Next Few Years was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

The Future Is Now: Gregory Scott Newsome of Dexwet Holdings On How Their Technological Innovation…

The Future Is Now: Gregory Scott Newsome of Dexwet Holdings On How Their Technological Innovation Will Shake Up Air Quality

Take a break after a big success. Enjoy your big successes with people you care about. Also, be generous with your family, friends, and your community. Internal appreciation will build confidence and sharing your success with others either with time or money will help keep you grounded.

As a part of our series about cutting edge technological breakthroughs, I had the pleasure of interviewing Gregory Scott Newsome, Board Director and CFO of Dexwet Holdings Corporation, an air filtering and technology company with more than 60 patented designs that protect humans and machines.

Gregory is leading Dexwet’s 2021 expansion into the United States as the company prepares to launch an innovative, sustainable wet air filter that captures airborne particles and will change the way Americans think about the air they breathe in homes and businesses.

Born in Virginia, Gregory traveled extensively throughout North America and Europe and has been living in Colombo, Sri Lanka since 2006. He holds a BBA Degree in Finance with a focus on Derivative Securities and Investments from James Madison University, Harrisonburg, Virginia. Gregory & his long-time business partner, Dr. Kosala Heengama, are focused on servicing underserviced foreign markets and acceleration opportunities by providing corporate strategy and financial solutions to growing SMEs who are disruptive to their industry and want to become a publicly listed company on the U.S.’s OTC Market, NASDAQ or NYSE exchanges.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

I’ve had wide experience with SMEs having started, operated, acquired, sold, turned around, funded, advised, mentored, brokered, invested, and been a board director in numerous private and publicly traded companies predominately in North America, Europe & Southeastern Asia.

I am driven by natural curiosity, with an open mind and a positive perspective, and have found that the most challenging and rewarding opportunities came by answering calls for help. When I got a call from Dexwet last year, I knew I was about to embark on something very special.

In June of 2020, Clemens Sparowitz, long-term Dexwet Filters executive and current board director and COO of the U.S. holding company, asked me to help position Dexwet’s air filtering technology as a solution for this global pandemic. Dexwet already had revolutionary air filter technology and products in continuous use since 2009, so my business partner, Dr. Kosala Heengama, and I decided that the timing was ideal to refocus the company from machine health to human health.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

Two days after a discussion with a friend about an opportunity in a small island nation in the Indian Ocean, I took the ten-hour flight from London to Sri Lanka. That was back in 2000 when Sri Lanka still had their civil war.

Despite the war, I loved the warmth and hospitality of the people. It seemed that Colombo, the capital city, had little influence from the rest of the world and had almost been forgotten because of the civil conflict. Everywhere I looked I saw an opportunity. I had jetlag and did not sleep much my first two days, but I could not stop thinking about the possibilities and potential.

I visited every 6 months and decided to make it my home in 2006. The civil war ended in 2009, and it has been full of opportunities and a great place to raise a family.

Can you tell us about the Cutting edge technological breakthroughs that you are working on? How do you think that will help people?

Dexwet Air Filters Technology will have such a profound effect on human health that it will disrupt the existing air filter industry in the United States and around the globe. Dexwet engineers designed our Wet Air Filters as an affordable, eco-friendly solution to provide clean pure air that is free of dust, pollen, pollutants, and airborne pathogens like bacteria and viruses — all without the need for electricity or batteries. The secret is our patented design that uses staggered filter rods coated in oil that acts as glue to trap and bind particles.

We designed these filters to be simple to size and install on the outflow exchange where they act as a last stage of defense before the air enters each room. Dexwet’s revolutionary design is also sustainable as they only need to be cleaned about once a year and reused over and over again.

Since 2009, Dexwet’s technology has been used in machines that required air filtration without limiting airflow. Our technology is so exciting because it expands the airflow spectrum for filtration to range from convection up to sonic speed airflows. Our filters help machines operate as they were intended without the interference of dust particles, extending the life of most machines.

How do you think this might change the world?

We are excited about the positive effects Dexwet Wet Air Filters will have on human health. We want to do our part to help restore the world to pre-Coronavirus conditions by mitigating airborne pathogens using our disruptive air filter technology. More generally, we are hoping to have a profound positive effect on the air filter industry and all the possible machines that could utilize our air filtration technology. We are also looking to have a positive effect outside this world, as we believe our air filters can also be used in space.

Keeping “Black Mirror” in mind can you see any potential drawbacks about this technology that people should think more deeply about?

This is a difficult question, as it contradicts our company’s mission statement, which is “to have a positive effect.” But speaking hypothetically, and using a bit of truth faced by water filtration industry, whereby filtering salt molecules also filters out helpful minerals from water, thus making the water not safe for consumption. One could suggest that in the future scientists discover that air filters are removing beneficial particulates that are a necessary component of oxygen for the human body. I suppose it is possible, but not very probable.

Was there a “tipping point” that led you to this breakthrough? Can you tell us that story?

I think there was a eureka moment for Dexwet’s late founder and inventor, Erich Petein when he was working at Xerox in the late ’90s. He was trying to find a solution he could patent and sell back to his company when he noticed fine dust from toner cartridges was causing problems with the printers. It became his mission to filter this fine particle matter and two years later he filed his first air filter technology patent in 2000. Xerox declined to purchase or license his patent, so Erich formed Dexwet Filters to change the air filter industry on his own. Tragically our founder, Erich Petein, died in 2017, but we continue to carry on his mission to revolutionize the air filter industry.

What do you need to lead this technology to widespread adoption?

Air filters have pretty much been the same since HEPA (High-Efficiency Particulate Air) was created back in the 1950s, so people have accepted that if you want a filter to catch more particles, you must sacrifice airflow.

We need people to understand that Dexwet Filters are engineered to provide the highest level of air filtration, with a minimal decrease of airflow. It is also a truly sustainable product as you don’t throw our filters away after one-time use. You simply clean it in the dishwasher (or hot water), re-apply the oil, and reuse it again, and again, and again, for the life of the machine itself.

Dexwet is confident that widespread adoption will come as more people and companies become aware of our technological advancements.

What have you been doing to publicize this idea? Have you been using any innovative marketing strategies?

This pandemic has been tragic for the world for both health and the economy, but it has prompted the global press to create public awareness about the dangers of airborne particles. With this new awareness, we are now showing how our technology could help individuals and families have pure, clean indoor air and be more comfortable in their own homes. As mentioned before, we at Dexwet Filters will do our part to help restore the world to pre-Covid conditions. We are not the full solution, but we believe that we are a key part of the overall solution, where we mitigate airborne transmissions in shared spaces by using our air filters.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

So many people….Being aware that success is greatly derived from the help that others have given you, gratitude is a result of this awareness. To single out one person, I would choose my grandfather. He would tell me stories to give an example of morality. He also took the time to explain to me the logic behind morality which became the foundation of my character.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

This is also a difficult question. I like the saying that time is awarded to things of value. I offer my time to people and try to equip them with the tools necessary so they can help themselves. Teach a man to fish vs give a man a fish.

I also believe that every individual can benefit from breathing clean, pure air that is free of particles and airborne contaminants, and sharing Dexwet with the world will help people feel more comfortable in their homes so they can live happier, healthier lives.

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)

Not sure it would have mattered, as I was very stubborn and had to experience things firsthand, but I offer this advice to others.

  1. Read more. Watching a video is good but reading allows me to make a movie in my mind. I retain information better when I read. I also take notes when I read as many times it triggers new thoughts and ideas to explore.
  2. Measure twice and cut once. Review all of your facts before action. This also means you should have a plan to review.
  3. Timing is more important than you think. The importance of timing is critical because if the consumer is not ready to accept your ideas, companies can do everything correctly and still fail. This directly relates to Dexwet Filters. They had invented a better product, 15 years ago, but the market was not ready to listen. I am confident that their time has come for incredible acceptance.
  4. Trust but verify. At the end of the day, good people may not tell you the entire truth or they may simply not understand it as well as they should. It is your responsibility to verify information as it can clarify misunderstandings before they become an issue.
  5. Take a break after a big success. Enjoy your big successes with people you care about. Also, be generous with your family, friends, and your community. Internal appreciation will build confidence and sharing your success with others either with time or money will help keep you grounded.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

Of course, it is to have a positive effect. If individuals would focus on effecting even small positive changes, it would result in all of society moving together in a positive direction.

In my office in Sri Lanka, I overheard some of my young executives discussing politics over lunch complaining that politicians only solve problems by simply throwing money at the problem and not affecting real change. I gathered the same group before they went home for the evening and casually asked how many of them donated money to their temple. (Buddhism is the predominant religion in Sri Lanka). All raised their hands confirming. I then asked them how many donated their time to the temple to help the people who came in search of help, to which none of them confirmed. I simply said…oh I guess you solve problems by simply throwing money at it.

This event led to us implementing an internal charity program where our staff identified people who needed help. Many were short-term help because of an illness or an accident, but a difficult time nonetheless. Our Chairman put together bundles of household essentials and vouchers from local shops for them to give directly to families they identified as needing help. Direct action is important to effect a change and the more actions and time you can give the greater the positive effects.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

My favorite life lesson quote is “Anything is easy when you know how.” I believe you should always continue to learn because the more knowledge you have the more tools you have available to solve problems. Startups, distressed companies, and growing business all have many problems to overcome, and the more you can easily solve problems, the better you chance for success.

Some very well-known VCs read this column. If you had 60 seconds to make a pitch to a VC, what would you say? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂

How important is clean air for machines to operate effectively? Or how important is it for you and the people you care about to breathe clean, dust and pathogen-free air? At Dexwet Filters, it is not a question of “is it important”, but a question of degree “how important”. Our answer is simply that Dexwet Filters patented technology is the best air filter solution available.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

www.dexwetholdings.com

https://www.linkedin.com/showcase/dexwetholdings/about/

https://www.facebook.com/dexwetairfilters/


The Future Is Now: Gregory Scott Newsome of Dexwet Holdings On How Their Technological Innovation… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Macy Matarazzo of SuperLOVED: Rising Through Resilience; Five Things You Can Do To Become More…

Macy Matarazzo of SuperLOVED: Rising Through Resilience; Five Things You Can Do To Become More Resilient

Play all the way. Decide to have fun. Seriousness, urgency, and frustration will quickly lead you to burn-out, and you can’t skip dating if you want to fall in love. Having a playful mindset will give you an attractive vibe, online or off! Most people want a partner because they want someone to laugh and play with, so bring that playfulness to your online dating journey. The truth is you can’t create a happily ever after love story from a miserable dating experience. In the end, it only takes one single moment, one wink, or one email for your dream relationship to start, so anticipate that, and play into love now.

In this interview series, we are exploring the subject of resilience among successful business leaders. Resilience is one characteristic that many successful leaders share in common, and in many cases it is the most important trait necessary to survive and thrive in today’s complex market.

I had the pleasure of interviewing Macy Matarazzo.

Macy Matarazzo — Love & Dating Expert for Singles- is helping the high-achieving, superstar single woman overcome the fears and frustrations with the modern dating world that keep her from believing that her person is out there. Women who come to her have created success in life, but not in love. The SuperLOVED System gives her a proven path to find the one she never thought could exist and have her love story.

Macy also can be seen as the host of Love Vibe T.V. and upcoming podcast, The Cafeteria of Love — All you can eat tips, tools, and talks for those hungry to fall in love. Macy’s articles & strategies on navigating the modern dating world featured on MeetMindful.com, The Westword, and ArtTour International. A keynote speaker, Macy has brought her amusing yet pragmatic relationship expertise to stages like Ignite Denver, FOX, N.B.C., Women in Tech, the IMPROV. Along with sharing the worldwide stage with top love leaders, including John Gray, Arielle Ford, and the acclaimed author and “SARK.”

Thank you so much for joining us! Our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your backstory?

Growing up in the ’70s, success for me meant climbing the corporate ladder and saying, “I don’t need a man” (but in my heart longing for Prince Charming!). Then finding myself in my 40’s still single and living alone, the only single one of my friends, too late for babies, convinced that if love hasn’t happened, I must be unlovable.

That’s when I decided to stop “winging it”, and do whatever it takes to figure out what it takes to find real love. I made it a mission and took the time to do the inner work, get expert support, meditate, research, and was all in on a mission for love. And it worked. Before long, I met my husband Larry and was engaged in 3 months to the man of my dreams. The guy I did not believe could exist, but he does.

As I shared my story, others found love too. So, I quit my 6-figure gig and now help smart high achieving single women worldwide find the one using my signature SuperLOVED™ system.

Can you share with us the most interesting story from your career? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?

I wasn’t on a mission to be a love & relationship coach. This path found me. I always knew I loved teaching and supporting people to create change, but I wasn’t sure how to do that as an entrepreneur. I had already had a lot of success in life — -in my career, buying real estate, and expanding my personal development over my life. But when I had the breakthrough experience that led me to my love story, this was the most significant achievement. I was so thrilled, after years believing that there must be something wrong with me that love wasn’t showing up, and to finally change that and discover my magic formula for finding the one was a dream come true.

I couldn’t help but share it with every single person I knew. I loved teaching people my system, and everyone I gave it to had success! Even the most complicated cases. A woman still living with an Ex, another with a high-powered job, a painful past, and young kids, another having had extraordinary love and then losing her person to cancer, all used what I discovered and found love too.

So, my takeaway was that not only did I find a magic formula for creating my love story, I discovered my life’s purpose that can help others find it too.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

I’m a quirky, creative, intuitive woman! I embrace my weirdness and inspire others to do the same. I like to be a playful interruption to invite those who feel like they are the “exception,” can’t have what they want, get a new possibility about their love life. I am not the coach who loads on a pile of dating rules, tricks, and gimmicks that bypass a person’s inner genius. I help women release all the “wrongness” and self-judgment, old stories, ideas about what’s “attractive,” and that’s keeping her from being who she is. I had a woman come to me who’s a Medical Executive, working in a corporate office, but feeling like a misfit inside. She wanted love but thought there’s no way anyone out there would “get” her. After working together, we were able to clear blocks from old childhood emotional wounds holding her back. Then she met an amazing man who matched her creative, quirky spirit, and now they are happily engaged. “Macy showed me how I could let my “freak flag” fly in my love life and find my guy!”

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

Dr. Deb Sandella, the R.I.M. Institute founder, has been a significant mentor for me personally and professionally. I’ve had the honor of studying directly with Dr. Sandella and become a certified facilitator of her Regenerating Images in Memory (R.I.M.), transformational technique. I was inspired to learn it because of the ease and potency to create fast and lasting change. R.I.M. has been the go-to tool that I use on myself and with my private clients. I love it because it gets to the unconscious source of the emotional blocks where healing can happen. If someone wants a love relationship and it’s not showing up, it’s likely because there’s a subconscious limitation, fear, trauma, or belief keeping them from it. In my experience, R.I.M. is the most magical way to change our unhealthy patterns, release trauma, and increase self-esteem so that a healthy, loving relationship is possible.

Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s shift to the main focus of this interview. We would like to explore and flesh out the trait of resilience. How would you define resilience? What do you believe are the characteristics or traits of resilient people?

Resilience is about being able to have the energy, mindset, and consciousness to move towards my desires so that even when obstacles show up, I’m equipped with tools, support, and strategies to stay on course.

When you think of resilience, which person comes to mind? Can you explain why you chose that person?

It’s not a person. It’s a cockroach. Those little stinkers never give up and are a totem for overcoming anything! Thank you, cockroach energy, for reminding me never to stop pursuing my dreams.

Has there ever been a time that someone told you something was impossible, but you did it anyway? Can you share the story with us?

Yes, many business coaches have told me that I can’t have blue hair or wear a tutu in a photoshoot if I want to attract the woman who will pay for high ticket love coaching programs. Saying I better not be too “weird.” That I needed to wear designer shoes and have a designer handbag for them to like me, that advice wasn’t wrong or bad. It just wasn’t aligned for me. Ditching that advice, I decided to show up in ways that were fun and inspiring. I say, “I dress like love feels,” and let that be my guide. Did I scare clients away? Yes, I’m not for everyone, but the right ones find me.

Did you have a time in your life where you had one of your greatest setbacks, but you bounced back from it stronger than ever? Can you share that story with us?

Growing up, I struggled with my body image. I remember at five years old, poking at my thighs, feeling ugly and fat. Then in my teens, reading Seventeen Magazine and seeing girls my age who looked nothing like me. They were blond, tall, and skinny, and I was brunette, short, and stocky. Seeing these images created a belief that no guy would ever find me attractive the way I was. Poor body image led to a 13-year struggle with an eating disorder, which took years of therapy to overcome. Now I feel good in my body and am aware of how powerful external influences can mold our reality. Working with singles who want love but struggle to create it, the most significant barriers are hidden beliefs, ideas, and stories picked up from childhood that live in the unconscious and drive life. Using the SuperLOVED system tools, I get to the source of the issue and change it for good. When that happens, attracting “the one” is inevitable.

Did you have any experiences growing up that have contributed to building your resiliency? Can you share a story?

My parents owned a flower shop and worked a lot. My sister and I would spend hours waiting for them, no toys, no video games, no friends around. Our imagination was the babysitter that rescued us from boredom. We invented games, created sculptures out of random scraps, and played house by propping soil bags on our hip and pretending it was a baby. Growing up with this experience gave me the mindset to look for possibilities and know there’s nothing I can’t create.

Resilience is like a muscle that can be strengthened. In your opinion, what are 5 steps that someone can take to become more resilient? Please share a story or an example for each.

The 5 Simple Ways to Become More Resilient Online Dating — So You Don’t Give Up Before LOVE Finds You.

Play all the way. Decide to have fun. Seriousness, urgency, and frustration will quickly lead you to burn-out, and you can’t skip dating if you want to fall in love. Having a playful mindset will give you an attractive vibe, online or off! Most people want a partner because they want someone to laugh and play with, so bring that playfulness to your online dating journey. The truth is you can’t create a happily ever after love story from a miserable dating experience. In the end, it only takes one single moment, one wink, or one email for your dream relationship to start, so anticipate that, and play into love now.

Make it a No-Doubt Zone. Most people you see in the world are not going to be a match for you. Your person is not like everyone else, that’s what makes them magical. So when you are dating online, and see a of people who you are not interested in, resist going into a sad stories about “things not working out.” Don’t waste even one-second ranting about people who aren’t a match, or you risk draining your sacred dating mojo and giving up on the dream. Choose to have faith. If you have the desire for love that is your destiny, and the proof that your person exists. Keep your focus looking for the people who inspire sparks of curiosity in you, this is what will lead you to the perfect match.

Use Magic Words. Words are like a magic wand wooing in your lover. Make sure your online profile paints a picture of who you are and how you live in the world. Share specifics.

If you write, I am healthy, that doesn’t say anything. To one person, healthy means a bag of raw almonds and a wheatgrass shot for dinner, and to another, it means having lettuce on a bacon cheeseburger for breakfast. Different kinds of healthy, am I right?

Use your words to show how you “do” healthy. For example, “I start my day hunkering down with my Vitamix to swirl up an organic apple and kale smoothie, Yum!” Sharing snippets as this makes is a no-brainer for those who match you to write because there’s no doubt that they have something in common with you. When you find real connections, even if it does not match it will help you keep the faith and inspired to stay in the game.

A.C.T. and Start Conversations. Having a simple mindful strategy to make connections is key for resilience. Like a flirty gaze across the room or a welcoming smile that opens the door for a deeper conversation.

Instead of just clicking the wink or like, or hoping a good one writes you, use the A.C.T. method to start a conversation. A.C.T. stands for Acknowledge, Connect, and Throwback. To use this, acknowledge something you like in their profile, connect yourself to them, and throwback an engaging question. Easy! For example, in SuperDate100’s profile, you see he likes sushi. You could write, “I love sushi too. Last week I went to Sushi-ma-gooshi on Broadway, the tuna was amazing. What’s your favorite sushi spot in the city?” This acknowledges him, connects you to him, and throws back a question to engage in more conversation. Then see where it goes.

Having a system means you are not losing energy overthinking what to write, burning out writing too much or wasting time wishing, waiting, and hoping. Efficiency is key to dating resiliency!

Enlist Dating Support. Dating online requires that your emotional health is above the line to stay the course.

Putting yourself out there will bring stuff up. Any insecurities and fears lurking inside heart are magnified in the online dating world, triggering even the toughest soul. So, before putting yourself out there, get expert support to clear any known or unknown blocks, so that you can cultivate the security within that allows your wisest self to the dating experience. When you do this, you don’t take things personally, or unconsciously push love away, you know who you are (quirks and all), and that frees your heart to recognize your best match and helps your person find you.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

Yes, I’m known as the “America’s Unicorn Love Coach” helping the smart, woman worried that what she wants can’t possibly exist, get past the blocks, and find her perfect love.

I’d inspire a movement where women live their full “weirdo” glory, no longer hiding or trying to fit into someone else’s ideas of what’s attractive and “right.” Being the lighthouse for women to be empowered and sexy in their “weirdo advantage,” skilled at creating authentic relationships, letting go of the lies and fears, falling madly in love not only with a beloved but with themselves.

I see happy women worldwide ripping off the rags of self-judgment and throwing them into a bonfire to burn like the bras in the ’60s so that they can have phenomenal love.

We are blessed that some very prominent leaders read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the U.S. with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them 🙂

I’d love to have a zoom coffee date with Amy Schumer or interview her for my podcast “The Cafeteria of Love.” She is the funniest woman on the planet. And she’s a powerful voice for body love, rejecting the stupid media that has made women feel bad about themselves for so long. I experienced it, and every day, women share with me heartbreaking stories on this topic, convinced that they are not “ready” or “good enough” for love because of the way they look, and it’s not true. Amy is changing this. She’s smart, hilarious, irreverent, and creating a powerful movement for women.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

https://www.instagram.com/macy_superloved/

https://www.facebook.com/groups/Iamsuperloved

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!


Macy Matarazzo of SuperLOVED: Rising Through Resilience; Five Things You Can Do To Become More… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

The Future of Communication Technology: Hugh Carspecken of DartPoints On How Their Technological…

The Future of Communication Technology: Hugh Carspecken of DartPoints On How Their Technological Innovation Will Shake Up How We Connect and Communicate With Each Other

Spread joy, not fear. Respect pales in comparison to Love. Love makes people run into burning buildings to save you. Respect makes people write really nice eulogies about you.

The telephone totally revolutionized the way we could communicate with people all over the world. But then came email and took it to the next level. And then came text messaging. And then came video calls. And so on…What’s next? What’s just around the corner?

In this interview series, called ‘The Future Of Communication Technology’ we are interviewing leaders of tech or telecom companies who are helping to develop emerging communication technologies and the next generation of how we communicate and connect with each other.

As a part of this series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Hugh Carspecken, co-founder and chief strategy officer of DartPoints.

Hugh Carspecken brings over 23 years of cross-industry technology experience, from data networking to fiber optics to wireless/cellular infrastructure, foundational experience, aiding to establish the vision and mission of DartPoints. Hugh’s early career in engineering and network deployments span metro fiber, access, and cellular networks, with later experience starting and growing successful start-ups in Silicon Valley, such as ONI Systems (NASDAQ: ONIS before NYSE: CIEN), FiberTower (NASDAQ: FTWR before NYSE: T) , and Wave2Wave.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started? Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

Exposed to a variety of opportunities during the early 1990’s working in Silicon Valley, technology was my true curiosity. Having the opportunity to develop technology fulfilled my passion and offered me a unique chance for both professional and personal wealth early on. However, in the early 2000’s the dot-com bubble burst, exposing the need to develop technology not just on speculation or value, but on the ‘why’. Technology development is great and it’s very important to me, however, it also poses some concerns when you don’t consider the impact of its capabilities. Today we’re realizing why the ‘why’ is so important. As we consider key concerns such as lack of privacy, clickbait, the ‘Social Dilemma,’ are more highlighting the many issues and concerns I faced earlier in my career, and are now part of our current digital reality. From this lesson, I learned to focus my attention on why things are happening or why they need to happen versus the need to drive current or future value.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“Hugh, what do you think we produce?” my first Silicon Valley company CEO asked me. A young and naïve Hugh responded, “We produce optical transmission equipment.” He responded, “Wrong. We produce stock.” Stock as in return on shareholder investments. This was an eye-opening exchange for me, and obviously has stayed with me my entire career. From that day forward I chose to start/build companies that produced something of value that creates a platform for future growth, not something that just focuses on the “right now.” Stock is important but growing the value that supports the stock allows for much greater growth and allows more people to share in the benefits.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

In my late-twenties, I was smart and young though not as developed emotionally, much like many other young professionals of that age. I was fortunate to receive an investment from a firm, and the very influential owner sat on the board of my company. After one board meeting, I was feeling good about how it went and very self-important, and he approached me and said, “Hugh, there is no doubt you are smart. Maybe the smartest in the room. But, you cannot lead.” My ego was deflated in an instant. He recommended I read a book by Daniel Goleman on how to manage emotional intelligence. It was at that point that I learned that communication is not about what is factual (though that is very important), it is how you deliver your facts and how others perceive you, ultimately getting their buy in. After this, I went on a personal and professional quest to improve my emotional intelligence and to self-transform into the leader I imagined I could be. The five year process took into account my personal appearance, transforming from a long-haired, shaggy looking athlete to a manicured, well-dressed executive; shifts to management style to focus on leading from individual’s strengths, rather than implied needs; identified goals and positioning them for collective alignment rather than forced adoption; and more. Today, I often share the anecdote that volunteer teams, who are self motivated, interested to accomplish great things with the limited time they have are able to move mountains much more effectively than tightly and overly managed teams ever could. I’ve never forgotten this lesson and have passed it along to others.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

I found success rooted in my failures which encouraged me to embrace humility. Finding humility redirected me towards supporting those around me, which built stronger, tighter teams. Teams that could jointly define positive missions with goals that could be achieved through patience and perseverance. By achieving goals from this perspective, the teams around me developed self-confidence converting into future success. While not world changing, this approach has changed a few people’s worlds.

Ok wonderful. Let’s now shift to the main focus of our interview. Can you tell us about the cutting edge communication tech that you are working on? How do you think that will help people?

DartPoints is a company focused on enabling and enhancing network interconnection in markets that need it most. Simply put, we are bridging the digital divide in underserved areas throughout the US by aggregating networks, content and cloud providers, applications and more in specific locations. This enables the local digital ecosystem to connect, improve performance, and create more competitive markets. These facilities transform local markets and position them for future growth and participation in the exploding digital economy. DartPoints is opening up local and regional markets by building enhanced and reliable localized facilities that provide an environment where other providers can enter and offer their service, building national value on a local level. Providers in these localities can now transform previously underserved markets into primary locations that drive revenue growth. This model drives more applications tailored to the specific needs of the local population, and even more so, may be of interest to the greater whole of the nation.

How do you think this might change the world?

As the pandemic highlighted, digital infrastructure has changed the world for nearly everyone. We are more dependent on technology than ever before, firmly positioning technology for insatiable growth in all directions. At DartPoints, we’ve analyzed the digital landscape for the past eight years, anticipating challenges and identifying opportunities required to expand into in order to create equal access not just for people and businesses but for technology and applications to prosper. As a result, DartPoints’ strategic vision is to enable the ubiquitous access to applications, those available today and those that are merely twinkles in their developers’ eyes. As a result, we envision our network-neutral interconnection and aggregation points as bridges that allow applications to deliver and empower information no matter where they are or what purpose they’re for, while improving performance and ROI for developers and users alike.

Keeping “Black Mirror” in mind can you see any potential drawbacks about this technology that people should think more deeply about?

Let’s consider this: algorithms that make data processing more efficient are simply a digital construct of stereotyping. The construct of stereotypes or labelling allows humans to align complex thoughts and ideas with others to create a collective agreement about the world we live in. Algorithms coalesce the collective data points to categorize and simulate this process, aligning ideals, thoughts, and behavior in a digital world to anticipate outcomes and reactions. As a result, the uniqueness of man gives way to the generalization of man. Consider this, further stereotyping and more stereotypical buckets to consider will dilute and generalize the process — particularly for political and mass-marketing purposes. As a result, the more localized the digital algorithms extract, the more generalized and fragmented we become as a whole. Consider the energy required to ‘unmelt’ the US, and how that process may impact or have adverse effects on building community and solidarity in humankind.

Was there a “tipping point” that led you to this breakthrough? Can you tell us that story?

Since the advent of digital communications, there has always been a need for it to be distributed and accessible by most people, if not all people. Innovation of our digital world typically shapes and reshapes our relationship with data-driven applications every five to seven years. Here’s an example. Until now, the idea of the digital divide has strictly been about access. Wha has broadband, who does not, and how do we get it to more people? Advances in big data, AI, HPC and Iot have opened our eyes in a sense to a new view of the digital divide. That new view is access plus performance. Some of the most amazing things enabled by digital solutions, like smart agriculture for instance, really don’t work in the centralized-hub model we’ve built because of performance issues. So, what happens in this cycle is that within this time frame, technology and the applications it enables starts centralized and then becomes more distributed, reaching more and more people en masse. Recognizing this performance gap for the use and access to data and the applications they deliver led to the creation of DartPoints. DartPoints’ vision is to enable the hyper-distribution of data, especially as the development of data and applications expand from centralized cities and hubs to adjacent and hard to reach markets. Selective distribution of data is no longer an option, widely-distributed and equal access to data is the problem we are solving.

What do you need to lead this technology to widespread adoption?

There’s a famous quote from Game of Thrones where Daenerys says, “I’m not going to stop the wheel, I’m going to break the wheel.” In a nutshell, the current way networks, content and application providers are expanding their reach are based on available locations in proximity to the most users in a cost effective way. This approach follows the same expansion model that many of their businesses began from. They’re down a path that may not be the most efficient to improve access to digital infrastructure that today’s and tomorrow’s applications require. As a result, we need to break the rules on how infrastructure expands and reimagine how to better construct our digital infrastructure through understanding why.

The team and I at DartPoints are challenging companies married to traditional infrastructure and business models to evolve. Re-imaging today’s digital infrastructure deployments will upend old models while making way for new ones that will vastly improve performance, resiliency and reliability beyond core markets to create opportunity for additional growth in adjacent and underserved markets. We expect this will equalize access, enhancing the ability to adopt technology solutions, and provide normalized access to even more people from nearly any device or location. I welcome the opportunity to speak with content, application, cloud and network providers to share a different perspective on how to reimagine and re-approach network design to enable digital communications more seamlessly and effectively for the most amount of people.

The pandemic has changed so many things about the way we behave. One of them of course, is how we work and how we communicate in our work. How do you think your innovation might be able to address the new needs that have arisen as a result of the pandemic?

The pandemic made painfully clear that all of our network resources were attached to commercial real estate (i.e. office buildings, etc.) locations and that a more competitive and distributed digital infrastructure is required. Residential networks were not prepared for the literal switch from commercial to residential data use. At DartPoints, our vision for a more distributed network infrastructure places our facilities and access points adjacent to last-mile networks that serve both commercial and residential uses. As a result, through our vision for more distributed infrastructure, DartPoints is already solving this problem, facilitating a transition to enable data distribution even more effectively.

Fantastic. Here is the main question of our interview. What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why? (Please share a story or example for each.)

  1. The end never justifies the means. Relationships are important. Never jeopardize them or your integrity.
  2. Allow your teams and yourself to make mistakes. Learn from those mistakes and do it better. Be patient with yourself and learn how to make lemonade from scratch. A lot.
  3. Take in information from everyone, but always verify for yourself. Don’t make snap decisions, based on other’s data. There are a lot of assumptions masked as facts.
  4. You cannot know everything. Certainly, not all the time about everything. Rely on others and choose your team wisely and invest in them.
  5. Spread joy, not fear. Respect pales in comparison to Love. Love makes people run into burning buildings to save you. Respect makes people write really nice eulogies about you.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I have been truly fortunate in my career and the opportunity to work with some great mentors and leaders. One of my biggest lessons has been that it’s important to look at the rising young ranks and to train, teach and empower them with both compassion and integrity. If we can guide, nurture and mentor, we provide a construct for learning that aligns with both existing visions and emerging realities to truly move forward rather than abandoning them to simply figure it all out on their own. There is a ton of independent thought out there. So how do we best empower future leaders and imbue them with the perspective that only seems to come from history and experience? Similar to the challenges we have with algorithms that further segment data into specific locales and ideals, by leaving young people to their own devices and notions, they risk becoming limited by the echo chamber effect of hyper targeting when it comes to thoughts and ideas. By bringing a young workforce under our wings, we help guide them toward what is right versus what feels right. We share lessons, highlighting the ‘why’ in all that we do, so they can prosper while applying their uniqueness, ideals, and values in a way we can all embrace. Instead of using a megaphone approach to aligning a younger workforce, one-on-one discussions foster conversations that allow the exchange of ideas and opinions that can be shaped and reshaped for mutual prosperity.

How can our readers further follow your work online? LinkedIn.

https://www.linkedin.com/in/hughcarspecken/

Thank you so much for the time you spent doing this interview. This was very inspirational, and we wish you continued success.


The Future of Communication Technology: Hugh Carspecken of DartPoints On How Their Technological… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Heroes of The Homeless Crisis: How Ken Craft of ‘Hope of The Valley’ is Helping To Support Some Of…

Heroes of The Homeless Crisis: How Ken Craft of ‘Hope of The Valley’ is Helping To Support Some Of The Most Vulnerable People In Our Communities

Don’t forget to take care of yourself. Just as the airplane flight attendant reminds us to put our own oxygen mask on before putting the mask on our child, if I do not take care of myself in this field of service, I will have nothing left to give others. He who burns the candle at both ends is not as bright as he thinks he is!

As a part of my series about “Heroes Of The Homeless Crisis” I had the pleasure of interviewing Ken Craft, CEO of Hope of The Valley Rescue Mission.

After spending many years in the non-profit and for-profit world, in 2009, Ken Craft started Hope of the Valley Rescue Mission. His goal from the beginning was to create a responsive organization to address the growing problem of hunger and homelessness in Los Angeles. Ken has guided the organization from infancy to a leading housing and homeless service agency. Currently, Hope of the Valley has over 220 employees and 17 site locations. Ken is passionate about his work and is known for his authentic and transparent leadership style. Ken is married and has 3 adult children.

Thank you so much for joining us! Our readers would love to ‘get to know you’ a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your personal background, and how you grew up?

I grew up in Ventura California, a beach community 40 miles north of Los Angeles. Life was good for me as I enjoyed relative success in athletics and academics. My family was very religious, Christian Faith, and church life was a big part of my upbringing.

Is there a particular story or incident that inspired you to get involved in your work helping people who are homeless?

Many people enter the world of social services thru the front door, majoring in social work. Not me….I came into it from the back door. In light of my religious upbringing, I went full time into pastoral ministry as a young man, first as a youth pastor then as a Senior Pastor. The church I started grew to well over 2,000 in attendance in 8 years. Then, I had my own broken world experience, went through a divorce and lost everything. I went from the Penthouse to the Doghouse. I was the young up and coming preacher, but due to moral failure I was ushered out the back door of the church and instructed not to come back. The experience was devastating, painful and profoundly impacted me. After that experience, with the accompanying feelings of shame and unworthiness, I gave up on helping people and living a life of public services until one day when I had lunch with a Rescue Mission Director and he asked me if I ever considered working with the poor and homeless. I told him NO as it was the last thing on my mind. But as we ate lunch that day surrounded by men who had failure, devastation and loss in their lives, I felt encouraged that maybe, just maybe I could be used to help give people a second chance in life. That was the beginning of my heart being turned to the outcast, the abandoned and marginalized. I slowly began to see life thru a new prism.

Homelessness has been a problem for a long time in the United States. But it seems that it has gotten a lot worse over the past five years, particularly in the large cities, such as Los Angeles, New York, Seattle, and San Francisco. Can you explain to our readers what brought us to this place? Where did this crisis come from?

The cost of living in our major metropolitan areas has skyrocketed out of control. In Los Angeles, the average 1 bedroom apartment costs $2,100. Many people are one paycheck away from being homeless. Spending 50% or more of your income on housing is not sustainable. Then, you throw in the lack of mental health facilities, domestic violence, lack of prison reform and re-entry from incarceration and the increase of methamphetamine and other drug use, you have a cocktail for a humanitarian crisis called homelessness.

For the benefit of our readers, can you describe the typical progression of how one starts as a healthy young person with a place to live, a job, an education, a family support system, a social support system, a community support system, to an individual who is sleeping on the ground at night? How does that progression occur?

The pathway into homelessness and the pathway out of homelessness is as varied as each individual experiencing homelessness. I remember one woman with two teenage daughters who became homeless after the home she was renting went into foreclosure. It was not only her home, but her place of business. She ran a daycare center from her home. She was in shock. She had consistently paid her rent, but the owners of the property were not using her rent to pay the mortgage and let the home go into foreclosure. The mother received an eviction notice and became homeless living in her car with her two teenage daughters for 6 months before they reached out to us for help. Another woman we recently helped had her house burn down and for 5 years she lived in her car before she entered our Tiny Home Community. Others live a more reckless life through addiction and the severing all family bridges of support. The most prevalent cause of homelessness is poverty, unemployment and the inability to afford a first month’s rent and security deposit against the background of a potential poor credit score.

A question that many people who are not familiar with the intricacies of this problem ask is, “Why don’t homeless people just move to a city that has cheaper housing?” How do you answer this question?

If I had a dollar for every time someone told me we should round up all the homeless people and have them live in the desert I would be a rich man. We must remember, people experiencing homelessness are people who have experienced tremendous amounts of trauma. Sending someone to an area they are unfamiliar with and telling them to “start over” is unrealistic and borderline inhumane. If it was such a great idea, surely we would have models of its success, but we don’t. In order for people to rise above their circumstances, they need a strong network of support. They need to be part of “their” community. Just outside of Los Angeles is the high desert communities of Palmdale and Lancaster. They have made it clear that shipping LA’s problem up to the high desert is not a viable solution. Instead of shuffling people from one community to the next, each community needs to provide systems and solutions to empower people to better their lives thru a livable wage, affordable housing and supportive services.

If someone passes a homeless person on the street, what is the best way to help them?

I would ask them if they are open to receiving help and if they are, connect them to your local homeless service provider. In Los Angeles, anyone who is homeless, hungry or in crisis, can call 211 and access resources and organizations that specialize in meeting their needs.

What is the best way to respond if a homeless person asks for money for rent or gas?

I recommend that people carry Care Packets in their car consisting of a water bottle, granola bars, dried fruits and nuts with a card and phone number to the nearest housing and homeless service provider. I personally do not recommend giving homeless people money.

Can you describe to our readers how your work is making an impact battling this crisis?

Eleven years ago when I started Hope of the Valley Rescue Mission, other than the four month Cold Weather Shelter, there was virtually no shelter beds available for the then nearly 6,000 homeless people in the San Fernando Valley. The mindset was that people should go to Skid Row, Downtown Los and Angeles, and get help. Now, Hope of the Valley operates 10 Interim Housing facilities for youth, families, men and women in the San Fernando Valley sheltering over 570 people each night. By the end of 2021, that number will increase to over 1,100 people being housed each night. Our end game is not merely to shelter people. Our success is measured by the number of people who are permanently housed and stay housed!

How has the COVID-19 pandemic affected the homeless crisis, and the homeless community? Also how has it affected your ability to help people?

Covid-19 has had a severe impact on the homeless community. Our congregant shelters have been hit especially hard. Even with our best efforts to socially distance, wear masks, hand wash and provide testing, we have had many Covid outbreaks. Positive tests at a shelter are exceptionally hard on clients as our sites are required by the Department of Public Health to go into lock down. That means that clients are not allowed to come and go and leave as they please. Instead, clients are locked down at a single site for 14 days. Such limitations do not work well with people suffering from mental illness or trauma. Oftentimes, many of our clients leave the shelters during lock down because they cannot handle the restrictions. Those outside of the shelters have not fared much better due to unsanitary conditions and lack of hygiene facilities at encampments.

Can you share something about your work that makes you most proud? Is there a particular story or incident that you found most uplifting?

Nothing makes me prouder than when a client breaks free from addiction, becomes employed and permanently housed. Recently I was talking to a gentleman in our newly opened NoHo Shelter. I asked him what his story was. He told me that he was a baseball coach at a local high school, he worked in animation, owned a home in the Valley, was married with two children. He lost his job, went through a divorce and became homeless. While on the streets he was introduced to crystal meth. For 2 years he chased the drug. He became an addict and was sure he would die on the streets. Once we opened the NoHo Shelter, an outreach worker brought him to us. He was at the end of himself. While at the shelter, he detoxed, his hope was renewed and he began to think clearly. After a couple months, he knocked on every door in the industrial complex where the shelter is located until someone hired him. He was employed, worked each day, saved his money and left the shelter for permanent housing. Now that is why I get up each morning! People need a hand up not a hand out….they need to be empowered not enabled!

Without sharing real names, can you share a story with our readers about a particular individual who was impacted or helped by your work?

Earlier this year I cracked my tooth while eating. I called my dentist for an emergency appointment and he notified me that he was no longer practicing dentistry. So, he gave me the name of a friend who was taking his patients. I went to go see this new dentist. As I was checking in and filling out paperwork, the lady behind the desk asked me if ran a shelter for homeless families. Not really feeling like conversing because of my pain, I told her yes. She smiled and said, “I have always hoped that someday I would see you again. You took me, my husband and two daughters into your shelter eight years ago. It was a devastating time for us. We had lost everything yet you opened your arms without judgment and took us in.” She went on to tell me that both of her daughters were in college, her husband had a good job, as did she, and they were eternally grateful for all the Mission had done for them. With my tooth throbbing I asked her for a picture telling her that seldom do I get to see the long-term fruit of our labors.

Can you share three things that the community and society can do to help you address the root of this crisis? Can you give some examples?

People who genuinely care about the homeless crisis can give their TIME, TALENT and TREASURE or said another way, their WISDOM, WEALTH or WORK. Amazing things happen when we take the time to get to know someone who is homeless. Oftentimes, people live in fear of the homeless as if they are sub-human. Nothing could be further from the truth. They are people like you and me who have fallen on hard times. Imagine what the world would be like if we embraced our brothers and sister in need instead of shunning them. Every day I see hero’s who teach classes for our clients, mentor those in need and financially give generously. I am reminded of an LA based company, Beachbody Inc. who is offering each of their three hundred employees 3 paid days to volunteer at the Mission. Amazing!

If you had the power to influence legislation, which three laws would you like to see introduced that might help you in your work?

  1. We as a society, health care professionals, must have the right to conserve people that are severely mentally ill living on the streets. It is inhumane to allow people to defecate on themselves and sit on park benches in a perpetual state of incoherency.
  2. Mandate that every community provide services for their homeless. Many hands make light work and no community is “too good” that they cannot and should not help share the burden.
  3. Mandate drug diversion programs in our corrective institutions for substance abuse offenders.

I know that this is not easy work. What keeps you going?

I derive ultimate satisfaction and pleasure knowing that I am living a life of purpose. Someone once said that there are three levels of living, Survival, Success and Significance. The work that we do is not about success, in the normal metrics of success…what we do is about significance…. Living a life of purpose and meaning, empowering others to transform their lives.

Do you have hope that one day this great social challenge can be solved completely?

I think there will always be a percentage of people that are shelter resistant, or are not yet ready to receive help. I put that number around 15%. The other 85% are people, if given the opportunity and resources, would accept the hand up and work to reform their lives. America is a great nation. When we set our minds to doing great things, we get things done. Homelessness is a national emergency and will require a national coordinated response. When JFK said we would put a man on the moon, we did. We need leaders who will stand up today and say, “we are better than this. We WILL put an end to hunger and homelessness in America”.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.

  1. Even while doing good, there will be plenty of people who do not appreciate your efforts, do good anyway. Kites fly highest against the wind!
  2. Don’t overestimate what can be done in one year and underestimate what can be done in 10 years. The mighty oak tree was a little nut who refused to give up his ground. Determination and persistence go a long way in creating lasting change.
  3. If you want to go fast go alone, if you want to go far go together. Make sure you build your team. It takes Teamwork to make the Dreamwork. I don’t have to be an expert at everything, but I must be willing to surround myself with people who are!
  4. Don’t forget to take care of yourself. Just as the airplane flight attendant reminds us to put our own oxygen mask on before putting the mask on our child, if I do not take care of myself in this field of service, I will have nothing left to give others. He who burns the candle at both ends is not as bright as he thinks he is!
  5. Do the good work and good people will support you. In this field it is easy to worry about money. Homeless services is expensive. Each of our sites is a 24/365 operation with security, food services, hygiene and supportive services costs. I have been blown away at the kindness and generosity of people who genuinely care and support the work of the Mission.

You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

Nothing great happens in life without sacrifice and effort. We cannot continue to put the same effort into solving homeless and expect better results. We need to declare war on poverty and homelessness in the US. For just one year, let’s take 20% of our Military Budget and allocate it to building permanent affordable housing, interim housing, mental health facilities and prison reform.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“When all is said and done, make sure more is done than said.” There is nothing worse than the paralysis of analysis. You can only say “Ready Aim” for so long. Eventually you have to say, “FIRE”. At Hope of the Valley, we have made our fair share of mistakes, failure to launch has not been one of them!

Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂

Elon Musk …. He seems fearless in his willingness to innovate and solve real world problems.

How can our readers follow you online?

Facebook: @kencraft @hopeofthevalley

Instagram: @hopeofthevalley

This was very meaningful, thank you so much!

Thank you!


Heroes of The Homeless Crisis: How Ken Craft of ‘Hope of The Valley’ is Helping To Support Some Of… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Mona Pretorius de Lacey of RAWR Strength: Rising Through Resilience; Five Things You Can Do To…

Mona Pretorius de Lacey of RAWR Strength: Rising Through Resilience; Five Things You Can Do To Become More Resilient

You need to have a vision or a goal and work towards it. You also need to be flexible so that if something takes you off your path you need to be able to go back to the drawing board, figure out where things went wrong and start moving forward. Many times in my life I have not achieved my goals. I didn’t make me quit, it made me relook at why I wasn’t achieving it and then move forward with my new plan to achieve my goal.

In this interview series, we are exploring the subject of resilience among successful business leaders. Resilience is one characteristic that many successful leaders share in common, and in many cases it is the most important trait necessary to survive and thrive in today’s complex market.

I had the pleasure of interviewing Mona Pretorius de Lacey.

Mona Pretorius de Lacey is a 6-time Karate World Champion, CrossFit Games athlete as well as a Commonwealth Games medalist in Olympic Weightlifting. She is currently in the South African squad for the Olympic Games in 2021 in Tokyo. Mona also has an Honours Degree in Sport Psychology as well as an Honours Certificate in Mindfulness Training. You can find her online coaching business at RAWR Strength)

Thank you so much for joining us! Our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your backstory?

I would like to share the backstory of how I became an International athlete preparing for the up and coming Olympic Games as well as a business co-owner of RAWR Strength & as a Mental Performance Coach.

It all started at a very young age for my passion for sport. I grew up in a house where strength training was a part of our blood. My first sport I competed in at an international level where I became a 6x World Champion and a 3rd Dan Black Belt was Karate. Although sport was a big part of our life, I wasn’t always the most talented. I had to work really hard and train long hours to become a good athlete. I had to sacrifice playing with friends for training. I was away a lot for sporting competitions and together with this I had to keep my academic marks high in order to get into a good university where I could further my studies to achieve my Honors Degree in Sport Psychology. This could only be done with hard work, motivation, dedication and very good time management.

My passion as an athlete and the hard work I needed in order to achieve carried over to my current sport Olympic Weightlifting which I have been doing for 20 years. I have numerous records and international medals under my belt but my proudest would be my Commonwealth Games Medal I won in 2018.

I knew I wanted to do something that ties in both my passion for Sport Psychology (Mental skills training) and my sport. I owned a CrossFit & Weightlifting gym back in 2012 where again I had to balance being a gym owner with competing at a top level. Now I am currently seeing athletes both to improve and be a better Weightlifter as well as the mental side as a Mental Performance Coach.

I have always loved working with people and I believe my background as an athlete carries over well. I can now take what I learnt in my years of studying and combine it with what I have learnt as an athlete and a coach.

Can you share with us the most interesting story from your career? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?

I am going to share my most interesting story as a professional athlete and how my career unfolded. I was definitely not the most talented athlete there but I was definitely the hardest worker in the room. I have had many ups and downs in my career but I took every down as a lesson. I would go back to the drawing board and start the process again to build myself up after a set-back. I never let a setback stay with me for too long because I do not like to dwell in the past, that’s why it is called the past. I knew I needed to focus on the present moment to make a success of my future. Although my journey of being an athlete isn’t over yet, I am still striving every day to be the best version of myself I can be.

It took me 18 years to stand on the podium at the Commonwealth Games, which for those that don’t know, is the 2nd biggest event to the Olympics. My first ever Commonwealth Games I was still a very young up and coming athlete. I was the youngest in our team and I ended up coming 5th which was a very good achievement for my age. That wasn’t where I wanted to leave it, I wanted to be on that podium with a medal around my neck. Just like the Olympic Games, the Commonwealth Games is only every 4 years. So I continued my hard work for another 4 years and qualified for the Commonwealth Games in India. I unfortunately was dealing with an injury in India and ended up not making a total. I was very sad about what happened but decided I needed to train smarter and go up a weight class. My low bodyweight with me still growing was very hard to keep so I decided to move up to the 63kg class. I continued to train really hard for the next 4 years and also got my Degree in Sport Psychology over the next 4 Years and opened up my own CrossFit & Weightlifting gym whilst working with athletes on the mental side of things as a Mental Performance Coach to help them with their sport.

4 Years later and I qualified again for another Commonwealth Games. This time in Glasgow, Scotland. I was extremely happy that I once again had a chance to show off all the hard work I have put in. With all the hard training I did and a very very busy life with work on top of that I failed to 100% look after my body and ended up training through another injury. I wanted to be on that podium so badly that I just carried on with training. When I got to the competition I had so much pain in my wrist and ended up not making another total. This was devastating to me and I would lie if I said I did not think of maybe throwing in the towel and calling it with my sport. What kept me going during these years was all the other competititions that I haven’t mentioned but I ended up doing really well in the smaller international ones but bombed out at yet another Commonwealth Games. I questioned all the hard work I put in, I could not understand why I failed when I put in 110% into every single training session. I couldn’t understand why I couldn’t just shine on the platform. A lot of people said to me maybe it’s time to focus on something else. You have so much going for you and career Mona, maybe you should just focus on that. I knew in my heart that I couldn’t bow out like this. This isn’t how I was raised. Like the person I am, I went yet again, back to the drawing board. This time things will be different. Surely after 16 years things will be different. I am going to make sure I listen to my body over the next 4 years working up to the next Commonwealth Games, hoping I would be chosen. Traveling overseas to compete and qualify was also very expensive for me as an athlete because we had to and still have to pay our own way to every single event. I had an amazing team who helped me raise funds to go to Malaysia to try and win gold so I can get an automatic qualification for the next Commonwealth Games in Goldcoast, Australia. I did it! This meant I could just focus until the Commonwealth Games, stay healthy and enjoy my training. I went to the Commonwealth Games in Australia and just felt different, newspapers and tv crew were interviewing me asking how I felt being in the team after 2 disappointing previous Commonwealth Games. I told them I felt different, I felt so much more ready and I felt healthy. I went into these Games in 2018 with no injuries at all. I did my best ever competition lifts, broke 3 South African Records and narrowly missed the silver medal with 1kg. I will still over the moon. I finally made it, I finally achieved my dream after 18 years in the sport.

My take aways from this, don’t give up on your dreams no matter what obstacles gets thrown your way.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

I believe my company stands out because it has been built on what I have learned and experienced as an athlete and coach over 21 years. I have taken what I have learned and turned it into an online platform so that I can help athletes become a better Weightlifter from all over the world. The same with my Mental Performance Coaching. I share my story as an athlete and I can relate to what the athletes are going through. I have also been working with corporate businesses helping their staff be better and more efficient with work whilst being more motivated. Hard work and resiliency can help you in anything that you want to be successful in. You need passion and drive to make your business a success. Just like training, you have to work smart.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

Definitely my father. He was very hard on me but he also helped shape me into the person I am today. Being resilient is something he played a big part in my life. He helped me realize that you need to work hard for anything in life that you truly want. Nothing just gets handed to you on a silver platter. You have to make it work and no one can do it for you.

Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s shift to the main focus of this interview. We would like to explore and flesh out the trait of resilience. How would you define resilience? What do you believe are the characteristics or traits of resilient people?

My definition of resiliency is being able to make something work no matter what gets thrown your way. You put your head down and continue to work hard to achieve your dreams and goals. Being a resilient person also helps you bounce back from a setback a lot faster. It doesn’t mean that you won’t get affected by the setback because we are human after all. It just means we go back to the drawing board, see where we went wrong and continue to move forwards.

Characteristics of a resilient person in my opinion is a hard worker no matter what happens. You keep your eye on the goal and you stay as motivated as possible. You focus on what you can control rather than just worrying about all the uncontrollable out there that could affect us. You keep focused and calm during very stressful events and try and focus on the best possible outcome.

When you think of resilience, which person comes to mind? Can you explain why you chose that person?

David Goggins. He has overcome so much in his life and even with obstacles thrown his way he still focusses on what he can control and makes the best of it. He doesn’t let negativity from the outside world stop him and he sets his eyes on a goal and puts in 110% daily to achieve that goal. He doesn’t wait for things to happen but rather he makes things happen to be successful.

Has there ever been a time that someone told you something was impossible, but you did it anyway? Can you share the story with us?

Definitely. I was told I could never get my Honours Degree in Sport Psychology and be a professional at the same time. When they told me that I took that motivation and made it work. In my mind I felt like I have accomplished so much more already so why can I not do both and do well at both. It was extremely hard and it took a lot of sacrifices. But I made it work. I won international medals and still completed my degree with Honours.

Did you have a time in your life where you had one of your greatest setbacks, but you bounced back from it stronger than ever? Can you share that story with us?

It took me 18 Years to stand on the podium at the Commonwealth Games in 2018. After so many small injuries I finally got my body healthy and strong and stood on that podium. Commonwealth Games is only held once every 4 years just like the Olympics. When you fail at it, you have to wait other 4 years before you can compete in it again. After my 4th Commonwealth Games everything came together perfectly for me to break 3 South African Records, get 6 out of 6 lifts and Win a Bronze medal.

Did you have any experiences growing up that have contributed to building your resiliency? Can you share a story?

I was never the most talented athlete which means I had to work harder than others but I also believed I wanted it more than others. I put in everything I had to to be the best I can be. Before my Weightlifting career I was a Karate athlete. I failed my very first grading which was for yellow belt. A very embarrassing moment for me. All my friends passed and I was kept behind. I believe that was my defining moment even though I was only 8 years old. I could have quit but I didn’t. I took that failure and turned it into a success. I became a 6 time Karate World champion and a 3rd Dan Black Belt Karateka all under the age of 16 Years.

Resilience is like a muscle that can be strengthened. In your opinion, what are 5 steps that someone can take to become more resilient? Please share a story or an example for each.

1stly you need to want to be successful. If you don’t want to be successful then I don’t believe that you can become more resilient. I wanted to prove to myself that I can be a better Karateka than the 8 year old girl that failed her first grading.

2ndly you need to be disciplined person. You must have that drive and motivation to work hard no matter what gets thrown your way.

3rdly you need to have a vision or a goal and work towards it. You also need to be flexible so that if something takes you off your path you need to be able to go back to the drawing board, figure out where things went wrong and start moving forward. Many times in my life I have not achieved my goals. I didn’t make me quit, it made me relook at why I wasn’t achieving it and then move forward with my new plan to achieve my goal.

4thly you need to have confidence and believe in your abilities. If you don’t believe you can do something then it will never work. If I didn’t believe that I could stand on that podium or that I couldn’t get my degree while being a professional athlete then I would have never been able to do it. It’s hard sometimes I know, but you have to believe that you have the capability to do it better than anyone.

5th and final point make sure you keep reminding yourself why you started in the first place. Of course you will face hardships and of course you might feel like quitting sometimes but remembering why you started in the first place is so important to continuing moving forward. Do it for YOU!

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I have always wanted to help young kids in orphanages. I have wanted to create an opportunity for them through sport by having a big space where I can train these kids and do life skill sessions with them and help these kids have a safe space and a community to grow and develop. I want to be able to give these kids a chance to become something in life and even if I can help just one of them would be amazing. Each and every child should have these opportunities and places where they feel like they have a sport family.

We are blessed that some very prominent leaders read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them 🙂

David Goggins. I would love to be able to talk to such an inspiring person who have helped me this last year to keep my eye on the target and continue to pursue my Olympic Dream.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

You can follow me on Instagram at @powerfulpretorius or go and visit my website with loads of training advice and programs at rawrstrength.com

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!


Mona Pretorius de Lacey of RAWR Strength: Rising Through Resilience; Five Things You Can Do To… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

The Future Is Now: Jim Berryhill of DecisionLink On How Their Technological Innovation Will Shake…

The Future Is Now: Jim Berryhill of DecisionLink On How Their Technological Innovation Will Shake Up The Tech Scene

Believe in yourself but make sure it’s something you are good at. David Cummings writes a great blog. I’m amazed at the number of times I’ve read something along the lines of “I want to be an entrepreneur; how do I find ideas to be/do that?” Seriously??? Go get some experience, identify something that you are good at, think your way to a solution to a problem, find out somebody else is already doing it, go back to the drawing board. Rinse and repeat until you answer 1, 2 and 3 in the strong affirmative and know without a doubt you are good at whatever it is. Then, prepare to start learning.

As a part of our series about cutting edge technological breakthroughs, I had the pleasure of interviewing Jim Berryhill.

Jim Berryhill is the CEO & Co-Founder of DecisionLink. Jim spent over 30 years in enterprise software sales and sales management, leading high-performance teams at ADR, CA, Siebel Systems and HP Software with a focus on value selling. He founded DecisionLink with a vision to empower companies to make customers for life by delivering the first enterprise-class platform for Customer Value Management. Jim is a graduate of the University of Georgia, resides in Atlanta with his wife Elise, and has two children and three grandchildren.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

Well, it was really a series of Aha moments over the course of more than 30 years. I was a green sales representative when I won my first major deal. The prospect was using IBM mainframe computing systems and had an unbudgeted expenditure of $10M planned due to the need for increased computing capacity. I put together a “value hypothesis” that the company I was representing could defer the upgrade and avoid the expenditure. I won my first six-figure deal of over $250K, displaced three competitors, achieved almost half my annual quota, and did so in less than 90-days. Needless to say, I quickly learned the importance of selling business value over features and functions.

I’ve spent over 30 years in enterprise software sales and sales management, leading high-performance teams at ADR, CA, Siebel Systems, and HP Software with a focus on aligning to customer value. John and I founded DecisionLink with a vision to make customer value management (CVM) a strategic asset by delivering the first enterprise-class platform for CVM.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

There have been many, and I’m not sure if this is the “most interesting” but it was impactful.

In 1983, very early in my career, I had the opportunity to meet the base commander at Arnold Air Force Station in Tennessee. We had just made a $500K sale there — a huge number at the time. I spoke with him about how excited we were to work with them and the great things we were going to do together, to which he replied:

“Young man, don’t take my comments the wrong way. My people are very excited as well and I know you will do good things. That said, I didn’t want to fund your project. There were a couple of others more important to me. BUT, you had your business case together, the justifications necessary, and processes required. We knew your project would ‘pass muster’ to be funded and that’s why we went forward. Keep doing the work to satisfy internal requirements and you will do very well.”

I never forgot the lesson that you have to win two competitions: external versus your competitors and internal versus alternative use of funds.

Can you tell us about the Cutting edge technological breakthroughs that you are working on? How do you think that will help people?

John and I started DecisionLink with the big vision to evolve CVM into a category that many believe will eclipse CRM, Sales Enablement, Marcom and other “key technologies.”

ValueCloud® is our enterprise class solution for scaling CVM. Having a platform with comprehensive integrated applications for CVM in and of itself is cutting edge. There are multiple transformative capabilities that are available as a result.

The “Value Benchmark Repository” is an example. Since there is a common repository for data gathered from the ValueCloud® Web Calculator, the Value Hypothesis Builder, the Business Case Builder, and the Value Realization Analyzer, a massive amount of statistically valid empirical data for customer experience is collected. That data are actionable in a myriad of uses such as pricing, competitive differentiation, case study building, market analysis and valuation, and many more.

The Value Benchmark Repository is just one example of a first-of-its-kind capability.

How do you think this might change the world?

The world of selling has been talking about moving from features and functions and feeds and speeds to solution selling that results in customer value seemingly forever. Some might say it’s been “talked to death.” The consensus of any survey of buyers reveals a desperate need for less talk and more action.

It takes people, process, AND technology to affect broad adoption, and the technology was missing until the advent of ValueCloud® Systemically enabling customer value means that every conversation with a prospect and/or customer can be about them and the value of products, services and solutions to them.

Imagine the impact for buyers and sellers when conversations are about business value versus product features, functions, and capabilities.

Was there a “tipping point” that led you to this breakthrough? Can you tell us that story?

It wasn’t a singular breakthrough really, there were several tipping points, a series of technological problems solved that got us to “Minimum Viable Product.” Each was a “breakthrough” and there are more coming. One of our investors observed that “DecisionLink is an overnight success that took ten years!”

One story though.

“Value Statements” consist of many components, one of which is the mathematical calculations that arrives at economic quantification. There is massive variability associated with a single value statement, for instance, if a Value Statement applies to five industries, five use cases, five geographies, five competitors and five buyer roles, that is over 3,000 possible permutations and values. And that is before considering how one of those combinations might affect other value statements. This is one reason for the prior absence of an effective application for CVM.

We solved this with ValueCloud® Situational Variables, which allow the complexity to be contained in the underlying value statements and value models and for the customer-facing user to be able to interact with the ValueCloud® system based on what they already know and are already doing. So as a user, I interact based on who the customer is, what industry they are in, what use cases apply to them, where they are located and who I believe I’m competing with.

ValueCloud® resolves all the variability automatically, giving me a situationally correct result in minutes — as opposed to the hours or days it would take a skilled, expert analyst to complete.

That is one of the many breakthroughs or “tipping points” that got us to what we call “the Democratization of Value” — or, value for everyone.

What do you need to lead this technology to widespread adoption?

There are several things, starting with the awareness that such a thing as ValueCloud® exists. There was a day when companies built their own accounting systems. Over time, commercial systems were built, became available and buyers became aware of them. Awareness follows existence. Same here.

Part of awareness is the scope of CVM — that it is (or can be) an enterprise-wide covering of the entire buyer journey versus just the production of a ROI analysis for an individual sale. At VMware, their program is called the “Customer for Life Mission.” At ServiceNow it is the “NOW Value Methodology.” Those programs and others touch every aspect of the seller/buyer relationship.

Next is broad availability, easy access, and low barriers to usability. We’ve done a tremendous amount there and have a 60–90-day deployment program that delivers guaranteed results.

Beyond that, making this available to individuals in addition to corporations. Today, we sell to businesses, later this year we’ll deliver an individual subscriber version of ValueCloud®. Imagine as a sales rep being able to subscribe to a system and build or deliver your first business case in less than an hour. Global individual availability is a panacea of sorts as sales pros will no longer have to wait on what corporate may or may not be doing.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

I was a first-time entrepreneur at 58-years old, so the mistakes are too many to count, but I will share a humorous story that continues to have big implications. Early on John and I were having a conversation about something a prospective customer wanted in our product. This is THE way successful solutions get built. I describe to John and he hems and haws about the barriers and difficulties, the impediments, why it probably can’t be done with our meager resources. I don’t remember what it even was but do remember I was convinced of the difficulty and dejected.

The next morning John calls me and says, “I think I have it figured out!!!” Sure enough, he did, and I thought “that’s great.”

A couple months later I had a similar situation. Again, I’m thinking “this is important, how are we going to overcome it?” A few hours later John calls and says, “I think I have it figured out.”

Not too long and it happens again. By the third time, I realize I’m partnered with somebody really, really special. So now I expect impossible problems to be solved by John and his team…they are our secret weapon. The lesson? Find talented people and turn them loose on hard problems that have business value.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

There are a couple of things. First, if we help customer facing professionals be better and more effective at their jobs then everyone wins. The customer has higher satisfaction, we have NPS data to support that. Sellers win more business, have lower discounts, lower cost of sales, better customer retention and so forth. Again, plenty of customer statistics to support.

But then there are softer benefits to the individual. Greater job satisfaction. Increased ability to take care of family and loved ones. Improved relationships.

Finally, DecisionLink as a company uses a portion of our revenue to help those less fortunate. During COVID we supported organizations targeting the most vulnerable and most highly affected by the pandemic. We seek to be socially responsible and caring toward our customers, employees, and communities.

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)

First off, I was a first-time entrepreneur at almost 60-years old. I’m neither an expert nor novice at “entrepreneurship.” I’ll leave off the “surround yourself with good people,” “prepare to work hard and sacrifice,” etc. because those are a given.

1) Identify an unmet need in the market. For me, it was bringing automation to a manual task of value enablement. Value selling isn’t new, automating value selling and value management is. Lead a market, don’t chase a market.

2) Be an order of magnitude (10x) better than the status quo. If your idea is a “better mousetrap,” make sure it is a lot better. 10x better or more. Nobody cares about 10% better and you’ll devolve into price commoditization if that’s your differentiated value.

3) Make sure your solution is valuable. Really valuable. There are way too many examples of solutions in search of a problem. Will somebody pay for it? What is the value they will derive from it? Without a doubt your primary competitor will be “alternative use of capital,” not a direct functional competitor. So, you have to win two deals. The first is the external competitive deal. Once you win the competition for what you do, then you will then have to win another deal to get funded. Think about this, you will be associated with one of 10 different projects being considered. Your prospect can do three of them. You have to be really valuable, and you have to be good at communicating that value, if you want to win that second competition.

4) Believe in yourself but make sure it’s something you are good at. David Cummings writes a great blog at https://davidcummings.org/. I’m amazed at the number of times I’ve read something along the lines of “I want to be an entrepreneur; how do I find ideas to be/do that?” Seriously??? Go get some experience, identify something that you are good at, think your way to a solution to a problem, find out somebody else is already doing it, go back to the drawing board. Rinse and repeat until you answer 1, 2 and 3 in the strong affirmative and know without a doubt you are good at whatever it is. Then, prepare to start learning.

5) Have great enthusiasm, be ready for “hard,” be ready for disappointment. Over 90% of tech startups fail. A Harvard Business Review study said 75% of venture backed start-ups fail. That’s amazing as those are companies with smart people willing to spend money. Only one percent of businesses started in the US achieve $1M in revenue. You’ll get told no ten times for every yes.

All that said, believe in yourself. I heard a smart man speak a long time ago about “what is the most valuable thing you have to invest in?” The answer most of the time is yourself!

I’m being realistic, not negative. I profoundly believe in the American spirit of opportunity that drives entrepreneurialism. I think the five items above will give you a fighting chance.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I’m not a person of great influence. If I were, my movement would be to see the love and principles of Jesus brought more into the world. Forget the religious arguments, hypocrisy of Christians arguments and all that stuff. Just see His principles and teachings at work.

So, I support #EndITMovement which is about human trafficking. Desire Street Ministries that helps people who minister in the inner cities. My church ministries to the poor, homeless and displaced. My friend Bill Warren’s Good Samaritan Health Center that provides healthcare services to poor people in Atlanta. Jesus said “‘I tell you the truth, just as you did it for one of the least of these brothers or sisters of mine, you did it for me.” His movement is the only one that matters from my point of view.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

The message that is too often misunderstood relates to “do unto you.” If I would want others to do good to me then I must be valuable! This is the essence of the Christian faith, that Jesus gave His life for me because I am valuable to Him and that I should do likewise to others.

So self-respect is at the core. Not self-infatuation, self-aggrandizement or because I am good, but because HE loves me and therefore I should do unto others accordingly.

Frankly, this transcends religion. We try to put that into action at DecisionLink with the strategy that if each of us as employees put the interests of our customers, colleagues and constituents ahead of our own, that we will prosper in many ways.

Some very well known VCs read this column. If you had 60 seconds to make a pitch to a VC, what would you say? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂

The two most important words in CRM are customer and relationship. Customer relationships are based exclusively on Customer Value and no commercial system in the marketplace addresses the value actually achieved by buyers. Not CRM, not marketing automation, not customer success or anything else.

No one would use spreadsheets and experts to do their financials, HR, manufacturing, CRM or other mission critical business functions. Enterprise business applications address these core functions.

ValueCloud® from DecisionLink is that enterprise system for Value, delivering the technology required to make CVM a holistic, enterprise-wide capability. ValueCloud® is in use by leading companies such as ServiceNow, DocuSign, CrowdStrike and more to deliver higher revenue, increase competitive wins, reduce churn, accelerated sales cycles and much more.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

LinkedIn https://www.linkedin.com/in/jrberryhill/

Or https://www.linkedin.com/company/DecisionLink

Twitter @jimberryhill https://twitter.com/jimberryhill

Or https://twitter.com/decisionlink

Facebook https://www.facebook.com/DecisionLink/

Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational.


The Future Is Now: Jim Berryhill of DecisionLink On How Their Technological Innovation Will Shake… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Lana Elco: 5 Things You Need To Know To Survive And Thrive After A Divorce

Make sure you completely let go of the past attachments so you feel free and content on your own. A divorce is often connected to heartbreaks and hurt feelings. Most of the time one partner is more determined to divorce than another. If you are the one who is still holding on to your ex and resisting a divorce you are probably experiencing a heartbreak, fear of loss and refuse to accept the reality. Living in denial, resisting to accept somebody’s free will and sabotaging the process can cause a lot of suffering and bring up a feeling of unworthiness.

As part of our series about the “5 Things You Need To Know To Survive And Thrive After A Divorce Or Breakup” I had the pleasure of interviewing Lana Elco.

Lana Elco is a transformational relationship coach & intimacy expert, speaker, the founder of the Empowered Woman’s Club. She offers a conscious and graceful solution for women and couples who are facing divorce and separation. Lana has been working with cross cultural couples and women on their relationships for more than a decade and helped many couples to create loving & lasting relationships. You can learn more about Lana’s work here: https://www.lanaelcocoaching.com

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to ‘get to know you’. Can you tell us a bit about how you grew up?

I grew up in Ukraine and witnessed my country going through a radical transition when I was in middle school. It wasn’t just about political and economical changes the whole belief system had collapsed. I remember I was surprised how quickly people could change their beliefs. It made me feel really disconnected from people and my environment. I felt a bit lost. However that experience inspired me to search for my own answers within myself. I started to read books on spirituality and personal development and practice meditation. I was a socially awkward child and didn’t have many friends.

My parents were struggling to survive through these chaotic times. The government failed. My father lost his job. He was an engineer. My mother discovered her entrepreneurial gifts and became a provider for our family. My parents used to fight a lot. Their relationship seemed to be extremely dramatic however they’ve never divorced and stayed married. As a teenager I decided I didn’t believe in marriage because I didn’t see any value in it. I did want to experience romance and intimacy though.

Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

Since a very early age I have been struggling with a feeling of non belonging. My biggest challenge was relating to other people.

As a young adult I had a hard time with my romantic relationships. I had a desire for a deep intimacy and connection but I couldn’t find any inspiring role models. In my early 20s I started my own dating agency focusing on helping cross cultural couples create loving relationships. It was back in the 1990s and the idea of online dating was very new.

Later on in life, after exploring other careers and my own relationships I started my coaching business with a focus on women’s empowerment, intimacy and tantric practices.

My journey brought me to California where I studied transpersonal psychology, Tantra, non violent communication, psychodrama and authentic relating.

My coaching business is a summary of my personal and professional growth that is aligned with my soul purpose and who I am.

My partner and I have created an authentic relationship model that works uniquely for us. We believe in “walking our talk”.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started this career?

The first thing that comes to my mind is when one of my amazing clients discovered her freedom and stepped out of the mainstream relationship paradigm. After the long years of an unhappy marriage she wasn’t sure how to approach a modern dating world and what she wanted from relationships with men in general. I helped her define her unique desires and boundaries and she rocked it.

She became a powerful intimate leader in her new relationships and also managed to build an amazing support system that is much more authentic and sustainable than a mainstream relationship model.

Honestly I had a similar journey myself and wanted to help women listen to their desires and be creative with their relationships.

We are so conditioned to follow the rules and try to fit in into the same relationship model even though we don’t feel good about it deep inside. That’s why when we, women, give ourselves permission to create a unique relationship model that works for us specifically instead of doing what we “should do” we feel extremely liberated.

Witnessing my clients on this journey of self-expression and creativity is the best gift for me. I often receive lots of gratitude from their partners as well because they can also relax and don’t feel pressured to meet all the needs of another person.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

The funniest mistake was the biggest mistake actually. At the very beginning of my career I was trying to fit in into cultural and societal expectations of what relationships should be. I felt pressured to perform in a certain way and really worried to disappoint my clients if my own relationship “failed”.

I find it extremely funny because I have a completely different perception right now.

Like every couple, my partner and I went through different relationship bumps and sometimes we felt we wouldn’t “make it”. I was afraid to break up with my partner and admit to my clients that my relationship didn’t work out. Now I understand where this fear comes from. It comes from the old belief system about what relationships should be and what is a failure when it comes to our relationships.

Now I don’t even use the word “break up” anymore because in my world I don’t even believe we have to break up.

When we build a really strong and authentic foundation for our relationships we can completely transform the way we live and relate to others. It does require a higher level of consciousness, inner work and communication skills though. Instead of breaking up with somebody we claimed to love we can simply adjust our relationship with them in a way that serves both of us. We constantly change and grow. We need to understand that our relationships need to be adjusted to every change and transition of our personal evolution.

Now I give myself permission to adjust my relationship in a way that serves me and my partner. I stopped worrying about people who can’t understand these innovative ways of relating.

Do you have a favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life or your work?

Yes, absolutely. My favorite Life Lesson Quote is

“Our deepest desires are hidden behind our deepest wounds.”

It directly relates to the more commonly known quote “We teach what we want to learn.”

When I was a teen/young adult I was a very socially awkward person. I had a hard time relating to people. I only started to date when I was 21 and felt very inexperienced. At the same time my deepest desire was about intimacy and I always had a dream to experience an extraordinary connection and love.

Of course, after doing a massive amount of work on myself, going through a divorce and experiencing my own personal transformation, I wanted to share my insights and my method with others. Without knowing how it feels to be in my clients’ shoes I wouldn’t be able to help them the way I do.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

Yes, I am. I am working on creating the next level of my Tantric program for women. After learning and experiencing different modalities, approaches and practices I developed a new approach to Tantra with a major focus on female sexuality and female consciousness — Femme Tantra.

In my work with women we rely on nonverbal experiential practices and integrate 4 major tantric elements: breathwork, body movement, voice and bodywork. We often work in expanded states of consciousness by using our breath.

This is the most powerful experience I have ever created for my clients because it helps them to feel their truth and desires instead of just thinking and talking about ideas.

Ok. Thank you for that. Let’s now shift to the main part of our discussion. Can you tell us a bit about your experience going through a divorce, or helping someone who was going through a divorce? What did you learn about yourself during and after the experience? Do you feel comfortable sharing a story?

Yes, absolutely. I am very transparent when it comes to sharing my story because I believe many people can relate to honesty and vulnerability.

In fact I did experience a divorce myself and chose to become a single mom who decided to move to California with her 2 year old daughter. My own experience empowered me to support many women who were going through a divorce as well.

Beforehand I think my biggest strength was my mindset and my beliefs about divorce. When I made that decision I knew that it was based on my truth and my desire to move on. I was in a cross-cultural relationship and I wasn’t quite integrated into American society at the time. So it wasn’t an easy change to make.

I remember that was the time of my deepest personal transformation. I had done lots of inner work and discovered my true passion in life. My ex wasn’t on the same page at all. So we had been growing apart for a while before I made a decision to divorce.

I told him that I wanted a divorce and planned to move to California. Of course, he didn’t like it. Communication was a challenge, but in the end we agreed that it would be the best if I followed my dream and moved to California. Our daughter moved with me and we slowly developed a friendly and positive relationship.

I know that many women ( and men) feel trapped in certain places and can’t move because of their children. This is a very common story many of my clients can relate to. But I truly believe anything is possible. It is a matter of honesty, integrity and authentic communication. We don’t need to sacrifice our lives and our dreams because of our divorce. And we can make it work for our children and their happiness as well.

I have helped lots of women going through divorce find the way to reshape their relationships with their exes and reinvent themselves again. It is important to create an internal transformation so we don’t follow the same pattern in new relationships.

In your opinion, what are the most common mistakes people make after they go through a divorce? What can be done to avoid that?

The most common mistake is seeing everything as “black and white” and allowing societal beliefs about marriage and divorce to affect our well-being. I really believe it is a good idea to investigate our beliefs and make conscious choices from the place of our own truth.

What are our own beliefs about marriage and divorce? What does work for us based on our real life experience and what seems to be a societal fairytale?

These are very important questions to ask ourselves even before we decide to marry somebody. This is what I ask my new clients.

The biggest challenge I see here is that we don’t have any educational foundation of how to build authentic and real relationships. Nobody teaches us. Besides that there is a layer of societal conditioning about what happy relationships should be. There are not many relationship models that are available for us to learn about and choose from. So most of us just assume that the mainstream relationship model is the only one possible.

To avoid confusion and disappointment we need to become aware of what is our own truth and desires when it comes to relationships and what actually works.

To make this more tangible for those who are actually going through a divorce I would like to give example.

In Western society when people marry, they mostly rely on each other to meet all the needs and provide all the support. It creates lots of pressure and drains our vital energy. We need a more extensive support system besides our spouse. So if you are considering or going through a divorce start thinking about how to rebuild your extensive support system so you don’t feel like your entire world is collapsing.

The second tip for avoiding the most common mistakes is to change your mindset and beliefs about divorce. Instead of seeing it as an ultimate break up and an end of a relationship, focus on adjusting this relationship in a way that fits your current reality and desire.

If you have kids together it means you will have a relationship with your ex whether you want it or not. Focus on how to make this relationship positive, beneficial and respectful.

People generally label “divorce” as being “negative”. And yes, while there are downsides, there can also be a lot of positive that comes out of it as well. What would you say that they are? Can you share an example or share a story?

“How can I make it a positive experience that helps me grow and understand who I am better?” Asking yourself this question is the best way to start changing those old “black and white” beliefs about a divorce.

Because of our beliefs about marriage and it’s value, divorce might feel like a death/rebirth experience for many people. It is also true on the emotional level. A divorce might feel like an ultimate loss because this is how we perceive it.

I asked one of my clients: What is the worst part of your divorce experience?

She said: “The loss of my dream.”

This is when we need to discern a heartbreak that can be caused by a divorce and a lifestyle change that comes with it.

It takes time to heal the pain that comes from the loss of somebody’s dream. It takes time to re-discover somebody’s identity if their identity was strongly attached to their marriage. And usually it is a good idea to focus on healing, do inner work and receive professional support while going through divorce. Going through this alone can bring even more pain, create more confusion and cause more damage to a relationship.

Practicing self-compassion is central during this process.

This is when it is important to remember that our rebirth is usually happening after “the death” and a new dream (usually more authentic and powerful) can be born out of loss.

Another way to look at the positive sides of divorce is to see it as “ the right of passage”. This can apply to people who married at a younger age and didn’t know what they were doing.

When they gained their own experience and learnt what didn’t work for them they have an opportunity to reconnect with themselves and become aware of what they really want their relationship to be. It’s an opportunity to start fresh, be wiser, seek innovation and creativity in their relationships and let go of social conditioning.

Most of my clients feel excited about their new life after a divorce. They feel liberated and free. They usually want to explore their own passions and desires without a need to always check in with their spouses. They feel like they are reborn and activated. They start doing new things and seeing new opportunities. They commit to their own truth and build firm boundaries in their new relationships.

This is the most exciting time in our history when we can question old rusty beliefs about how we should “do our relationships” and become creative.

In my tantric approach I help couples create a sacred union as an alternative relationship container with a clear definition of what we are actually creating. I also often use the term “exploration partnership” as an alternative to mainstream dating.

If you are going through a divorce and see it as “an end” try to focus on an opportunity of a new beginning instead.

Some people are scared to ‘get back out there’ and date again after being with their former spouse for many years and hearing dating horror stories. What would you say to motivate someone to get back out there and start a new beginning?

Starting to date again can be an emotional challenge. And of course, there are lots of negative stories about dating. I would recommend starting with mindset and inner work. It is ok to take your time and be single for a while. There is lots of value in being single especially if you were married for many years.

It is important to rediscover yourself and become clear about who you are, what your values and desires and relationship standards are. I would also recommend working on self-worth, releasing social conditioning and becoming aware what kind of a relationship container will work for you the best.

When you are ready to date again it must feel exciting! Otherwise what’s the point?

We usually see what we choose to believe. If you start dating believing in those horror stories you might create one yourself.

I usually help my clients to create multiple filters to avoid negative experience and confusion around dating. Applying these filters and being selective of who and how you meet can save you tons of time and energy as well.

Focus on positive dating stories. There are many people out there. People find love through online dating all the time.

I would only recommend using online dating if you are positive about it. There are many ways to start dating these days if you keep an open mind.

What is the one thing people going through a divorce should be open to changing?

Their mindset and beliefs about a divorce. There are lots of limiting societal beliefs about life after divorce especially for women.

For example:

“It’s really hard to find a committed and loving man if you are a divorced woman with kids”

“Age is our enemy when it comes to dating and romantic relationships”,

“Divorce is something to be embarrassed about because it is a failure”,

“Something is wrong with me because I couldn’t make my marriage work.”

Your mindset and your belief system is the foundation for your exciting and fulfilling life after a divorce.

What about a positive statement?

For example:

“I am so excited to be single again and explore new opportunities.”

“I feel whole and love my own company”

“ From now on I will create a life I truly desire for myself and won’t give in to anything less than that”

“I am vibrant and hungry for new experiences.”

“ I am free and don’t need to ask for permission to do what I want”.

“I am following my wildest dreams and I don’t care what others think or believe”.

Ok, here is the main question of our discussion. If you had a close friend come to you for advice after a divorce, what are 5 things you would advise in order to survive and thrive after the divorce? Can you please give a story or example for each?

1) Practice self-compassion and be loving to yourself. Acknowledge what you went through emotionally. Give yourself time to heal and center yourself.

There is so much judgment and negativity associated with divorce in our culture. Many people tend to take it in and judge themselves. It is normal to see people blaming each other or themselves when they go through a divorce. While it is important to take personal responsibility for our life and relationships we have to be compassionate with ourselves when we go through a divorce. Our society doesn’t provide enough education to help people build healthy and authentic relationships. We still live in the world of double standards and each individual finds their own way to navigate this world. Many times people show up in their relationships mimicking their own parents because this is all they know. Even if we have done something we were not proud of it is important to learn the lesson and forgive ourselves.

The practice of self compassion was a game-changer for one of my clients. She stopped judging herself for “not being enough” for others and started to focus on being enough for herself. Self compassion helped her to accept all her emotions, love her own inner child and let go of a need to please people and explain herself. It was a very powerful way to reconnect with her own heart and truth.

2) Make sure you completely let go of the past attachments so you feel free and content on your own.

A divorce is often connected to heartbreaks and hurt feelings. Most of the time one partner is more determined to divorce than another. If you are the one who is still holding on to your ex and resisting a divorce you are probably experiencing a heartbreak, fear of loss and refuse to accept the reality. Living in denial, resisting to accept somebody’s free will and sabotaging the process can cause a lot of suffering and bring up a feeling of unworthiness.

It is important to acknowledge this internal experience and accept it first. This is also a great example when self compassion is needed. However it is important to avoid external reactions and attempts to change your ex-partner’s mind.

Letting go is the art of healing. If you can’t cope on your own it is a good idea to ask for support. I used to receive messages from heart-broken women asking me if I could help them bring their ex back. I always say “No”. Because relationships don’t work this way. Free will is the very foundation of healthy and authentic relationships. If we try to break the law of free will we are the ones who will suffer the most.

Energetically it takes time to completely detach from your ex. It is a process. It requires time and commitment to heal.

3) Change your mindset and beliefs about a divorce and become aware of all the lessons you learnt about yourself, your unique personality, needs and desires. See your divorce as an opportunity to be reborn, transform yourself and start fresh.

Changing your mindset and beliefs about a divorce is a crucial part of your transformation and healing. I know some people who used to feel embarrassed and ashamed of their divorce. I remember my friend told me that his divorce felt like a failure. It makes sense because we are taught to see it this way.

When we marry we exchange vows to stay together for a lifetime. When we get divorced we break that promise. When do we act out of integrity?

This is when I see an opportunity to work on your personal beliefs about marriage and divorce.

What does marriage mean to you? Are you giving yourself permission to change your mind? What do marriage vows mean to you? If you were to make these rules based on your own internal integrity how would you do it?

Most people live on autopilot. They just follow societal and cultural traditions and rules. When their own personal experience is in conflict with those rules and traditions people tend to pretend, hide, find excuses or rebel. It would be much easier if we investigate our inherited beliefs and choose what works for us and what doesn’t. This is how I encourage my clients to create their own relationship agreements and design their own relationship models.

4) Be open to receive professional support and guidance while going through a divorce.

I find it crucial to be supported by a therapist or a coach when someone is going through a divorce. Most people don’t have skills to navigate a conflict, process emotions and take care of themselves enough without professional support. When two people try to resolve a conflict while going through a divorce they usually cause even more damage instead. A good therapist or coach can help you navigate the most difficult situations, point out your blind spots and process your emotions in a healthy way. It is a good idea to have your therapist or coach assist you when you need to communicate with your ex as well.

Professional support is very different from friend’s help because your therapist or coach doesn’t take sides and helps you see the truth.

One of my clients shared: “Without professional support during my divorce I would have probably gone back to my toxic marriage.” Her ex was trying to sabotage their divorce and she had moments of strong fear and anxiety that could prevent her from moving forward with what she truly wanted.

5) Become aware of all the lessons you learnt in your marriage and after your divorce. It is important to become clear of what you want to experience in a new relationship when you are ready. Be creative. What relationship model would work for you? What are your relationship standards?

This last tip is what we call “ an integration”. Before you jump back into a new relationship it is crucial to become aware of all the lessons you have learnt so you don’t repeat the same mistakes again. That is why it is a good idea to stay single for a while and process all the lessons. Your past experience is the source of valuable information. You can understand yourself better and become clear about your desires, preferences and boundaries. Remember you don’t need to fit into societal boxes anymore. We live in a modern society where we can explore the variety of different relationship models and be creative. If you are afraid of judgments you can still find courage to be yourself and live the way it feels right to you. On this stage you can also benefit from working with a therapist or coach who can help you release social conditioning so you allow yourself to be creative and free.

This is a central piece in my own work with clients. It takes lots of courage, commitment and inner work to shift our generational conditioning about what our intimate relationships should be. This is when I celebrate my amazing clients who dared to create new relationships on their own terms.

The stress of a divorce can take a toll on both one’s mental and emotional health. In your opinion or experience, what are a few things people going through a divorce can do to alleviate this pain and anguish?

1) Beforehand be compassionate and loving to yourself. It is natural to feel hurt and emotional when you are going through a divorce. Our culture promotes “a superhero” archetype but in real life it doesn’t serve anyone.

When it comes to emotional pain the first thing we need to do is to accept this pain and internally validate it.

I love a simple but powerful affirmation: “It’s ok to feel this way. It’s totally understandable that I feel this way.”

Accepting and validating your pain prevents self-judgment and internal conflict.

2) Take your time. You don’t need to go through the divorce process in one day. Break it down and move step-by-step. You don’t need to resolve everything right away.

3) Instead of focusing on your ex and your separation focus on yourself, your experience and your identity. It will help you avoid drama, arguments, blame and complaint.

4) Give yourself a positive experience that nourishes your body, mind and heart. Keep taking care of yourself and don’t let yourself become a victim.

5) Lean on your support system. You don’t need to do it alone.

Do you have any favorite books, podcasts, or resources related to this topic that you would recommend to our readers?

Yes, I would love to recommend a few resources that are more specific and unique.

Since I work with women I believe every woman who is seeking a deep intimate connection with a man needs to read a book by Sheri Winston. Women’s Anatomy of Arousal.

It is a transformational eye-opening book for both women and men.

My second “must read” is Nonviolent Communication by Marshall Rosenberg. The practice and skills of non violent communication is an absolute must for each relationship. This practice and skills can help you communicate with your ex and build great communication skills for your future relationships.

I also recommend the TV Series called The Pyramid Code, especially the episode called “The Empowered Human” where they talk about the balance between feminine and masculine principles.

Because of the position that you are in, you are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

Being a pioneer means creating a new movement. I inspire women and couples to create their own sustainable and unique relationships models. I believe the institution of marriage itself needs to be transformed to meet needs and fulfill desires of modern people. We are evolving and our relationship containers need to evolve with us. I think the container of a traditional marriage doesn’t sustain deep and authentic relationships we desire to build these days.

I also believe in the Femme Tantra movement. We need to learn how feminine energy works and integrate this knowledge into our educational system.

We are very blessed that very prominent leaders read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂

Charlize Theron. In one of her early movies she inspired me to discover a new wild side of my own personality. I discovered that women don’t need to follow the rules and societal expectations when it comes to dating and relationships with men.

Thank you for these great insights and for the time you spent with this interview. We wish you only continued success!


Lana Elco: 5 Things You Need To Know To Survive And Thrive After A Divorce was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

John Souza of Kingsland University: 5 Steps We Must Take To Truly Create An Inclusive…

John Souza of Kingsland University: 5 Steps We Must Take To Truly Create An Inclusive, Representative, and Equitable Society

Delegate authority. Make sure your employees or students know that it’s okay to fail. When you give employees or students the opportunity to share their voices and express themselves, great things come.

As a part of our series about “How Diversity Can Increase a Company’s Bottom Line”, I had the pleasure of interviewing John Souza.

John Souza is the CEO of Kingsland University — a leading organization that provides social impact through education and gives people accessibility by training them for the most in demand, highest paying jobs without the burden of paying tuition upfront. Over the course of nearly a decade, Souza has set the world standard in emerging and disruptive technologies education space successfully delivering innovative education programs to some of the world’s most respected companies, universities, government agencies, and not-for-profits, amassing over 175,000 students worldwide. John’s goal is to bridge the gap of diversity disparity in the workforce, specifically in the tech industry.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dive into the main part of our interview, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit more. Can you share a bit of your “backstory” with us?

My parents both grew up with very little. Throughout their lives, they worked extremely hard to build better lives for themselves. I grew up in New Jersey, and because of the mindset my parents instilled in me, I was determined to persevere and overcome any obstacle life threw my way. I became interested in Wall Street and the Stock Market very early on and by the time I was 13, I was managing my families’ financial portfolio.

After graduating from NYU Stern, I’ve worked tirelessly to ensure my success in my financial career. I was always motivated to keep moving up, so I completed training programs, set realistic goals for myself, built relationships with people who could help me achieve my goals, found out what requirements were needed of me to complete those goals, and took the steps necessary to achieve them.

I’ve worked for major financial institutions and became successful in the industry. I’ve always had an entrepreneurial mindset, so while working at major companies like JPMorgan, CitiBank, etc., I would also be developing side projects.

Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career? Can you tell us the lesson or take away you took out of that story?

One of the funniest stories of my career so far has been the rise in delivery services such as GrubHub and UberEats. I mentioned how I’ve always been entrepreneurial, and in 1994 I started a company called Dine-In Tonite. It was a food delivery service, and we grew it up to 32 restaurants. We ended up selling — but it was such a cool experience.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you tell us a story about how that was relevant in your own life?

My favorite life lesson quote would be “Success is not final; failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.” by Winston Churchill.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are?

My father. He has always been my guiding light.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

Kingsland University stands out because we take action. Due to the current state of the world and social issues, a lot of companies will promote the conversation of diversity and inclusion, but Kingsland University actually delivers. We are determined to increase opportunities and programs to students in high-demanding fields. At Kingsland, our mission is to provide people with access to the most in-demand career fields and give them the ability to have a rewarding career.

Are you working on any new or exciting projects now? How do you think that might help people?

We’re currently exploring several new educational initiatives. We’re building a health allied program based off of the high demand in the health field since the start of the pandemic. We’re also building a technical sales program since tech jobs are in extremely high demand right now.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

My main goal in life is to help others. When I wake up every morning, I feel an immense responsibility to help other people.

Ok. Thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the main part of our interview. This may be obvious to you, but it is not intuitive to many people. Can you articulate to our readers five ways that increased diversity can help a company’s bottom line. (Please share a story or example for each.)

Increasing Diversity can involve and reinforce a higher corporate mission for inclusion and support for social justice. Hence, Increasing Diversity can generate greater employee engagement, satisfaction and loyalty to the company. In particular, many studies have found millennials place greater importance on social impact. The result:

#1. Increasing Diversity can REDUCE TURNOVER in the company. This improves the bottom line by preventing productivity declines during transitions and new hire training costs. Retaining important experiences and know-how of existing employees allows companies to focus investments on growth, innovation & further productivity gains rather than maintaining status quo.

  • KU has had well below 20% annualized turnover rate. We believe it is partly due to the mission of social impact including racial justice and our diverse organization.

#2. Increasing Diversity can IMPROVE RECRUITMENT of new talent. Talent recruitment can sometimes be the limiting factor for company growth and have extremely high cost if recruitment firms, etc. have to be used. Improved Diversity along with #1 can also attract better talent and lower cost. More referrals, appeal for top candidates and greater pool to select from all both reduces cost of recruitment and likely success of each recruit.

  • Most of our trainers and all of our TAs have been recruited through referrals.

Increasing Diversity has also been shown to increase innovation, problem solving capability and employee productivity. All of these can not only improve the bottom line, but improve the company’s chances of survival during crises such as the pandemic and industrial restructuring.

#3. Increasing Diversity can IMPROVE INNOVATION CAPABILITY. Studies have shown that diversity provides a greater variety of conceptual models to contribute to problem solving, ultimately leading to more innovative solutions.

  • Our diverse teams (consisting of members from Bulgaria, Philippines, Singapore and US) have created innovative, original solutions such as our automated homework exercise graders (to allow TAs to spend more time with students), and blockchain certification that can be verified and cost effectively scaled.

#4. Increasing Diversity can IMPROVE EXECUTION. “Simply interacting with individuals who are different forces group members to prepare better, to anticipate alternative viewpoints and to expect that reaching consensus will take effort” -Scientific America. This supports better decision making and improved execution.

  • Diversity, international team members and remote work all combine to both provide challenges and improved capabilities for execution. No one assumes that other team members will simply understand and be able to ‘read their minds (intent)’, and usually takes care to ensure clear communication (including repetition, documentation, etc.).

#5. Increasing Diversity can IMPROVE SALES AND CUSTOMER ENGAGEMENT. With the market being diverse, if the company’s marketing and product team is diverse, they may have a better understanding of the various customer segments and ensure more effective messaging and marketing.

  • Our diverse student population has a diverse faculty, administration and staff to interact with. As a result, they are able to ‘connect’ with someone in our organization and resolve issues when they arise.

What advice would you give to other business leaders to help their employees to thrive?

Delegate authority. Make sure your employees or students know that it’s okay to fail. When you give employees or students the opportunity to share their voices and express themselves, great things come.

What advice would you give to other business leaders about how to manage a large team?

We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this 🙂

Robert Johnson. Very few of people matched his success. He has made transformational impacts on technology and software across the US. He is the epitome of doing well and building great companies.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

https://kingslanduniversity.com/

Thank you for these excellent insights. We wish you continued success in your great work.


John Souza of Kingsland University: 5 Steps We Must Take To Truly Create An Inclusive… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

The Future Is Now: Jackie Meyer of TaxPlanIQ On How Their Technological Innovation Will Shake Up…

The Future Is Now: Jackie Meyer of TaxPlanIQ On How Their Technological Innovation Will Shake Up The Tech Scene

I would consider myself to be my best mentor. For all the negative things that have happened to me, it just makes me work harder and push to be better. I’ve come to a place where I can be thankful for all the good and the bad that’s happened to me because it’s made me who I am today. It’s hard to get to the top of the mountain if you weren’t ever at the bottom, you know?

As a part of our series about cutting edge technological breakthroughs, I had the pleasure of interviewing Jackie Meyer, the Concierge CPA, Founder of TaxPlanIQ™,

Jackie is a Certified Concierge Accountant and Meyer Tax Consulting, who specializes in providing innovative, tailored Tax Strategies Planning to executive clientele ($5M+ Net worth), Business Development, and Leadership Coaching Programs for a high return on investment. She leads her team of top-tier talent spanning across the US, which operates with 100 percent virtual workflows to manage all aspects of their clients’ tax planning process.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

My parents got divorced when I was young. My mom was a broke elementary school teacher, and my dad was in IT. Right as I was nearing college, my father lost his job in the IT industry. So, I always knew that I wanted to be in a profession that would allow me to take care of myself — which led me to finance. Finance exposed me to tax preparation and planning, and I fell in love with the idea that I could play detective and help people find extra tax savings. I like to better people’s lives that way, and I also love that it’s something everyone else would rather not do.

If I hadn’t had such a strong drive to be in the business profession to make money, I wanted to be a psychologist. So, what’s really cool, is the way I turned into this business coach for accountants in the past few years. Through TaxPlanIQ, we have the coaching product that we’re able to provide, on top of having my own CPA firm, Meyer Tax Consulting. I’m able to bridge those two interests of mine together, to where I feel like I’m really going above and beyond to help accountants. We’re able to go so much further than just a typical firm environment.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

I was fired from the last firm I worked at, and it forced me to start my own firm. I never really worked well for other people; I’ve always had an entrepreneurial mindset. That backfired on me when I tried to advocate for the people I worked for when we weren’t getting raises at the time. I don’t think I would have started my own firm if I didn’t have that situation happen to me. While I was really embarrassed and upset at the time, it’s one of the biggest blessings now looking back.

Around this time, my husband wanted me to go work for another CPA firm, and I said, “I think I can do this. I can start my own firm.” My firm took off ten years ago, and we’re doing great work for our clients and for our accountants. Since then, my husband always says, “I will never doubt you again.”

Can you tell us about TaxPlanIQ? How do you think this might change the tax industry?

TaxPlanIQ is a SaaS tax firm planning web application that helps with tax calculations, planning and organization. The platform decreases time spent on manually inputting data into spreadsheets by aggregating data into one place, improving workflow efficiencies and providing higher-value tax planning services.

TaxPlanIQ was a byproduct of my accounting firm manually handling countless Excel spreadsheets, trying to pull together all important details, download knowledge from our brains daily, constantly trying to figure out how do we implement this strategy or that strategy? After years of troubleshooting, we were able to take tasks that normally would take accountants four or five hours manually and turn that into a 15-minute task. That’s how TaxPlanIQ came about. The demand for this product was naturally occurring, and now it’s really become my third baby.

My personal mission is to infiltrate the accounting industry with tax strategies. There’s so much value a software like TaxPlanIQ can provide — not only to the mental health of the accountants that are trudging through compliance work, overworked and underpaid, but this SaaS platform is allowing its users to treat their clients even better. It’s a win-win. Even if you’re charging them more, you’re still saving them more tax money. And so, they’re getting more in their pocket, and you’re showing them why.

Was there a “tipping point” that led to the creation of TaxPlanIQ? Can you tell us that story?

The tipping point was COVID. We were already a virtual practice, so we were prepared for the pandemic and for a digital environment. I found that as others moved to that virtual environment, it was the perfect time to expose them to tax planning and value pricing. So, TaxPlanIQ became my pet project last year. I refocused my energy on something positive for the industry instead of all the negativity going on.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

I would consider myself to be my best mentor. For all the negative things that have happened to me, it just makes me work harder and push to be better. I’ve come to a place where I can be thankful for all the good and the bad that’s happened to me because it’s made me who I am today. It’s hard to get to the top of the mountain if you weren’t ever at the bottom, you know?

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

Because TaxPlanIQ came out of the success of Meyer Tax Consulting and The Certified Concierge Accounting Program, I have pledged to dedicate ten percent of our profits, not just net income, to charity this year. On top of that, the daily support that we’re able to give and the hope that we’re able to provide to accountants is priceless.

As accountants, we have quick deadlines and deal with high stress levels — it really does take a toll on people. So, with The Certified Concierge Accountant Program, we can really shine with more one-on-one coaching with people, and with TaxPlanIQ, we bring hope to accountants who need more time in their day.

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started.”

Software development takes longer than you expect.

The SaaS industry moves FAST. You could get wiped out by a competitor at any moment. You must always be changing, enhancing and improving.

Being a SaaS entrepreneur is completely different than being an accounting firm entrepreneur.

Owning a business is like having another baby. It takes a lot of time.

Email drip campaigns in accounting are tough!

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

My mind has been on mental health a lot lately. I see the effects of the pandemic, I see the impact on not only accountants in my 5000-person Facebook group, called Accounting Firm Influencers, but across the profession — people are on edge and are nervous for the future. I’ve been looking at different mental health nonprofits that I can support. I also have personal family situations where there are mental health considerations. The thing is: taxes are solvable problems, which is why I think I love doing them so much. In taxes, you can always find a solution. But with mental health, there’s not always a solution to the problem.

There’s not enough support for Americans, or worldwide, for mental health needs. But we can’t lose hope. So, if there was a particular movement, I would work toward figuring out a way to solve the mental health crisis that we’re going through. In fact, we just came up with a #taxlocochallenge online that dumps ice on friends and donates to NAMI (top mental health nonprofit) IF you guess when our IRS tax deadline will be this year. Believe it or not, this is a super triggering, hot topic for accountants, so we are turning it into something fun instead of dreadful.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

My favorite life lesson quote is “Just Do It.” The very first time I ever spoke to an audience, that was my final slide. “Just Do It.” As accountants, we overthink, we don’t usually take risks, but we always need to take actual steps to move forward with a solution. And I see people stuck in this overthinking paralysis, where they’re just spinning in circles instead of moving forward with their lives. Whether it be accounting or your own personal life, “Just Do It.”

Some very well-known VCs read this column. If you had 60 seconds to make a pitch to a VC, what would you say?

It’s best to understand the core values behind our brand. Number one, we are trailblazers in the industry, and we will never accept the status quo. Number two, when we are working, we are hustling for excellence. We expect the same from anyone that we work with. Number three, honesty is the number one value for myself, personally, my family, and in the profession. So, having that and making sure that you’re transparent and honest, even if you mess up is something that we really value. Number four is having enthusiasm. It’s good to show positivity when there’s so much negativity out there. One of my team said that I reminded them of Meraki, a word that modern Greeks often use to describe doing something with soul, creativity, passion, or love. So, it’s my new favorite word!

How can our readers follow you on social media?

Twitter

Facebook

TaxPlanIQ


The Future Is Now: Jackie Meyer of TaxPlanIQ On How Their Technological Innovation Will Shake Up… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Author Dick Edwards: 5 Things We Can Each Do To Help Solve The Loneliness Epidemic

Become a student of the subject, read, and learn. How to recognize loneliness? How to help those who are isolated and lonely? There are great resources on the internet. Become a resident expert on the subject for friends, family, and others.

As a part of my interview series about the “5 Things We Can Each Do Help Solve The Loneliness Epidemic”, I had the pleasure to interview Dick Edwards Author of Mom, Dad…Can We Talk?: Helping our Aging Parents with the Insight and Wisdom of Others.

Dick Edwards has forty years of experience working closely with older adults and their families. For the last twenty years of his career, Dick served as administrator of Charter House, a nationally recognized model of excellence in retirement living and long-term health care, affiliated with the world-renowned Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota.

At Mayo Clinic, Dick conducted early research on the question: Who does better at the business of growing older?

For fourteen years, Dick served in the leadership of LeadingAge Minnesota, a statewide association of not-for profit providers of services for older adults. He also served in the national leadership of LeadingAge.

His excellence in leadership and his knowledge concerning the care for older persons has been honored by Mayo Clinic and LeadingAge Minnesota, with their Lifetime Achievement Award.

Dick earned his Baccalaureate from Luther College in Decorah, Iowa, and his master’s from Case Western Reserve University, in Cleveland, Ohio. He and his wife, Pat, live in the Chippewa Valley region of west central Wisconsin, and have three adult children and six grandchildren.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share your “backstory” with us? What was it that led you to your eventual career choice?

The helping professions have been a part of my life — all my life. I grew up in Rochester Minnesota, surrounded by physicians, nurses and the Rochester Franciscans Sisters, founders of St. Mary’s Hospital. My first job was working in the scullery of St. Mary’s, then as a nursing assistant. I was awash in inspiring role models.

Growing up, my mother, a nurse, would say to me: “Richard, always try to be helpful and always, always be nice to old people.” Those formative experiences and a mother’s mantra set my career path. When I was invited to join Mayo Clinic and become the Administrator of Charter House, the Mayo Clinic retirement living community on the Medical Center Campus, I was coming home, so to speak, and it was both a privilege and pleasure.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?

Honestly, there are so many interesting stories over the years, it would be difficult to provide only one. Rather, I can offer a wisdom learned from a career serving hundreds of older persons and their families:

Life is better when we have an older person in our life to share with, learn from, and care for. My mother was right!

Can you tell us about your book? How do you think that will help people?

Mom, Dad…Can We Talk? is a great help for adult children dealing with the issues and concerns of their aging parents; for adult children who want to do the right thing but aren’t sure what that it is. It’s been called a “must read” and a “read-me-first.”

The book offers reassurance, support, and very practical guidance. It draws from the experience of others whose stories offer the reader insight and perspectives, lessons learned and wise counsel. Its focus is less on transactional activities — like money and advanced directives — and more on family dynamics, roles and relationships, situations, and circumstances most likely to be encountered.

Mom, Dad…Can We Talk? reminds us that this time in family life can be anticipated, that success can be planned for, and, that managed well, it can reap great rewards.

The book has also found an appreciative audience of aging parents who insist they don’t want to be a “burden” on their children. It answers their question: What can I do to make this all easier for my kids?

Can you share with our readers a bit why you are an authority about the topic of the Loneliness Epidemic especially in the elderly community?

Any authority I might have comes from the life experiences and wisdoms told to me by older persons and their families; I was their student.

To set the stage for understanding loneliness and the elderly, it’s helpful to draw a distinction between growing older and aging.

Over a life span, growing older brings perks and pleasures. For example, when I got older, I got my driver’s license, moved out on my own, started a career, bought my first house, raised a family, immersed in my hobbies, indulged grandchildren; the ultimate, I got to retire! Perks and pleasures of growing older.

Aging, not so much. The hallmark of aging is loss. For example, as we age, we lose physical capabilities. We lose acuity of our four senses. We experience cognitive decline and the loss of mental functionality. We lose status. We lose people dear to us. We lose the ability and opportunities to connect with others. Aging is loss and no one likes to lose.

Most of us, to varying degrees, are wired to be connected. There are personality types and life choice exceptions, but generally, being connected is central to being human.

Social isolation is named one of the four enemies of the elderly along with falls, poor nutrition, and medication mismanagement.

It helps to acknowledge a difference between being alone and feeling lonely.

Alone is a physical state preferred by some most of the time and preferred by others some of the time. I enjoy alone time, for a while. For example, if I think my wife is taking too much time in town on her errands, I call to ask when she’s coming home. I’m lonely.

Lonely is a state of feeling — feelings of emptiness and deprivation and sadness. These can be chronic and pervasive, or they can be seasonal or episodic. Loneliness has documented, negative consequences for health and wellbeing; 40% of older persons say they experience loneliness regularly. So, “Houston we have a problem!”

Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the main focus of our interview. According to this story in Forbes, loneliness is becoming an increasing health threat not just in the US , but across the world. Can you articulate for our readers 3 reasons why being lonely and isolated can harm one’s health?

Love and Belonging, and feeling connected to others, are high on Maslow’s Hierarchy of Human Needs. When these needs are not met, health and well-being suffer. Some say loneliness is a public health crisis affecting 30% of us.

Those who self-identify as isolated and lonely have a higher incidence of depression and elevated blood pressure.

We know that good nutrition is essential for good health. We know that food is love and that gathering with family and friends for meals is a universal, lifelong social custom. Eating alone is no fun, so it is no wonder that the elderly might default to unhealthy eating habits and suffer subsequent consequences.

Additionally, the trio of social isolation, loneliness and depression can easily combine for an increased abuse of alcohol and, I suspect, suicide.

On a broader societal level, in which way is loneliness harming our communities and society?

Two things come to mind:

First, there are costs to the healthcare system. Physicians and healthcare providers will tell you that for many older patients, a visit to the doctor is often the highlight of that person’s week; an opportunity to connect, to have a listening ear, to feel some sort of love or affirmation. Emergency Rooms see this, too. “Help me! I’m lonely,” is the unspoken cry of socially isolated and disconnected elders.

Second, there are the costs of lost opportunity. Old people die and with them the lessons and the wisdoms of their life experiences. If we don’t seek out and connect with the elders, we are forfeit the benefits that would accrue to our families and our communities. There is a Chinese proverb to the effect that the greatness of a society can be measured by how they treat their elders. How are we doing?

The irony of having a loneliness epidemic is glaring. We are living in a time where more people are connected to each other than ever before in history. Our technology has the power to connect billions of people in one network, in a way that was never possible. Yet despite this, so many people are lonely. Why is this? Can you share 3 of the main reasons why we are facing a loneliness epidemic today? Please give a story or an example for each.

You’re right about living in a time where people have opportunities to connect with one another like never before; we have technology. But are we really connecting to combat loneliness, or are we kidding ourselves?

It can be argued that connections on popular social media platforms are shallow and transactional, lacking intimacy and substance. I have hundreds of friends on social media, but do I really?

Sure, there are stories of people finding love or lost friends and family, and that’s good to hear. But are we allowing ourselves to substitute social media platforms for real connections?

Many of the social platforms are inaccessible to elders. So, awareness, access and know-how are a problem. And, we’re talking about folks accustomed to phone calls, letters and in-person Sunday afternoon visits to feel connected.

The COVID pandemic has underscored the matter of social isolation and imposed heartbreaking realities on older people, their families, and caregivers. The stories are tragic. People have suffered. Imagine not being able to touch and say goodbye to a dying loved one.

I also believe that as a society we need to strike a balance between Youth Worship and Honoring Our Elders.

Ok. it is not enough to talk about problems without offering possible solutions. In your experience, what are the 5 things each of us can do to help solve the Loneliness Epidemic. Please give a story or an example for each.

  1. Become a student of the subject, read, and learn. How to recognize loneliness? How to help those who are isolated and lonely? There are great resources on the internet. Become a resident expert on the subject for friends, family, and others.
  2. Seek out elders. Intentionally look for older persons in your family and in your community, who are socially isolated and lonely. Reach out and invite them into your life. Seek to understand their needs. Their interests. What’s important to them. Respond. Engage them. Ask questions. Be ready to learn. The need to be needed never dies.
    Neva was a retired professor of art. She had no family. Each year, for many years, Neva would be assigned to an incoming student at the Mayo Medical College as case study in aging. She and her young doctors would meet and engage regularly. It became a status symbol to be one of Neva’s student doctors. Over the years she developed a cadre of students who graduated and went on to their own successful careers. They stayed in touch, they stayed connected. They came from across the country and surrounded her with love and gratitude on her death bed. Each of them had been enriched by sharing in Neva’s life, learning from her, and caring for her.
  3. Technology. There is a plethora of available and emerging technologies specifically designed to connect, monitor, and assist in service to the elderly. Google it! For example, GrandPad® (www.grandpad.net) is a tablet designed specifically for seniors to keep them connected to their loved ones. The tablet features easy-to-use video calling and is pre-loaded with necessary programs (with large icons), so that a senior can click on a family member’s picture to call them; can leave voice messages, play music, send emails, and play games. And because GrandPad comes with built-in 4G-LTE, seniors have a reliable connection from anywhere. No home internet or WiFi needed, no additional data contracts, and no added fees.
    -As valuable as the gadgets and gizmos can be there is the challenge of user resistance. I know one woman quite well who fiercely resisted a smartphone, who insisted there was nothing wrong with her flip phone. Enter a 14-year-old grandson who gently guided her into modern times. Did I say I know her well? It seems she’s always on her smartphone now!
    -Marcia’s mother Enda resisted the idea of having security cameras monitoring and reporting on her every move. Certainly understandable. Marcia and Enda reached a compromise with another technology. Three times a day, Monday thru Friday, Edna sat in a particular chair to watch The Price is Right, The Young and the Restless and Wheel of Fortune. Voilà! A motion detector placed discretely under the chair cushion would alert Marcia and give assurance that her mother was OK; no assurance alert would result in a phone call. On the weekend? Lawrence Welk reruns!
  4. Start where you are. Ask if your family, your neighborhood, and your community are OPF — Older Person Friendly. What resources are there to identify and serve the needs of older persons? Transportation? Nutrition? Gathering and activity opportunities? Helps with taxes, insurance filings, computer glitches, home chores, et cetera? Daily telephone check-in programs? What are the needs and how can you help develop responses to those needs?
    -Len is a widower. He lives alone, socially isolated by personality style and adverse to technology beyond his wall-mounted landline phone. His adult children and seven grandchildren have busy lives and are scattered across the country: seven grandkids, one for each day of the week. Each takes a day of the week to call Grandpa and visit with him for a minimum of 15 minutes. How is he doing? What’s he doing? Listen. Share your life. Ask his opinion. Learn. When you hang up, text your mother to report in. It works! Len feels connected and needed, and the grandkids are the better for it.
  5. SIEZE THE DAY! Never miss an opportunity to reach out and remind people that they are important to you. If someone crosses your mind, it might be a good time to reach out.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

Elevate the status of the elderly among us to a place of honor and reverence; they are worthy of respect and support, in accordance with the customs of several cultures and faith traditions.

We are blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂

Any influencer who is well connected and well respected, and who has aging parents and the motivation and capacity to get things done. Bill and Melinda Gates? Tyler Perry? Dolly Parton? I’ll buy!

How can our readers follow you on social media?

A good start is my website www.momdadcanwetalk.com which includes the opportunity to email me. A Facebook private message will also get a response.

Thank you so much for these insights. This was so inspiring, and so important!


Author Dick Edwards: 5 Things We Can Each Do To Help Solve The Loneliness Epidemic was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

The Future Is Now: Hal Truax of Hall Technologies On How Their Technological Innovation Will Shake…

The Future Is Now: Hal Truax of Hall Technologies On How Their Technological Innovation Will Shake Up The Tech Scene

Surround yourself with great people: It’s impossible to do everything yourself. It is important as a leader to build a team comprised of great individuals. The level of performance increases as the quality of the team improves. Never be afraid of hiring an individual who may be smarter than you. It seems counterintuitive, but being resolute in choosing the best people pays dividends for a lifetime.

As a part of our series about cutting edge technological breakthroughs I had the pleasure of interviewing Hal Truax.

Hal Truax, VP of Sales and Marketing at Hall Technologies has more than two decades of experience in strategic channel development and strengthening global sales efforts in the Electrical & Electronic Manufacturing industry. Hal has a history of developing long-term strategic partnerships and growing revenue through a personal philosophy focused on transparency and honesty. Hal has successfully led sales and marketing efforts for Crimson AV, Peerless AV, WyreStorm, and OmniMount. Hal grew up in Carlsbad California, where he resides today.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

Thank you for the opportunity to speak to your audience. I have been involved in both consumer electronics and Pro AV for a very long time now. My education is in economics and my dream out of school was to become a professional bowler, which I did with some success. One day, in between the Fall and Winter tours of the PBA, one of my friends asked me if I was interested in managing the first retail satellite TV store in the nation. The FCC had just legalized TVRO, which stands for television receive-only, for home use and I quickly agreed to help him, and became enamored with the technology. I turned my interest towards the technical and installation side of the business, which later evolved into starting an installation company to service dealers in San Diego County. I then moved my business to Sonoma County, where I was introduced to The Good Guys, a retail electronics store with 73 locations in 4 western states. What transpired next, led me to where I am today. I helped the Good Guys start a custom installation division and when The Good Guys ultimately sold the business, I moved on to work for a manufacturer, OmniMount, located in Phoenix, AZ. I was soon hooked on working on the manufacturing side and began implementing new business practices that helped OmniMount achieve exponential growth in a few short years.

After my success with Omnimount, I was eager for another challenge and was brought onto WyreStorm where I developed a reputation for immediately impacting sales through a unique and sometimes unconventional sales approach. Through my years in sales, I developed a set of best practices that helped businesses realize growth in both top and bottom-line revenues. I have used these practices in my sales and marketing roles to help companies grow. I had been watching Hall Research, now Hall Technologies, for a long time. The fact that Hall had avoided getting what I call, “Black Eye” status in a category where many other manufacturers have had “Black Eyes”, due to product failures, poor customer support, etc., was interesting to me. The fact Hall is located in Southern California was also appealing to me. I had watched the organization for years and once they announced that they had hired a new CEO, Jason Schwartz, I reached out to him and asked if he was looking to change it up. Fortunately, the stars aligned and I have been tasked with running Sales and Marketing at Hall Technologies for the past 7 months. We are changing our approach to doing business. We are diligent in the quest to keep our legacy in place by manufacturing world-class products and maintaining the highest level of customer service. I am very proud to have the ability to lead the team and help us realize new customer acquisition and achieve exponential growth.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

I have had many interesting things take place in my career, and have met a lot of interesting people along the way. I would have to say that the most interesting story that I can speak to would be when I was flying out of Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport headed to New York, and I was fortunate enough to get upgraded to first-class and my seatmate for the flight was Newt Gingrich, the former Speaker of the House. We had a 4.5-hour flight and the conversation was very interesting, making time go by very quickly, (at least for me). I had asked many questions and Newt was quite willing to have what seemed to be genuine conversations about many topics. He appeared to be incredibly intelligent and was gracious enough to chat for most of the flight. I still look back fondly on that day as being memorable for me.

Can you tell us about the Cutting edge technological breakthroughs that you are working on? How do you think that will help people?

We are currently developing end-to-end technology solutions that solve many of the problems encountered today in day-to-day life. We have all experienced by now, the frustration experiencing technology issues while on a virtual meeting, or heard about the issues faced in education concerning student engagement, and the efficacy of teaching using existing technology. This brings me to our latest leap in technology innovation, HIVE Control, an innovative solution to frequent issues seen in education. In today’s world, educational institutions need to be prepared to deliver a seamless learning experience regardless of being in-class, hybrid, or completely remote. Recent events have exposed many shortcomings in EdTech and have highlighted the technology gaps between schools.

Our HIVE-enabled classrooms include technology that promotes student/teacher engagement, improves peer-to-peer interactivity, and eliminates the complexity of AV control by giving the teacher complete intuitive control of their AV equipment with a single click of a button. HIVE Control’s advanced design and features make the system truly unique in the AV industry. With this cutting-edge technology, we are the first to bring REST API to the Pro AV industry and offer a world-class solution that sets a new standard in AV control and integration. Stay tuned, as we are releasing additional products to help with corporate communication, House of Worship, and the ever-evolving world of digital signage later this year.

How do you think this might change the world?

HIVE Control is the industry’s first cloud-native AV control application engineered from the cloud down. Leveraging the best in modern IoT, legacy control, and automation, the HIVE Control system expands the opportunities of AV to all. The cost to own our HIVE-enabled system is minimal due to our unique node-based architecture and subscription-based model. This allows schools to scale without the worry of expensive hardware, installation, and programming costs. Under one subscription a school can control a limitless number of rooms and AV devices. At its root, we are democratizing technology for schools, regardless of their socioeconomic status. With major improvements to the industry’s three major pillars in AV control; software, interface, and hardware, we’ve created an infinity scalable and affordable AV solution for educators that is easy to manage.

Keeping “Black Mirror” in mind, can you see any potential drawbacks about this technology that people should think more deeply about?

Truthfully, I don’t see any drawbacks or any context that could spin what we are doing in any light but positive and helpful. What we are designing and manufacturing combines hardware and software to improve the quality of the learning, working, and worship experiences that currently have become more tedious due to technology or lack thereof. I believe wholeheartedly that we are providing solutions that solve problems encountered in society today.

Was there a “tipping point” that led you to this breakthrough? Can you tell us that story?

Yes, there was a significant conversation that led to what we have developed and what is still being developed, yet to be announced. The conversation was formed on the premise that we needed to drive innovation. If I remember correctly, we started brainstorming what’s being overlooked today, i.e. where can improvements be made in a technology sense to solve the myriad of problems that we are faced with today regarding education, hospitality, house of worship, and corporate environments. We identified the need to provide seamless, intuitive products that embrace the latest technology while minimizing the need for extensive professional development on the part of the end-user to reap the benefits from the products and services that we are now providing.

What we came up with is the basic concept of our HIVE suite of technology products and services. Initially targeted toward the education market, with an easy-to-use system comprised of affordable hardware and software that is half the cost of other cloud and software-based solutions. We have the advantage of designing our control platform, truly from the cloud down, since we were not currently invested in a legacy platform as many of our competitors are. From brainstorming the concept to putting a strategy in place, we realized we were on a new direction of what was to become Hall Technologies.

What do you need to lead this technology to widespread adoption? What have you been doing to publicize this idea? Have you been using any innovative marketing strategies?

HIVE Control is the first of many holistic solutions Hall Technologies will launch throughout the year. To maximize publicity our brand has partnered with an integrated marketing agency, to position Hall Technologies as an AV leader through both its products and personnel. By launching aggressive editorial and thought leadership media campaigns, we are generating awareness of HIVE Control and our other end-to-end solutions. We have embarked on multiple social media campaigns and have enlisted the help of key influencers in specific vertical markets. Hall Technologies is establishing ourselves as thought leaders and subject matter experts in the education vertical currently.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

Yes, that individual is Bill Graham. I met Bill in 2001 while we were developing the business model for Custom Installation at The Good Guys. I had a strong background in Custom Installation and what I thought were best practices in this arena. Bill came from the retail side of the business and was well versed in corporate practices, an area in which I had no experience. Custom Installation was a new division of the Good Guys. We rolled it out to all 73 stores. The response was overwhelming, to say the least, and I took pride in things like answering the phone every time that it rang, jumping on at least what would be an initial response to every email. While doing this, I began to get behind, losing productivity each day the busier I became. Bill and I were traveling together as we did much of the time. My cell phone rang while I was speaking with a store associate so I stepped away to answer it, came back inside, and finished my discussion with that associate. Bill took me aside and explained that this practice was one of the reasons that I was getting behind in my daily work. He explained that I needed to manage my workday and not let the phone disrupt whatever I may be in the middle of. We continued that discussion as I brought up email management and asked him to share other insights that could help me get closer to effectively managing my days. Whereas I thought that answering every call was critical, he explained that what was truly critical was setting expectations, both with internal and external customers on when to expect a callback, or when to expect a response to an email. He elaborated on how obstructive my behaviors were to achieving the level of success that I was striving for.

He taught me what he called a “one-touch” business practice, meaning that when you open an email or come across a document that requires attention, respond or attend to seeing it through to completion, it gets handled in “one-touch”. Striving to behave as he suggested, helped me to succeed and to grow as an individual new to the corporate workplace. We continued to embark on many professional and personal development discussions. Bill even signed me up for extended training in a time management course through Franklin Covey. I still use much of what I learned from Bill today. One other important lesson that he helped me learn, is that when addressing performance issues in the workplace, it is crucial to distinguish between what is bad behavior versus what many people would categorize as a bad person. This too has helped me become a more effective leader. Bill and I still stay in contact today and I am proud to call him both a friend and a mentor.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

This is a great question and one that requires some introspective thought, (this seems to be a theme here). I will answer this in a couple of ways. First, my success has allowed me to work with many companies as a consultant and also work with many talented people throughout the years. I have an extensive track record of helping great people become aligned with great companies, in kind of a vocational matchmaking sense. Having an understanding of someone’s skill set, abilities and passions allows me to best help an individual find a job that will be mutually beneficial to both the employee and the prospective employer. I am happy to say that I have helped many find gainful employment, that in most cases will be career moves for them.

The second way I would like to answer this is: the success of my career has afforded me both the flexibility and the means to support the charities and causes that are most near and dear to my heart. We consistently volunteer, mentor, and donate to help others that have not been as fortunate. One of the charities that we are engaged with is Fresh Start Surgical Gifts. The organization transforms the lives of disadvantaged infants, children, and teens with physical deformities caused by birth, accidents, abuse, or disease through the gift of reconstructive surgery and related healthcare services.

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why.

Surround yourself with great people: It’s impossible to do everything yourself. It is important as a leader to build a team comprised of great individuals. The level of performance increases as the quality of the team improves. Never be afraid of hiring an individual who may be smarter than you. It seems counterintuitive, but being resolute in choosing the best people pays dividends for a lifetime.

Find your passion: I have conducted hundreds of interviews, coached some of the smartest people that I have ever met, and I am surprised to hear the answers to my question, “What are you most passionate about?” When helping with career advice, or if I am interviewing someone for a position on my team, I always ask that question. It always takes the individual by surprise. If you are choosing a career path or trying to get a certain job, odds are that it will be a better long-term decision if you take into consideration exactly what motivates you, what are the things that will keep you engaged for years, what are you most passionate about?

Listen: Really listen; sit quietly and listen with the intent of hearing what is being said, and refrain from speaking until the person is finished with his/her thought. If needed, repeat what they said back to them in your own words to ensure that you understood what was being said. Great leaders in most cases are great listeners. This is one way to earn respect from your associates, your customers, and your friends. So many good ideas don’t make it to the table, solely because no one listened. Promoting open communication means allowing employees to have a voice; a voice that matters and a voice that can make a difference. This can only be achieved through listening.

Trust your decisions: I remember when I first entered the corporate world, being in a new environment, I felt insecure with my decision-making. I felt that all of the people that I was now working with, the ones with years of corporate experience, were somehow sharper and better at making decisions than I was. As time went by, my decision-making proved to be solid in almost every instance and I found that all of my fears were misplaced. The lesson learned was to trust my decisions and to believe in myself.

Establish a work-life balance: This is often a topic of discussion today, but when I entered the workforce this had never been mentioned to me, nor did I give it any thought. I immersed myself in my work, taking pride in putting in the extra effort that I thought was required to climb the ladder. My mental and physical health suffered. My relationships, both at work and home, suffered due to the fact that I was “always on”, never taking time for myself to enjoy my surroundings, my friends, and even to relish any work-based accomplishment. Today I practice trying to maintain the balance, disconnecting when not at work. Taking time for the beach or to visit with friends when not at work. As a result, I am happier, healthier, and remarkably more productive while at work.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I am really passionate about and practice a plant-based whole food lifestyle. I started learning about the benefits of eating whole, unprocessed foods quite a while ago. I have been studying and learning about what I call evidence-based nutrition and how we can eliminate many of the diseases that we consider normal today. The number one cause of death in the US today is the standard American diet. Our genetic code only has between 10% to 20% effect on our longevity and quality of life. The rest is determined by the choices we make in lifestyle, and diet is the largest component of that lifestyle. The lower we eat on the food chain, the less likely we are to ingest antibiotics, growth hormones, etc. This movement is growing, but still faces a lot of opposition. If there were one book that I would recommend to see if incorporating just a little of the plant-based whole food approach will work for you, I suggest reading “How Not to Die’’ authored by Dr. Michael Gregor. I believe this is the best way to improve the quality of our planet and the people that inhabit it.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

The quote that I like most is: “Say what you mean and mean what you say” and in fact, I did not originally know that this was a famous quote, but it is and is attributed to Stephanie Lahart. Many times I find myself in front of a person or group that is new to me, and me to them. In a world where my success is dependent on people trusting me, it is very important to clearly communicate and act in a way that supports what you have said. This builds credibility and earns trust.

Some very well known VCs read this column. If you had 60 seconds to make a pitch to a VC, what would you say? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂

I would say to them that Hall Technologies, a 36-year-old company has re-invented themselves, leveraging all of the best practices that helped us thrive to this point. I would ask if they have heard of the many problems encountered today in education, worship, and corporate communication in the presence of the pandemic. After they replied yes, I would explain that I am part of a team that is, as we speak, solving these problems today through innovative hardware and software solutions. And that is just the tip of the iceberg so to speak. Hall Technologies is more than just an AV manufacturer, we are helping facilitate a change within the AV industry that will impact generations to come.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

Please connect with me on LinkedIn and Hall Technologies on LinkedIn.

Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational.


The Future Is Now: Hal Truax of Hall Technologies On How Their Technological Innovation Will Shake… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

The Future Is Now: Brittany McClain of ‘Source’ On How Their Technological Innovation Will Shake Up

The Future Is Now: Brittany McClain of ‘Source’ On How Their Technological Innovation Will Shake Up How We Create

Just because you can do it, doesn’t mean you should. If you find yourself at a company that is experiencing rapid growth, what was once one person’s job quickly becomes 4 people’s job. Perhaps even 4 jobs across 4 different departments, but then if you don’t let those people do the work they were hired to do because you are afraid to let go, or feel that you could do it yourself faster than it would take to explain it to them (See no 3 above), it eventually it catches up to you and can cause hiring inefficiencies.

As a part of our series about cutting edge technological breakthroughs, I had the pleasure of interviewing Brittany McClain .

Brittany McClain is the Director of Membership at Source, a national, digital product library and specification platform that connects architects, designers, contractors, and manufacturers in commercial construction.

Brittany has demonstrated success in managing B2B sales and marketing programs across a wide range of industries. Her lifelong passion for design and architecture lead her to Source where she leads their Client Success team. Brittany is a creative soul who is always looking for new and effective ways to solve problems through clear communication and innovative approaches.

Source embodies Brittany’s commitment to transparency, efficiency and simplicity. Source launched in February 2020 and hosts standardized data and exportable photos for 160k+ products from 1900+ brands.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

As a kid my family moved a lot, which meant going to a lot of open houses and walking through model homes. I also fell in love with watching Trading Spaces on TV and got my first look at floorplans from that show, so I started collecting the floorplan layout sheets at the home centers and drawing my own furniture layouts on them. Fast forward a few years and I decided to study Interior Design in school, but then life took me on a bit of a detour. Instead of pursuing my original dream of being a commercial designer, I started working in Sales for a software startup focused on talent development and training. Although I found success in selling, I kept having the itch for something a bit more creative. I wanted to be able to develop programming that impacted the long term success of our customers, and help attract new customers. I moved over to the marketing team and spent the next few years managing their partner marketing programs. Then, I moved to manage their customer marketing program. It was around this time when I was introduced to Source. They were looking for someone who could help scale the growth of their OAC (Owners, Architects and Contractors) clients and build out a client success program to keep those users coming back for more. It was a dream job in my mind — I was able to apply previous experience I had, but in an industry that I absolutely loved! Now instead of watching Trading Spaces for inspiration for my next floorplan, I get to see our clients work on amazing projects every day and dream up new ways to make their experience of designing a space even better.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

What shocked me the most was how many samples are coming and going from architecture firms (and now people’s dining room tables) everyday. We are talking about roughly one ton of unwanted samples per month from a single mid-large architectural firm. While physically seeing and feeling material samples is 100% a necessary part of the design process — it just screamed “there’s got to be a better way.”

Can you tell us about the Cutting edge technological breakthroughs that you are working on? How do you think that will help people?

The ecosystem of manufacturers and brands that make up commercial building products is larger than one might think. But, if you add in all of the individual products each of those brands carry and all of the properties of those products, as a designer, finding what you want becomes a bit of a hunt. The good news is that there are endless possibilities and unique solutions for every design problem or idea. The bad news is that there are endless dead ends on websites, displaced material specification information and too many sales reps for designers to keep track of.

Source is bringing critical data, and information that designers need to make specification decisions on projects all a part of one system. By collecting, standardizing and managing product data, we reduce the time spent specifying the perfect material or tracking down your local rep to request samples with our digital catalog and tools.

In an industry that it’s imperative to pay attention to detail and truly understand the proper application of materials both from a health and safety standpoint, but also how those choices impact how people will interact with the space, Source believes that investing in tools and data that allow people to meaningfully collaborate and discover materials for their projects will allow for a wider range of creativity and a more thoughtful built environment that you and I get to be in each day.

Also, Source is investing in how to help reduce the waste involved in material sampling by leveraging local library fulfilment centers in major design hubs that serve the local community without a need to constantly rush ship samples across the country, but also meet designers in their moment of inspiration with actual materials they can touch and feel (and then easily return to the local design community for the next moment of inspiration).

How do you think this might change the world?

“Knowledge is power.” By putting more data in the hands of designers and architects, they can have a bigger impact on the health and wellbeing of our communities.

Keeping “Black Mirror” in mind can you see any potential drawbacks about this technology that people should think more deeply about?

I feel the opposite. By being transparent and providing detailed information, we can provide a better specification process. The dark effect means there’s always a budget and client who demands restraint on specification choices that might not have a positive impact long-term as a more local, sustainable or durable alternative. However, I also believe those tradeoffs should be easier to understand, talk about and promote new ways of thinking about alternatives.

Was there a “tipping point” that led you to this breakthrough? Can you tell us that story?

The tipping point for Source being founded was literally a box of tile falling onto the head of our then-pregnant CEO, Nicole Schmidt. She was working as a manufacturer’s rep and was updating a firm’s library, standing on her tiptoes at 6 months pregnant and started pulling down her box of samples to update. The library was a mess and she slipped on a stack of vinyl planks, and dropped her box of rocks on my head. Expletives ensue. As did her realization that this industry needs to modernize, and badly. She started researching and used her lens and past life as a designer to analyze what problems exist, and how to solve for how archaic this market is.

What do you need to lead this technology to widespread adoption?

We need to come to work everyday with the focus of truly becoming the “Source” for specifying commercial construction materials. This will involve continuing to grow our product database, harnessing powerful data search tools that are user-friendly and tailored to project requirements, unlocking better visual collaboration tools for our clients to plan and interact with their clients on; all while keeping the human connection and drive to feel connected to a space and idea at the forefront of what we do each day. We have to honor the work that is being done digitally as it crosses over into the physical word that we interact with each day.

What have you been doing to publicize this idea? Have you been using any innovative marketing strategies?

We’ve leaned into the “phygital” experience for attracting new clients on the OAC side. . . What is phygital? While it’s not the most euphonious word out there, it really does describe what Source is able to bring to the specification journey that designers go on:

Phygital = physical + digital. Source provides designers the immediacy of being able to find product data, images and local rep contact info for anything they want to specify on a project and then adds in the physical side of the specification journey with sample delivery and our human-powered services.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
I have loved interacting with high school and college students who are weighing their first steps in their career journey. As an example, in highschool and college I always thought I wanted to work for a large company, but once I experienced working at a startup, my feelings changed.

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)

  1. Don’t be afraid of Excel. Learning some “scary on the surface” Excel tricks such as VLOOKUP, INDEX-MATCH or even the CONCATENATE functions of Excel can be so powerful to analyze, clean up and report on basic pieces of data that are often readily available, but not always easily digestible.
  2. Keeping customers bears more weight than gaining customers over time. The book “Customer Success: How Innovative Companies Are Reducing Churn and Growing Recurring Revenue” by Dan Steinman, Lincoln Murphy, and Nick Mehta really opened my eyes to the details on why the rise of Client Success managers is so correlated to the rise of SaaS products. Ringing the sales bell and adding new logos gets a lot of attention, and it should. But if that customer quietly exits 6 months later, you have a real problem.
  3. SOPs are a pain to write and maintain, but explaining the same thing 50x is worse. Working in a fast paced startup is an incredibly rewarding experience — things are changing often, but then you start to get your groove and go on to to tackle a new part of the puzzle to optimize. The problem is if you don’t document the processes you’ve solidified for at least the next 6 months, then you’ll spend a lot of time passing on and extracting “tribal knowledge” from other team members and that cuts into your time to better other aspects of the business.
  4. Just because you can do it, doesn’t mean you should. If you find yourself at a company that is experiencing rapid growth, what was once one person’s job quickly becomes 4 people’s job. Perhaps even 4 jobs across 4 different departments, but then if you don’t let those people do the work they were hired to do because you are afraid to let go, or feel that you could do it yourself faster than it would take to explain it to them (See no 3 above), it eventually it catches up to you and can cause hiring inefficiencies.
  5. Find and protect your “power hours” if possible. I’m a morning person naturally and I am the most creative and productive between 8am-11am. I’m the least creative and focused between 2–5pm. I often get a second wind after dinner between 7–9pm. I learned that over time and have started to protect blocks of my calendar during those peak hours when I know a task requires a lot of creativity or focus.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

Little things go a long way. Did you have a good experience with a tech support person on the phone? Take the time to write down their name and then seek out where to pass along a positive note to their supervisor or company. Try and find a way to provide a specific complement to someone each day.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“Again and again forever, these things are hard, but we can do hard things because when we do, we finally become alive.” — Glennon Doyle

^ This quote encourages me everyday to say “yes” to the things I want to do, but might be scared of and to say “no” to things I keep doing, but know it’s time to let them go. Keep learning and keep challenging yourself as you grow and change.

Some very well known VCs read this column. If you had 60 seconds to make a pitch to a VC, what would you say? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂

Architects and Designers exert enormous influence over these spaces through product specifications. Every year, their specification decisions impact:

  • $429B of US GDP spend
  • 170M tons US waste
  • 39% of global carbon emissions

. . . And yet, these same people are still using 3 ring binders stacked on a dusty shelf to try and find product information or wading through terrible websites to find the number for their local rep to see if they have a product similar to one their client saw on Pinterest and loves.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

You can keep up with all things Source on our LinkedIn or Instagram. I’m personally on LinkedIn and would be happy to connect.

Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational.


The Future Is Now: Brittany McClain of ‘Source’ On How Their Technological Innovation Will Shake Up was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Author Julian Reeve: Rising Through Resilience; Five Things You Can Do To Become More Resilient

Embrace acceptance. I think much of our ability to be resilient involves being able to accept what’s happened to us in our moments of crisis. All too often, we push through a negative experience thinking that we’ll deal with the emotional baggage later on. But this can leave a messy and unhelpful residue that prevents us from moving past the event successfully.

In this interview series, we are exploring the subject of resilience among successful business leaders. Resilience is one characteristic that many successful leaders share in common, and in many cases, it is the most important trait necessary to survive and thrive in today’s complex market.

I had the pleasure of interviewing Julian Reeve, a celebrated music director, entrepreneur, and perfectionism contributor, consultant, and author.

Critically acclaimed for his work on the Broadway musical Hamilton, Julian has enjoyed a varied career in music, business, and education. He has traveled the world as a music director, most recently conducting productions of Hamilton at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., and in Puerto Rico with Hamilton’s creator, Lin-Manuel Miranda. He has given workshops and masterclasses to students across the U.S., Europe, and the Far East and has founded three successful companies in the creative sector. Now an author, speaker, and consultant, Julian helps perfectionists and the businesses that employ them realize their full potential. Visit www.julianreeve.com for more information.

Thank you so much for joining us! Our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your backstory?

It’s great to be here!

I was born in Cambridge, England, and began playing the piano when I was four years old. I made my professional debut on the national stage in my teens and graduated from Anglia Ruskin University some years later.

My early career was a blur of music-making at the highest level combined with my ventures into business. I founded a production company, promoted tours, and managed an independent record label, all while working on numerous international theater productions and West End shows. Wearing different professional hats suited me, as did the fast pace and exciting lifestyle.

I was working on a production of the musical Chicago in Istanbul, Turkey, when I met my wife, Lisa. This prompted a move to the U.S. where I continued my work in all three genres, co-founding a talent agency in London while pursuing my work as a musician and educator in New York. We later moved to California and became proud American citizens in 2018.

Can you share with us the most interesting story from your career? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?

My journey with the musical Hamilton was fun.

Much like Alexander Hamilton himself, I arrived in New York armed with only a suitcase and a determination to succeed. There was no promise of work and I had few connections, but as an immigrant with grit, I knew what I wanted and had a plan for how to get there. Still, I completely underestimated how long it would take and how hard it would be. The first few years were tough.

Four years later, I found myself sitting at the piano in the Richard Rogers Theater on Broadway for a Hamilton dance rehearsal. It was the day after the Tony Awards where Hamilton had swept the board, and it was only my second time working on the show. I was nervous! My anxiety level increased further when Lin-Manuel Miranda suddenly appeared on stage carrying the two Tony Awards he’d personally won the night before. The rehearsal stopped and huge cheers erupted celebrating Lin’s incredible success.

It was an experience I’ll never forget, made all the more memorable because I’d traveled to the theater across the Hudson River, taking a similar route to the one Alexander Hamilton would have followed on his last trip home. (Our apartment was less than a mile from the dueling grounds where Arron Burr would take his fateful shot.)

I’d somehow made it to “The Room Where It Happens.” It was a far cry from my first two years in New York City. The lessons learned were clear: keep going when times are tough, and the good times will come.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

Roughly 30% of the world’s population struggles with perfectionism. Studies suggest this number is on the rise, bringing with it an increase in depression, anxiety, eating disorders, and burnout. Our research shows that society’s encouragement to “overcome” perfectionism isn’t working; perfectionists value the edge perfectionism offers and are reluctant to address it as a result. It’s here where our work at my company, Buddha Perfect, makes a difference.

We connect with perfectionists using alternative language, promising to enhance the parts of perfectionism they value by better regulating the parts they don’t. This unique approach gets perfectionists to the plate: we help them develop further understanding of the subject before introducing techniques that empower them to manage their traits in healthier ways.

It works, too! Organizations we’ve collaborated with report an increase in productivity, morale, and employee engagement. Individuals who were previously reluctant to address their perfectionism have expressed gratitude for helping them reframe their thinking, heighten their performance, and realize their full potential. It’s valuable and important work, and I’m excited to take our business to the next level in 2021.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

Several people have played an important role in my development over the years, but none more so than my parents.

Of the many opportunities they afforded me, world travel is something I value the most. I have fond memories of seemingly endless adventures across Europe as a child, coupled with jaunts across the Atlantic to various parts of the U.S. as I got older. These experiences helped me see the world through a wider lens and develop a healthy relationship with change, both of which have contributed greatly to my success.

Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s shift to the main focus of this interview. We would like to explore and flesh out the trait of resilience. How would you define resilience? What do you believe are the characteristics or traits of resilient people?

I’ve always considered resilience to be a powerful ally when faced with adversity. Resilience gives us the encouragement and confidence to find the positives in times of crisis, to view the glass as half-full.

Resilient people are usually well connected with the five pillars of the subject: self-awareness, mindfulness, self-care, positive relationships, and purpose. To get there, they will likely have discovered the need to evolve after finding their response to trauma, stress, or tragedy wanting in some way.

Tenacity and vision are components of resilience I admire, as are adaptability and awareness of emotional reactions.

When you think of resilience, which person comes to mind? Can you explain why you chose that person?

Annette Brown is a musician and friend who has played with some of the world’s biggest stars on numerous prestigious stages. She was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2009 and has been fighting the disease ever since with a resilience that’s truly inspiring.

We worked together on a show not too long after her initial diagnosis. Annette showed up to the first rehearsal slightly late, having just come from a round of chemotherapy, and she was clearly feeling self-conscious a bandana that covered her loss of hair. Once she settled in, she played her socks off, trying her best to appear her normal bubbly self while fighting the pain. I remember thinking how brave she was as I led the rehearsal, offering a smile of encouragement to signal my respect when I could.

Since then, Annette has faced the disease head-on. In public, at least, her smile is omnipresent. She’s always keen to highlight the incredible work performed by her nurses, and she proudly supports and promotes her friends’ endeavors and achievements. But I’m sure what goes on behind the scenes is much more complicated. The fact that she chooses to keep that “negativity” away from the public eye is a testament to her incredible character.

We can all learn something from Annette. Having the resolve and resilience to keep fighting the fight with kindness and a smile is remarkable — and all the more impressive as the pain she feels is considerable. She doesn’t moan, whine, or even complain. She just gets on with it, feeling grateful for what she has, not bitter about what she hasn’t. It’s resilience at its finest!

Has there ever been a time that someone told you something was impossible, but you did it anyway? Can you share the story with us?

A great question, and one that I’m struggling to answer! I’ve always been careful to surround myself with those who can and do, and I don’t last long in the company of people who consider the glass half-empty. I don’t think I have much for you here. Sorry!

Did you have a time in your life where you had one of your greatest setbacks, but you bounced back from it stronger than ever? Can you share that story with us?

I’d just finished conducting a performance of Hamilton in San Francisco in 2017 when I experienced a heart attack on my walk home. I was 43 years old. Tests concluded that my right coronary artery was 90% blocked — the result of years of debauchery associated with my maladaptive perfectionism in my 20s and 30s — and two stents were placed to fix the problem.

I returned to work quickly, but the weeks that followed were difficult. My body was still adjusting to the alien pieces of metal placed in it, and I would regularly experience numbness in my left hand and arm during shows. I was also faced with the challenge of establishing a healthier approach to my work. Sessions with a psychologist encouraged me to develop less stressful methods — no easy task when you’re charged with maintaining the creative standards of the biggest Broadway musical of its time!

Happily, my resilience rose to the challenge. I began to practice self-compassion and embraced the power of breathwork and meditation. I started valuing the experience of getting to the result rather than the result itself, and I committed to the notion that no one is perfect, and that’s OK. These learnings helped me create a much healthier and happier life and built the foundations of my new career.

Did you have any experiences growing up that have contributed to building your resiliency? Can you share a story?

I was 11 years old when my mother entered me into the under-fifteen category of a piano competition. On the day itself, she encouraged me to play the piece from memory, so I could gain extra credit and compete with older students, something I hadn’t planned or practiced for. I was nervous but understood the strategy and agreed.

I was halfway through the piece when I blanked. It took three panicked attempts to get going again, and it wasn’t long before I had to stop once more. I virtually ran off the stage once I’d finished to hide my humiliation.

The shock of what happened hit me hard. I collapsed backstage, and my mother had to carry me to the car to get me home. It took a few days for me to feel like myself again, and it took even longer to get back to the piano. Once there, I had to rely on my abilities to rebuild my confidence and get me back to performing and competing, something I managed successfully shortly afterward.

Resilience is like a muscle that can be strengthened. In your opinion, what are 5 steps that someone can take to become more resilient? Please share a story or an example for each.

Establish trust. It’s my experience that we can only enjoy resilience if we have complete trust in our abilities. Taking time to comprehensively evaluate our talents — appreciating what makes us unique by separating what’s real from ego and misguided arrogance — gives us something to fall back on when times are tough. It’s a valuable and necessary exercise.

I’ve relied on this “inner trust” throughout my career. My move to the U.S. wouldn’t have been a success without it, and it’s gotten me through some difficult times since. It is, without question, the part of my resilience I’m most grateful for.

Embrace acceptance. I think much of our ability to be resilient involves being able to accept what’s happened to us in our moments of crisis. All too often, we push through a negative experience thinking that we’ll deal with the emotional baggage later on. But this can leave a messy and unhelpful residue that prevents us from moving past the event successfully.

Taking time to analyze the event helps establish this acceptance. From there, we can begin to recover and heal, sprinkling in forgiveness if it’s required and learning from the experience for the next time.

I was thankful for this outlook when I was forced to leave Hamilton due to a repetitive strain injury in 2019. Knowing that I needed to give myself time and space to work through what happened (and not move on too quickly) enabled me to get to the other side faster, and stronger.

Seek purpose and self-development. You can’t build resilience without being curious. Seeking purpose is a vital part of keeping us on the straight and narrow in times of trauma; it often provides the light we need to move through difficulties.

When searching for purpose, don’t look too far into the future. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve thought, “Now, this is what I was born to do,” only to find out that it wasn’t. I’ve learned that it’s OK to commit to a purpose “for now,” understanding that continual self-development will inform and shape my purpose in the future.

Be aware. Simple awareness of how others perceive our actions and behaviors goes a long way in developing resilience. Learning that people only have so much empathy and compassion for others’ situations forces us to be resilient, even when we don’t feel like being so.

I learned this in my early 20s while going through a difficult family situation. I was the music director of a show at the time and was struggling to hide my feelings while performing. My team was sympathetic, but over time, I began to appreciate that my actions were affecting their performance and our group dynamic. Realizing I had a responsibility to the show and to lead my team with a smile, I decided to leave negative feelings at home before coming to work. It was a simple but necessary step.

Develop a growth mindset. Our ability to be resilient is compromised when we have a fixed mindset. Those who adopt fixed views will likely believe there’s only one possible outcome to a crisis. But what they don’t realize is that their narrow thinking often informs the solution in negative ways.

Learning to see the bigger picture is a key component of navigating trauma, problems, and change. We can achieve this by embracing a growth mindset, by learning to see all sides of any potential solution before deciding on what’s most effective.

If you’ve not yet done so, check out Carol Dweck’s valuable research on the subject. It’s incredible work.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I believe that perfectionists are extraordinary people who deserve a much easier journey to their very best. I hope my current work will inspire people to embrace the importance of addressing perfectionism before it leads to burnout, and understand that doing so frees them up to realize their potential in healthier ways.

My book, Captain Perfection & the Secret of Self-Compassion: A Self-Help Book for the Young Perfectionist, helps introduce this thinking to children. However, there’s still much work to be done to spread this message to adults. As with any “big” subject, it requires broad and potentially tricky conversations, but the need is urgent, as perfectionism in society is exploding.

We are blessed that some very prominent leaders read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them 🙂

I’d love to spend time with Simon Sinek! His bestselling book, Start with Why, was hugely inspirational for me and opened the door to my personal development. The idea that the why of what we do is more important than the who or when was mind-blowing, and I’ve since fully committed to this thinking. It’s proven to be a powerful tool when determining the value of my actions, and only last week it helped me successfully navigate a tricky business decision. Truly brilliant!

Consciously or otherwise, I’m currently occupying a space that Sinek promotes we inhabit: going against the status quo to find solutions to global problems. It would be exciting to hear his take on how else we can address perfectionism in the workplace and build stronger and more resilient cultures.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

Website: www.julianreeve.com

Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/julianreeve/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/julian.reeve/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/julianreeve0804

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!

Thank you!


Author Julian Reeve: Rising Through Resilience; Five Things You Can Do To Become More Resilient was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Dr Terence Young of ‘Young Phoenix Enterprises’: How We Can Leverage The Power Of Gratitude To Impr

Dr. Terence Young of ‘Young Phoenix Enterprises’: How We Can Leverage The Power Of Gratitude To Improve Our Overall Mental Wellness

Know that you have much more than you realize. Many years ago, I was abruptly let go from my job after six months because the administration didn’t feel my production was financially adequate; it devastated me. It was a month before I planned to propose to my beautiful wife, Yolanda! I went through all the worst-case scenarios of not having a job. However, when I realized that my job was only a small component of my life, I could then express gratitude for my health, a roof over my head, food on the table, and most importantly, the opportunity to find a better situation. I realized I was blessed in so many ways, and being grateful for all I had helped me mentally get through the challenges.

As we all know, times are tough right now. In addition to the acute medical crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, we are also experiencing what some have called a “mental health pandemic.”

What can each of us do to get out of this “Pandemic Induced Mental and Emotional Funk”?

One tool we all have access to is the simple power of daily gratitude. As a part of our series about the “How Each of Us Can Leverage The Power Of Gratitude To Improve Our Overall Mental Wellness” I had the pleasure of interviewing Dr. Terence Young.

Terence Young was healing his family with his toy medical kit, giving injections, and spreading joy and love even in early childhood.

Living a life of service has always been his life’s journey. Dr. Young has transitioned from an award-winning physician and expanded his reach to coaching, mentoring, and speaking.

Instead of delivering babies, he delivers wisdom and expertise, drawing upon his experience of communicating with tens of thousands of patients.

Dr. Young is the CEO of Young Phoenix Enterprises, a company dedicated to providing quality material to assist business and personal clients with optimizing their mindset, and professional and personal lives. He has appeared in multiple media, including the Huffington Post.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dive into our discussion, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share with us the backstory about you and about what brought you to your specific career path?

I have been blessed to provide women’s health care as an Obstetrics and Gynecology physician for the last 21 years. As far back as I can remember, I wanted to be a doctor, providing care and support to others, being there for them during their time of need. I have faced many life challenges while trying to obtain my dream of being a physician, and without the love and support of others, it would not have been realized.

After talking with thousands of patients, listening to their challenges and struggles, I discovered a greater purpose; to help even more people beyond my immediate medical practice. Having a strong mental fortitude has prepared me to help others, outside of my role as a physician, to overcome challenges they may face in their own lives.

I like to think of what I do as a life coach, speaker, and entrepreneur as a transition from delivering babies to providing empowerment and mental well-being and helping others unlock their inner potential.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?

The most interesting and perhaps the most impactful story was my first triathlon. The craziest thing is, I didn’t know how to swim. I had a lifelong fear of drowning. I had to take lessons and mentally prepare myself for the challenge of swimming 300 yards in the pool as practice for the race. On race day, I had a panic attack in the water! I got winded and barely made it to finish the mile-long swim. I also wasn’t prepared for the 10-mile bike ride through the hills of Pennsylvania and quickly got exhausted. Bringing a very heavy mountain bike to a triathlon race also didn’t help. Going into the final leg with the run, I had nothing left in the tank and walked most of the way; by that time, I was dead last.

However, one of the earlier finishers noticed me on the course and started walking, then running with me for the final mile. As a special touch, the race announcer announced my name over the loudspeaker encouraging me to finish strong, which I did. Although I finished, I felt embarrassed and ashamed for coming in last and didn’t take pride in what I accomplished.

The most impactful part of the day came after the race when a guy came up to me as I was leaving the course. He asked me if I was the guy who finished the race last. Embarrassed, I said, “yes.”

“I want to shake your hand,” he said. He was one of the event organizers. Having heard how I gutted out the course and did not quit, he told me, “this is the reason I hold the event year after year. I do it to show people how strong they are when they put their minds and heart into it.”

It is a lesson I carry with me today, which steers my career. Whether you do or do not achieve your goals, you are successful because you took action in the first place.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Why do you think that resonates with you? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life?

I’m a Star Wars fan, and the quote from Yoda from The Empire Strikes Back really resonates with me.
“Do or do not; there is no try.”

We all have a choice to sit idly by while letting our lives be dictated by other people, forces, or events or to take action, no matter how small, to move towards the goals and dreams we desire.

During my junior year in high school, my guidance counselor asked me what my plans were after graduation. I proudly told her I was attending Morehouse College and then I would try to get into medical school to achieve my dream of becoming a physician. She was silent and had a look of despair on her face before questioning whether I had the grades to achieve such a “lofty” goal. At that point, I was fully committed to becoming a doctor. I wasn’t going to just “try” some stuff and see if it happens.

That encounter, painful at the time, helped instill a bulletproof mentality to believe I would achieve anything and everything I desired.

Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story about why that resonated with you?

Everything in life comes back to your mental attitude and the seeds you plant within. I listen to the audio version of The Strangest Secret by Earl Nightingale (at a 2.5x speed to get through it quicker!) every morning to help jumpstart my day. It resonates with me because when I face challenges or things that may not go my way, I remember that I have a choice. I can choose to react, letting the situation negatively dictate my mental well-being or I can choose to reflect upon the situation. Taking a step back to see whether my thoughts and emotions are working for or against me will help me to discern what best serves me in the long run. My inner thoughts determine my external well-being, and I choose to make them positive, despite what may occur. Thoughts of success breed success from within, rather than it being an external end goal.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

My business partner, a performance psychologist, and I are working together to create a mental wellness workshop and retreat for doctors with physician burnout. Even before the stresses from the COVID-19 pandemic, physician burnout was over 50%, and I shudder to think how the data from 2020 will look.

Having experienced burnout personally, I understand the challenges clinicians face, both in and out of the workplace. Our goal is to bring immense benefit to physicians and others who are mentally and emotionally struggling from the challenges of the pandemic. We started the process with a 14-day free resource for healthcare providers on LinkedIn and had great feedback and response. We’re excited to roll out this new workshop/retreat, and know many will benefit from it.

None of us can achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

My greatest supporter was my father, who sadly passed away in the winter of 2019. Before and after becoming a physician, he was always there to support me, during all stages of my career. He challenged me to look outside the box when I was struggling and kept me humble when I achieved my goals and dreams, reminding me to be grateful for what I had because life could easily take it away. He wasn’t the person who was the cheerleader, “rah, rah, rah, go get em” type, but the calm and cool man who always asked the right question at the right time.

When I was in medical school and was challenged by the coursework, I thought about quitting and simply walking away. He asked me, “Terence, how would life look in five years if you quit and who else would lose out if you do?”
Life is bigger than one person, and I realized that my success could also fuel others to thrive and succeed. Dad was my rock, my foundation, whenever times got tough, and I will always remember and be grateful to him for that. Because of his support, I am quick to listen to others and support them when they are in times of need.

Ok, thank you for all that. Now that we are on the topic of gratitude, let us move to the main focus of our interview. As you know, the collective mental health of our country is facing extreme pressure. We would like to explore together how every one of us can use gratitude to improve our mental wellness. Let us start with a basic definition of terms. How do you define the concept of Gratitude? Can you explain what you mean?

Gratitude is a state of mind. It’s a challenge to think positively 100% of the time, but a positive mindset is the first step towards achieving an attitude of gratitude. However, gratitude is more than simple positive thinking. The next step is having that positive mindset for all things within your life, no matter how big or how small. A grateful state of mind is one that appreciates what life has given you, knows how easily it can be taken away, and can be appreciative either way. Don’t just be grateful for your “successes” or “victories;” be appreciative of the little things in life.

Waking up after sleeping in a warm bed, having a meal to eat, and basic needs that many others may not have are all things for which to be grateful.

Why do you think so many people do not feel gratitude? How would you articulate why a simple emotion can be so elusive?

I feel that the advances of technology, particularly in the US, have simplified our lives to the point where many are simply too passive. Information is one Google search away; communication is merely hitting a button on your smartphone. When things come too easy to us, we tend to take them for granted and not appreciate how blessed we are compared to other people.

The feeling of gratitude can be elusive because we have been conditioned to take the easy path in life and not appreciate what is before us. It’s so much easier to live the status quo with today’s technology; everything is at our fingertips. There is also a sense of entitlement alive today, taking the place of being grateful for what one has and challenging them to strive for more.

This might be intuitive to you, but I think it will be constructive to help spell it out. Can you share with us a few ways that increased gratitude can benefit and enhance our life?

Appreciating the simple things in life, the things we take for granted can be of immense benefit. Being grateful opens the door to compassion and support for our fellow man, which is especially important in today’s diverse world. There are always others in worse situations than the one that may seem devastating to you — knowing that and doing something to help leads to being more supportive and engaging. Ultimately, that benefits you as much as it does the person you have helped. It’s essential to be grateful to help better support humanity.

Let us talk about mental wellness in particular. Can you share with us a few examples of how gratitude can help improve mental wellness?

Gratitude improves one’s clarity. As you experience more gratitude, you become more appreciative, less stressed, and less overwhelmed. Focusing on the positive instead of the negative allows you to think more clearly, have more insight, and think more creatively. In turn, when challenges or struggles arise, and they will, gratitude makes it easier for you to find your way through them rather than being stuck.

Ok wonderful. Now here is the main question of our discussion. From your experience or research, what are “Five Ways That Each Of Us Can Leverage The Power Of Gratitude To Improve Our Overall Mental Wellness”. Can you please share a story or example for each?

Five Ways to Leverage the Power of Gratitude to
Improve Your Overall Mental Wellness:

  1. Success is not a destination; it is a journey. When I competed in my first half ironman, I reflected upon the day. The year of training to get to this stage and knowing that I still had a way to go. One year prior, I was afraid to get in the water and was about to swim over a mile in the open lake. Instead of being nervous, I was excited to compete and knew no matter the day’s outcome; I was successful just by having the courage to start. I am grateful for that successful experience; it gave me the joy to enjoy the journey, even when I’m challenged.
  2. Understand that your words are powerful. Gratitude is not just within; it is external. When I was more active on Facebook, I would have a daily Facebook Live, talking about gratitude and well-being. To me, the words and message seemed obvious, but that wasn’t the case for all those watching. Many people were inspired, even comforted by my words, telling me my message helped them through a challenge in their life. A simple, powerfully worded message, can be incredibly impactful. Gratitude comes when you know you are influencing others for the better.
  3. Know that you have much more than you realize. Many years ago, I was abruptly let go from my job after six months because the administration didn’t feel my production was financially adequate; it devastated me. It was a month before I planned to propose to my beautiful wife, Yolanda! I went through all the worst-case scenarios of not having a job. However, when I realized that my job was only a small component of my life, I could then express gratitude for my health, a roof over my head, food on the table, and most importantly, the opportunity to find a better situation. I realized I was blessed in so many ways, and being grateful for all I had helped me mentally get through the challenges.
  4. Realize the power of visualization. When you take on a new task or challenge, see yourself completing it. Experience all the feelings, see who is around you, check in with yourself by asking, “how is my mindset.” By seeing and feeling success now, you put yourself in a state of mind that fosters creativity, motivation, and dedication to take action. Be grateful in knowing you are taking the first steps towards believing the accomplishment is already here. What you believe, you will achieve! When I get challenged with a difficult surgery, I visualize the successful completion and a healthy patient waking up alive and well. I feel the joy of their well-being and feel grateful for having positively touched another’s life.
  5. Ask yourself powerful open-ended questions. To appreciate where you are and be grateful for your current state, ask yourself powerful questions.
  • Where will I be in a year if I don’t go for my goals or dreams? On the other hand, where will I be if I do?
  • How will my life look when I achieve what I desire?
  • Who, other than myself, benefits from me doing what needs to be done? How many lives can I change?
  • Is my situation really that bad, or are their others who are worse off? What am I grateful for today?
  • If I do not appreciate what I have now, how will I achieve even more?

These and many other questions offer powerful self-reflection. They allow you to discover that you have more than you realize and be aware of the consequences of not appreciating your blessings or the losses that may occur for not doing so.

Is there a particular practice that can be used during a time when one is feeling down, vulnerable, or really sensitive?

When I’m feeling down, vulnerable, or overly sensitive, I get into my “Matrix” moment. Remember the movie with Keanu Reeves? While people were shooting at him, he was dodging bullets in slow motion. That’s what I do when I face challenges. Take a deep breath, slow down, focus on my breathing, hear the respiration, feel my chest rise and fall, my inner voice telling me to “stay calm, relax, breathe.” There are many ways to do breathing exercises. A simple one is “box” breathing. Breathe in deep for 5 seconds, hold it for 5 seconds, exhale for five seconds, then repeat the process. Focusing on your breath will quiet your mind and bring calm to your body.

Do you have any favorite books, podcasts, or resources that you would recommend to our readers to help them to live with gratitude?

There are many resources out there for living in gratitude. My favorite is the “The Science of Getting Rich” by Wallace D. Wattles. Before one can maximize the benefits of being grateful, they must have the right mindset. While on the surface, the book, mainly because of the title, may appear to focus on physical riches, it goes far beyond that.

I look at riches, not just in wealth, but as overall well-being, mental fortitude, and gratitude. Building a foundation on knowing that you can create whatever you desire in life humbles you and allows you to be grateful for what you have now and what is to come.

It is a powerful read and amazing work, despite having been written over 100 years ago!

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

My passion lies in supporting the underserved in my community and the world. My dream is to build and grow a community where all people have the same opportunity to build businesses and see their dreams and passions fulfilled. Everyone will have the opportunity for their ideas to become a reality, funding is readily available for all, and everyone has a chance in life regardless of their looks, mannerisms, or beliefs. It will be a community and city where everyone is there to support each other. Having the wealth reinvested within will sustain and enhance its growth, teaching children and families early on about the power of entrepreneurship.

What is the best way our readers can further follow your work online?

I invite you to visit my website, www.terenceyoungmd.com. Feel free to download my free eBook From Fears to Freedom and sign up for my weekly newsletter. I’ll keep you up to date on what’s happening. I love to talk with people about their challenges and successes. As I help others, I grow as well. My door is always open, and it is the quickest way to connect with me.

Thank you for the time you spent sharing these fantastic insights. We wish you only continued success in your great work!


Dr Terence Young of ‘Young Phoenix Enterprises’: How We Can Leverage The Power Of Gratitude To Impr was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Tana Rulkova of PourMyBeer: “Working for a startup is NOT going to be a 40-hour work week”

Working for a startup is NOT going to be a 40-hour work week. I’m someone who likes to get things done. Throughout high school and college, I was an A student, and receiving a B was not acceptable for me. This was a challenging personality trait when working for a startup that didn’t have the resources to hire more people to run everything properly. Having to wear a lot of hats by myself, from organizing trade shows, maintaining and building our website, creating video content, all the way to designing our sales literature, was impossible to ace in 40 hours a week. I spent an unhealthy amount of hours in our office the first year, but I have to say that things have gotten much better. Not only have we grown as a company and I now have help from many amazing and talented people, but I have also gotten us to where I wanted it to be. Things are only going to get better from here!

As a part of our series about cutting edge technological breakthroughs, I had the pleasure of interviewing Tana Rulkova of PourMyBeer.

Táňa, a daughter of a pub owner, was born and raised in the Czech Republic, the country with the highest beer consumption per capita in the World. This gives her a unique understanding and appreciation for what goes into running a successful Pub as well as mature understanding of the different styles of beers. Táňa has lived in the U.S. for the past seven years, but spent the first five exploring and hiking the Pacific Northwest, where she focused on becoming a digital marketing ninja while studying at Bellevue College. While earning her degree she also competed in marketing competitions that resulted in her team being crowned National Champs. While in college, she worked as a bartender, event manager, and even quality assurance tester at Microsoft. She now holds the title as Senior Marketing Manager for PourMyBeer, the leading self-pour beverage system with 7,000 self-pour taps in service in over 270 locations around the world supporting large brands like Buffalo Wild Wings, Caesars Entertainment, and Whole Foods. She is fluent in 5 languages — Czech, English, Slovak, Polish & Spanish.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit. Can you please tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

I am from the Czech Republic, one of the countries with the highest consumption of beer per capita. Also, my father owned a bar when I was growing up. I helped run the show and quickly became fond of the hospitality industry. On top of that, when I was in college, I needed jobs with flexible hours to accommodate my school schedule, so I started to work as a party planner and barback, which I enjoyed as well. I knew that once I finished up my degree in Digital Marketing, I wanted to find something in the hospitality industry. Initially, my goal was to find a bigger brewery where I could lead the marketing efforts, but I accidentally ran into a Craigslist ad posted by PourMyBeer. They were looking for a Marketing Manager, and the rest is history.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

It was March when COVID hit the US hard, as I’m sure most people would agree. I was so grateful that just a few months before the pandemic, I rejected a role with another much bigger company that offered me a significantly higher salary, as I watched them lay off many employees as soon as the pandemic started. With PourMyBeer, not only was I able to keep my job and not watch my colleagues get laid off, but I could show my leadership and try to keep the team glued together. I also came up with several ideas to keep myself more occupied, such as creating our Self-Pour University for people who are new to the hospitality industry and opening up their self-serve beverage business from scratch. Our University provides all the resources from A-Z to get going. Besides that, I also started organizing regular Fireside chats with our most successful customers so we could share tips with those that were feeling overwhelmed with the changes caused by the pandemic. Working on all that kept me quite busy, not to mention, now I feel much more prepared to open my own self-pour brewery one day. That is definitely the plan, although not for several years from now.

Can you tell us about the Cutting edge technological breakthroughs that you are working on? How do you think that will help people?

Since PourMyBeer was recently invested in by Coca-Cola European Partners, we are working on developing a technology that will focus on all types of beverages. Currently (and that is partially due to its name), PourMyBeer is often used only for alcoholic beverages — mainly beer, wine, and cocktails, now also more for seltzers, sake, and other more unique drinks. However, I only know of a few establishments that use PourMyBeer technology for soda and other non-alcoholic beverages, so that is next for us. We are working on a sister product, called PourMyBeverage, and its liquid agnostic in its name, making it much easier for schools, offices/corporate campuses, and other places to implement. We are also working on self-pour technology that will allow for an entirely touchless experience, such as RFID technology in a cup! Stay tuned.

How do you think this might change the world?

It will make drink service in bigger organizations such as universities, libraries, office spaces or even movie theaters much more efficient and, of course, also much more fun for the people enjoying the self-pour fun! On top of that, operators will see increased sales in two ways. First, with self-pour technology, customers tend to sample (drink more = spend more), and second, operators won’t require as many staff members to run the show, which simplifies operations.

Keeping “Black Mirror” in mind, can you see any potential drawbacks about this technology that people should think more deeply about?

Absolutely. I used to work as a bartender and I love people, so I can’t stress enough how important it is to utilize the power of self-pour technology in combination with beverage wall ambassadors, or at least a waiter/waitress who is always around to help. We did NOT create this revolutionary tech to replace humans. The most successful PourMyBeer family members (this is what we call our customers) have beverage wall assistants, or as my team likes to call them, beer ambassadors. These beer ambassadors are craft beer enthusiasts who hang out around the beverage wall and ensure that all the self-pour first-timers know how to pour their beer properly or learn something about beers or other drinks. Not to mention, these days, the beverage wall ambassadors also make sure that the wall gets sanitized properly and everyone remains safe.

The potential drawback of our awesome tech could be seeing fewer and fewer bartenders. Nevertheless, PourMyBeer is not here to replace all the hardworking waiters and bartenders out there. We are simply providing a different experience than what you get at a traditional bar. Self-pour technology offers a tasting journey. One of our favorite PourMyBeer family members, District Brew Yards, located in Chicago, has an amazing concept going! They are quite unique as they are a no-tipping facility, pay their staff fair wages, and they always have several beer ambassadors around, ready to educate all the craft beer enthusiasts on what might be the best beer for them. This venue is phenomenal! It is four craft breweries under one roof — a real paradise for adults. So if you ever find yourself in Chicago, make sure to put this special spot on your list!

Was there a “tipping point” that led you to this breakthrough? Can you tell us that story?

Yes. I was once on-site visiting a customer that runs their establishment with almost no staff, and while they are very profitable, I quickly learned that their patrons were hungry to learn more about beers and loved it when I shared some of my beer geekiness with them. They asked me if I worked there, and I said I did not, but explained that I was a PourMyBeer team member. They told me their experience would have been much better if there was someone like me around to help them with their decision on what to taste next. They also said they would most likely end up drinking more, and frankly, this is what we continue to see at our most successful locations. Those that have at least one staff member around to encourage patrons to try something new and help them out if it’s their first time experiencing self-pour tech, tend to have the highest consumption per visitor, thus the highest beverage sales.

What do you need to lead this technology to widespread adoption?

I think we are close, particularly now with COVID and all the staffing challenges that operators are facing, changed consumer expectations, and decreased capacity regulations. The main thing we need is for people to get a better understanding of self-pour technology. It is not just another cold machine. It is a unique experience, and I like to call it a tasting journey. No matter how fast and efficient self-pour tech is, you always need a human to at least check your ID and connect a PourMyBeer card to your credit card so you can start drinking. Someone also needs to reauthorize the limit once when you hit your allowed serving, but as I mentioned above, hopefully, that someone will be there for much more than just that and provide some level of human interaction, too.

What have you been doing to publicize this idea? Have you been using any innovative marketing strategies?

I can’t call this innovative, but content marketing has been working very well for us. Blog posts on creating a COVID strategy and gated checklists for reopening have brought a great amount of traffic, as well as interest in self-pour tech, our way. Another effective way we communicate is through videos. This video is from our PourMyBeer family member Beasts & Brews, and in just a few months, it has hit over 20K views! For a small company like ours, that is huge! There certainly are big things ahead of us, and I am proud we get to lead the self-pour revolution!

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

So true! It is hard to choose only one person, so aside from those non-surprising ones such as my parents, I would have to say my boss, Josh Goodman. He gave me the chance to become a Marketing Manager and fully build our marketing department from the ground up. Two and half years ago, I interviewed with Josh in a cool startup incubator in Chicago called 1871, where PourMyBeer was based at the time. I was freshly out of college and barely had a few marketing internships below my belt, so interviewing for this position was a bit of an overreach. However, since I am hardworking and love being in charge, I wanted to at least try for the opportunity to do something much more senior level than I was at the time. Luckily for me, Josh trusted his gut and chose me over many other candidates who I am sure were much more experienced than I was back then. Along the way, there have been many moments when I could come to him and share something as a friend. He is not only an awesome boss but a great human being who makes PourMyBeer a fantastic company to be a part of.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

I love animals and always had one growing up. When I moved to Chicago, I started volunteering in a local animal shelter since I could not have a pet of my own due to frequent traveling. Besides cleaning and socializing the animals, I helped with several marketing projects such as video creations and charity events. I also started fostering animals, and thanks to my use of social media, I have managed to find several of them their forever homes. Now, I foster dogs that have slightly tricky behaviors, and as soon as they find a permanent home, I get a new furry friend. My current love ball is this Rottie mix. Not only does this hugely enrich my life, but it also allows me to use my marketing skills (mostly social media) for something greater than just helping to sell some awesome self-pour beer tech.

Also, as a company, we have provided several donations to local animal shelters and we will continue to do so as we grow! I am very excited about that!

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why? (Please share a story or example for each.)

What an interesting question!

  1. Working for a startup is NOT going to be a 40-hour work week. I’m someone who likes to get things done. Throughout high school and college, I was an A student, and receiving a B was not acceptable for me. This was a challenging personality trait when working for a startup that didn’t have the resources to hire more people to run everything properly. Having to wear a lot of hats by myself, from organizing trade shows, maintaining and building our website, creating video content, all the way to designing our sales literature, was impossible to ace in 40 hours a week. I spent an unhealthy amount of hours in our office the first year, but I have to say that things have gotten much better. Not only have we grown as a company and I now have help from many amazing and talented people, but I have also gotten us to where I wanted it to be. Things are only going to get better from here!
  2. We don’t really do much marketing yet. I joined the team under the impression that PourMyBeer already had some good marketing collateral in place, but shortly after I came on board, I learned that the sales team barely had a few very basic pieces to use, which made their job much more challenging. So, there was a lot of work that needed to be done. Nevertheless, this goes back to the point above, working for a startup is not going to be 40 hours a week if you want to get things done well and frankly, I would not have it any other way! This was a fun challenge which allowed me to embrace many different areas of marketing. It also feels great to know that our sales team is now properly equipped.
  3. We just got our website recreated for a “great price”! Without naming the company here, I do have to say that when it comes to website development, and honestly, investing in technology (this goes for PourMyBeer, too) in general, going with the cheaper option is going to hurt you in the end. I came on board just when we got this “new” website handed to us. While some of it looked good on the surface, it was a wild mess of countless plugins and spaghetti code on the backend and it took a lot of work to get it to where it is today and even now, there is still a lot more work to be done.
  4. You will get to work with some truly inspirational doers from all over the world! Most of the PourMyBeer family members come from areas completely unrelated to the hospitality industry — from veterans (woot, woot!), ad men, and music producers to financial advisors and marketers like me! I love and admire people who don’t sit around, but rather push themselves to chase their dreams. I am honored to work with so many amazing people who turned their dreams into reality. Seeing PourMyBeer play a role in their success only gets me more inspired to openup my own self-pour brewery down the road.
  5. You should start training your liver as you will be required to drink when working on-site with customers. I can’t complain about this one, but it would have been good to know what was coming, so I would start training more. Honestly, all our testimonials and case studies would not be as detailed and sincere if there was not some “tasting” involved before their creation.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I would call it the “heroism movement” and would love for everyone to participate. The premise is to be a hero for someone every day. It does not have to be a new person every time, as sometimes you are helping a family member, friend, or colleague get through something that takes a while. However, the ultimate goal is to at least once a day set your selfishness aside and provide a helping hand to someone else. It is an easy and relatively fast habit to create. I have been doing this for years. Sometimes it’s silly things like staying on a work call with a colleague longer to ensure you got their back or simply returning a shopping cart for someone who looks exhausted and would have to walk across the entire parking lot. Whether you send a few dollars to an interesting GoFundMe or help out at your local animal shelter, there are so many things we can all be doing. Show those around that you care and in a magical way, you will feel the care back! So, let’s all hop on the “heroism movement” today — I promise it feels amazing!

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

It’s honestly hard to choose just one, but a quote that continues to resonate with me year after year, spoken by Thomas Edison, is, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” Luckily, I don’t usually have to try 10,000 ways when trying to solve an issue, but the core of this quote for me is that as long as you are working on the solution, it is already a success in progress. This goes well beyond just solving a problem at work. It applies to life and one’s happiness. Throughout life, we take many routes and some of them don’t turn out to be the best for us, but those that don’t work are ultimately what leads us to finding the right path, success, and happiness.

Some very well known VCs read this column. If you had 60 seconds to make a pitch to a VC, what would you say? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂

The recent pandemic has accelerated the need and trend toward technological innovation for the hospitality industry to provide safe dining experiences and simplified operations, especially now when high-quality staff are hard to find and hard to keep due to the current instability in the industry. Thus, it comes as no surprise that PourMyBeer has seen a large spike in interest from businesses of all kinds. Particularly, restaurants, bars, and breweries see increased sales and decreased operational costs, not to mention, self-pour tech is a unique and fun differentiator! If you are interested in partnering up with the market leader of this revolutionary tech, we are your crew! Not only do we have the most self-pour taps on the market, but unlike other self-pour tech providers, we have never been replaced by another company. I will cheer for that!

How can our readers follow you on social media?

My favorite social media platform is Reddit, but I don’t contribute much. I mainly just enjoy my favorite subreddits. The best way to connect with me is on LinkedIn, which I check daily, or follow my adventures on Instagram. I’m always glad to meet new people!

Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational.

Thank you so much for having me, this was a great experience!


Tana Rulkova of PourMyBeer: “Working for a startup is NOT going to be a 40-hour work week” was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Alexandra Hoffmann: Rising Through Resilience; Five Things You Can Do To Become More Resilient

Sticking to a routine no matter what is the only way to grow and strengthen this muscle of ours. Why? Because it is incredibly arduous to stick to a daily routine no matter what. So people who stick to it build character. They grow more dedicated every day, more curious to see what comes next, and if by any chance they miss one day, they go right back at it more engaged than ever.

In this interview series, we are exploring the subject of resilience among successful business leaders. Resilience is one characteristic that many successful leaders share in common, and in many cases it is the most important trait necessary to survive and thrive in today’s complex market.

I had the pleasure of interviewing Alexandra Hoffmann.

During her career with large corporations and the French Government, Alexandra Hoffmann has developed Business Resilience expertise.

In 2018, Alexandra launched Alexandra Hoffmann Consulting (A.H.C.), which helps businesses build resilience capabilities through Consulting, Coaching, and Training services to quickly and efficiently respond to disruptive events. A.H.C. promotes diversity, synergies and blends complementary professional expertise and background through various partnerships.

Alexandra has an L.L.B. in Criminal Law from Paris University, France, an M.Sc. in Corporate Security from John Jay College of Criminal Justice, New York, and an M.B.A. from the University of Phoenix. Alexandra is also a Certified Coach, trained in Neurosciences, and a Certified Yoga Teacher.

Alexandra often gives keynotes on resilience topics. She has been featured in Authority Magazine, Thrive Global, and Business Insider, and she writes for ASIS Security Management online Magazine.

Thank you so much for joining us! Our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your backstory?

I have always loved getting outside of my comfort zone for the thrill I get out of it and the lessons I learn from it, even though it is super scary at times. I moved to different countries at a relatively young age, right out of college, and starting a new life in a different city with a foreign language each time (Hanoi, Hong Kong, then New York).

Then, I got into the Security Industry where “routine” is not a word, and every day brings its challenges. Working in the Security Industry is a 24/7 job. We can be called upon at any time for an incident or a crisis. When we work for a global organization, the odds of something going wrong somewhere at some point are incredibly high. A strike, a demonstration, a suicide on-site, an intrusion, a natural disaster, a theft, a plane crash, a supply chain incident, a cyberattack, a pandemic, a terrorist attack, political unrest,…the list is endless.

This constant uncertainty and the need to adapt daily helped me build strong resilience capabilities early. It was an absolute necessity for myself, my team, my peers, and my internal customers.

Today, I have built a more steady life since I have the uncertainty thrill with my two young kids! I am out of the operational Security life and dove right into the new virtual world that 2020 has offered me.

Can you share with us the most interesting story from your career? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?

During my career, I have had to manage a severe crisis, a kidnap case. It was very sudden and unexpected. It lasted several months. This crisis was not the first crisis I helped manage, and certainly not the last, but it was a turning point in my professional life, and by ripple effect in my personal life.

This unusual and unlikely event revealed how critical the human element is in a crisis. Of course, the victims and their families are always the priority. But everyone else may need support too. And by that, I mean the colleagues of the victims at work, the management team, the leadership team, and the crisis management team itself. In our industry, I often find that we take care of and support the direct victims (people, groups of people, or organizations at large), but we tend to leave aside the incident/crisis management teams and other collaterals. We tend to focus on what is directly “visible” and tend to forget what is less visible, less tangible. Yet, a crisis like this takes a toll on many stakeholders at various levels. One should be very careful not to compare pain and suffering. That is not the point. A shocking event can impact many different people, regardless of his/her role during the crisis, or the organization. This kidnap is an example, but suicides, terrorist attacks, or the ongoing COVID-19 crisis are other relevant examples.

Until that crisis, I focused on business administration, process-oriented security and crisis management, and compliance. After this kidnap crisis, I decided to get trained and focus on human-related matters. In the following years, I got certified as a Yoga teacher and as a Coach. Since then, overtly or not, depending on whom I speak to, I use these additional resources I learned along the way. Last Summer, amid the COVID-19 crisis, I got trained in neurosciences to go deeper. That systemic approach is my motto today when I serve my clients. I believe going this extra mile to serve them is a must. At the time, that kidnap crisis broke all the silos in my head. Today, I believe the COVID-19 is doing just that for many others, which is excellent news!

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

What a perfect transition!

I believe my company stands out in my industry because we are striving for diversity to break the existing silos. We use people from all backgrounds and experiences to serve our clients. Each team is tailor-made. We stand out because our small size allows for a high level of agility. The virtual world has allowed us to expand and thrive like never before. We have embraced working virtually, and we have extended our reach far beyond the French borders. In return, that allows us to connect our clients with other incredible and maybe less obvious resources when they are asking for help we cannot provide. Serving is not a random and overused word for us. It is our D.N.A. We meet our clients right where they are at, as much as possible. I believe the world needs that level of support and deep connection among the multiple actors today.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

Presently, I want to talk about and be grateful for my partner. Over the past year, he has been my anchor during this whirlwind of uncertainty. He has helped me challenge what I was doing with my business, questioning whether that was still relevant for my clients, embracing my entrepreneurial ups and downs, and pushing my level of resilience to show up at my best every day, especially for our children. Like he always says: “Alex — If you do not take care of yourself, you cannot take care of anyone else.” This sentence alone is at the core of personal resilience. I know it sounds over-rated, but when we look closely and honestly in the mirror, how often do we really think about self-care throughout the day, every day? Are we truly honoring the people around us, even strangers, by doing the necessary work to remain a pleasant human being?

Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s shift to the main focus of this interview. We would like to explore and flesh out the trait of resilience. How would you define resilience? What do you believe are the characteristics or traits of resilient people?

Resilience is a muscle. An adequately trained muscle allows us to carry heavy objects, to sustain a sudden or long-lasting effort. The resilience muscle will enable us to deal with “heavy” situations when they come our way for short or long periods. It applies to enterprises and organizations as well. Like with our physical body, I came to realize, it is a daily practice and effort. It may sound overwhelming at first, but it is like brushing our teeth every day. Practicing should be done daily before the crisis hits, during the crisis, and once the crisis has passed, no matter what.

When I was exercising my expertise inside companies, we used to “practice” going through crises once or twice a year, with what we call simulation exercises or tabletop exercises. Yet, as mentioned above, we would deal with incidents and crises monthly, if not weekly.

To embody the need for daily practice, I actually had to become a CEO. Like him or not, but as Tony Robbins rightfully says: “Repetition is the mother of skills.” Today, in my crisis management training, workshops, and even keynotes, I encourage participants to build this daily resilience routine for themselves, for the sake of their businesses, their teammates, partners, and their families. It is the only way to build and strengthen a long-lasting and reliable resilience muscle. For us, crisis management experts, it is a complete paradigm shift. Training this muscle once a year is superfluous at best if deep measures are not implemented to allow this “daily practice.” It represents a cultural shift.

Building this daily practice requires several traits, but for the sake of this interview, let’s highlight three of them: 1) a growth mindset, 2) real dedication, and 3) relentless curiosity, especially outside our comfort zone. A resilient person will see failure as an opportunity to grow. That is an example of a growth mindset. Resilient people are also genuinely dedicated to their daily practice because they know and understand in their core what is at stake for them, for the people around them, for their company. Finally, resilient people know how to thrive outside their comfort zone because they know there is always something special to learn. That loops right back to the growth mindset.

When you think of resilience, which person comes to mind? Can you explain why you chose that person?

My sister. She is a true warrior. She got sick some thirty years and was never able to walk again. To this day, she is the closest role-model I have had when it comes to personal resilience. She developed paraplegia when she was 14 years old. She was a swimmer, a good one. She loved dancing. And one day, she woke up and could never walk again. She never gave up despite major difficulties along the way. Today, she has a life. Like some people say, she has a “normal” life. She is a super-mum, she is the CEO of her own business, and she goes with the flow of life like anyone else does.

Has there ever been a time that someone told you something was impossible, but you did it anyway? Can you share the story with us?

Absolutely! What I am doing with my company today! When I first started my company in late 2018, my vision was to focus on business resilience for all the reasons mentioned above, yet many people told me it did not make sense. They wanted me to pick an organizational silo at all cost! From peers and clients, I would hear: Do you do crisis management? Or business continuity? Or physical security? Or Travel Security? What exactly do you do?

And the rest is now history, right. COVID hit, and the whole world now talks about business resilience, teams’ resilience, and personal resilience. Today, I get requests to speak about this topic every week. I am grateful for these opportunities, and I hope this crisis allows individuals, teams, and businesses to build lasting resilience habits.

From a business perspective, I believe it is a core responsibility. When an enterprise falls because of a crisis, people lose jobs (and more). The stakes are incredibly high. They must pay close attention to this topic, whatever their size, revenue, and industry.

Did you have a time in your life where you had one of your greatest setbacks, but you bounced back from it stronger than ever? Can you share that story with us?

Allow me to pick a major professional setback. A couple of years ago, before launching my business, I had a perfect and comfortable position as the Head of Resilience of a significant global brand. Things were going well then. Six months into the role, I had an opportunity to do and learn something different for another major brand. They were interested in my skills and competencies to structure and grow their internal University. I was extremely excited by this role because training and awareness are the cornerstones to any resilience-related topics. I figured this was an incredible opportunity to go deep into the Learning & Development industry, learn the latest trends, and gain as much expertise as possible to later infuse it in my resilience topics. So, I accepted the role.

That was a complete mismatch. I did not fit in at all. I did not know how to fit in in this particular environment. After trying so hard for three months, losing myself, and driving everyone crazy, I ended up, one day, outside the office, crying my eyes out and literally unable to set one more foot through that revolving door. I left and never turned back.

I am happy I can spontaneously talk about this setback. That was not always the case. Today, I can barely grasp how much stronger I have grown from this experience. Sometimes, I have even thought of sending an email to my boss back then to thank him for this “perfect” mismatch. You see, I am proud, really proud. When I took this role, I told my entire network that I was on this new adventure and wanted out of the operational security roles. So, when I left, after three months, it was out of the question to call people and to ask them to take me back. I take responsibility for my choices. That was precisely when I decided to launch my business. I wanted change. I wanted a new challenge. I wanted to build a new way of living for myself and my family. I had learned so many skills and competencies, and I had created a significant network. So, it was time for me to launch my business, and here I am today, being interviewed by Authority Magazine to talk about the topic which I think is so critical for any living being.

Did you have any experiences growing up that have contributed to building your resiliency? Can you share a story?

The most apparent story I can share is the one I shared about my sister above. Growing up with her as a model, I think I developed strong resilience capabilities too. But that was only the beginning of my journey. I keep on learning about resilience to this day.

Resilience is like a muscle that can be strengthened. In your opinion, what are 5 steps that someone can take to become more resilient? Please share a story or an example for each.

A few minutes ago, I mentioned three traits that I think are critical to be resilient: to have a growth mindset, to be truly dedicated, and to be curious. I also talked about creating a daily practice. I don’t think there are five steps, or even three or ten. I think we ought to practice being resilient day after day, step by step. We start small, and we start fresh every morning.

If I summarize, we first identify one routine that makes us feel great, not just good or OK, but great and strong. A true warrior. It can be singing. It can be a set of songs. It can be a chat over a cup of coffee. It can be reading. It can be a run. It can be striking the hero pose. It can be hugging someone we love. It can be anything.

Then, we repeat it daily, keeping in mind that we do this, no matter what (rain, fatigue, argument, frustration, backlog, busyness…) to grow that resilience muscle. Like with any sports, sometimes we make tremendous progress, sometimes we reach a plateau, sometimes we win, sometimes we lose, sometimes we get injured, but we get back to it, differently if necessary, but we get back to it.

Sticking to a routine no matter what is the only way to grow and strengthen this muscle of ours. Why? Because it is incredibly arduous to stick to a daily routine no matter what. So people who stick to it build character. They grow more dedicated every day, more curious to see what comes next, and if by any chance they miss one day, they go right back at it more engaged than ever.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

It is not news that we live in a fast-paced environment. This environment leads a lot of us, including myself, to focus on what is urgent. We are in constant firefighting mode. When dealing with crises, this firefighting mode becomes second nature. It is perfectly fine. When there is a fire, we evacuate, and we call the Fire Department. Yet, beyond what is urgent, we need to focus on what is important as well. Sadly, the important is often forgotten. I recently came across a study conducted by RallyBright, back in 2019, that says that only 2% of teams are actually resilient. It would be interesting to run a similar survey on Crisis Management teams themselves (expert and non-expert teams).

What percentage of these teams responsible for leading companies and organizations through the fire is actually resilient?

In the private sector (and in the public sector), it is about time that we take this question seriously because people’s lives are at stake, and the COVID-19 crisis is only a catalyst. It is OK to be vulnerable, fragile, and fail. Let’s face reality and make the extra effort to focus on what is important. True leaders (organizations and individuals) will reveal themselves by going this extra mile.

We are blessed that some very prominent leaders read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the U.S. with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them 🙂

Jamie Kern Lima, C.E.O. of I.T. Cosmetics. I just bought her book, “Believe it,” and I attended her event, “Becoming Unstoppable,” on March 22nd. This woman is a powerhouse! She invited many other inspiring speakers, such as Sara Blakely, whom I mentioned in my last interview. I would love to have a Zoom chat with Jamie to get to know her, to congratulate her for what she built, and to soak her business acumen up 😊

How can our readers follow you on social media?

My LinkedIn profile: https://www.linkedin.com/in/ahoffmann/

My website: https://www.alexandrahoffmannconsulting.com/

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!


Alexandra Hoffmann: Rising Through Resilience; Five Things You Can Do To Become More Resilient was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Eco-Conscious Jewels: Suzanne Sachs’s Big Idea That Might Change The World

That the internet was, and is, ever changing. I don’t think anyone really understood how impactful the internet was going to be on businesses. Because it is constantly progressing, it causes people like me to constantly evolve.

As a part of my series about “Big Ideas That Might Change The World In The Next Few Years” I had the pleasure of interviewing Suzanne Sachs.

Suzanne worked at Sony Music in NYC as a Director of Licensing for eleven years but always had an entrepreneurial spirit and a plan to lead to her own company. Her husband is a wholesale diamond and antique jewelry dealer. When they became engaged in 2004, Stuart mentioned starting an online antique engagement ring website, a move he saw as critical to staying relevant in the field. His NYC office kept him busy though, and so it happened. Suzanne recognized this was the ideal time to launch her own business. She could take the knowledge she acquired from the corporate world and integrate it into a new business on the world wide web.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit. Can you please tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

Sure. I grew up in South Orange, NJ with two wonderful, hard-working parents and two protective big brothers. My parents were strong role models and I knew that whatever I did when I grew up, it would involve hard work and commitment. After graduating college I eventually moved to NYC and worked for Sony Music where I was an Associate Director of Licensing. Funny enough, while I was working at Sony Music I met my (now) husband on a blind date who happened to be a wholesale diamond and antique jewelry dealer. When we became engaged, knowing we wanted to start a family, we began to talk about starting an antique engagement ring business online. My husband recognized the future of business was in e-commerce. I took a chance and left Sony in order to begin ArtDecoDiamonds.com (now VintageDiamondRing.com).

Can you please share with us the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

Probably when Sony Music offered me a buyout. They were going through some changes, and I had been considering leaving, but I was so undecided if I should stay or not. I had so many good years there, so leaving was a scary prospect. Once I took the leap, I realized it was the greatest move I could have made. I love having my own business! I was, and still am, able to use the knowledge I acquired from being part of a big corporation and integrate it into running my business.

Which principles or philosophies have guided your life? Your career?

Oh, easy! I fully believe you should be true to yourself and, of course, your brand or your business. Really believe in what you are trying to accomplish, or sell. People will know if you are feigning authenticity. Consumers tend to stand behind someone who they believe stands behind their product.

Ok thank you for that. Let’s now move to the main focus of our interview. Can you tell us about your “Big Idea That Might Change The World”?

Sustainability is not “my” big idea, but I do think VintageDiamondRing.com has taken sustainability to a whole different level. I firmly believe we have done an incredible job in offering ethical and conflict-free jewelry to anyone who wants to feel good about what they are wearing. Since it is eco-conscious it is environmentally responsible. Don’t we want to strive for a clean environment? That in, and of, itself can change the world we live in!

How do you think this will change the world?

As we know, new mining can devastate our land and may take many years to restore the ecosystem. Vintage jewelry is the ultimate in recycling since these treasures do not need to be remade, no additional resources are needed for them to be enjoyed again. Educating society about sustainability is what it’s all about and how we can contribute to the health of our own planet.

Keeping “Black Mirror” and the “Law of Unintended Consequences” in mind, can you see any potential drawbacks about this idea that people should think more deeply about?

Definitely not! How can there be any drawbacks about saving the planet and making lives better!?

Was there a “tipping point” that led you to this idea? Can you tell us that story?

I don’t think there was any one tipping point necessarily, but I do believe the youth led climate strikes affected me, and the rest of the world greatly. Since the youth of the world is our future, how could I not take sustainability to a different level IF THEY ARE. I’m beyond thrilled to see that young people, and the rest of the world today, recognize the threat to our environment.

What do you need to lead this idea to widespread adoption?

I just really believe that the world has to continue fighting to defeat climate change. The United States has to lead the world in this ongoing battle. I can safely say that I was very excited to see the U.S. rejoin the Paris Climate Accord. We all have to do our part, no matter how big or small.

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)

1) That the internet was, and is, ever changing. I don’t think anyone really understood how impactful the internet was going to be on businesses. Because it is constantly progressing, it causes people like me to constantly evolve.

2) I really wish someone told me how much social media was going to affect all of our lives. I mean this for the good, and unfortunately for the bad as well. 3) Always pay attention to your own business, and don’t worry about the others around you. In the end you have NO idea what’s really going with someone else’s business.

4) It would have helped if someone alerted me that at some point in time, every business will get knocked down. But I learned that if you keep at it, it will come back. But in all likelihood, all businesses will have a down cycle at some time.

5) Take your time and don’t rush anything! One step and time, develop your niche. And always INVEST BACK IN YOUR OWN BUSINESS.

Can you share with our readers what you think are the most important “success habits” or “success mindsets”?

I truly believe that success comes from within yourself. It is certainly not a given. You have to have a burning desire to succeed and work hard to do so. Theres a certain work ethic that is needed. There will always be pitfalls but one thing I was taught was to NEVER QUIT.

Some very well known VCs read this column. If you had 60 seconds to make a pitch to a VC, what would you say? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂

I don’t think I would make a pitch to them per se, but I would ask them is to invest in companies that take sustainability quite seriously. Any brand can have a logo and a product, but when a consumer can turn to a company and know their purchases say something about who they are and what matters to them, it falls into a different category.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

https://twitter.com/Vintagediamond_

https://www.instagram.com/vintagediamondring_/

https://www.facebook.com/VDRings

https://www.pinterest.com/VintageDiamondR/_shop/

Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational.


Eco-Conscious Jewels: Suzanne Sachs’s Big Idea That Might Change The World was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Dr Brian G Brown: Getting An Upgrade; How Anyone Can Build Habits For Optimal Wellness, Performanc

Dr. Brian G. Brown: Getting An Upgrade; How Anyone Can Build Habits For Optimal Wellness, Performance, & Focus

Drop The Caffeine And Drink More Water. Do you ever have an “afternoon crash?” If so, you’re not alone. In my experience, this has to do with one of two things; eating a high carbohydrate meal at lunch or not drinking enough water.

In my professional experience, dehydration is the more common cause of poor focus. Sadly, most people turn to caffeine for the answer. Think of this scenario like a cut in your skin that needs stitches; water is the stitches, and caffeine is nothing more than a bandage. Caffeine doesn’t treat the cause. It covers up the problem.

As a part of our series about “How Anyone Can Build Habits For Optimal Wellness, Performance, & Focus,” I had the pleasure of interviewing Dr. Brian G. Brown of the Genesis Zone Advantage(™).

Dr. Brian G. Brown, the “Gene Fatigue” Doc, is a functional & integrated practitioner, author, and international speaker. He leans into his 23 years of experience to help high-achievers naturally eliminate “gene fatigue” obstacles that lead to unresolved emotional and physical challenges, so they can optimize for higher achievement & live the life of their dreams.

Dr. Brian accomplishes this by focusing first on the genetic causes, which he calls the True Root Causes™. Through this lens, he can facilitate more precise and practical recovery and performance optimization using gene-centered nutrition & supplementation.

After an undiagnosed pediatric heart condition that nearly claimed his life and left him with extreme fatigue and a host of physical and mental health challenges, Dr. Brian developed the Genesis Zone Advantage™, an efficient 4-step formula to naturally resolve emotional and physical health challenges at their True Root Causes™. Powered by his proprietary formula, Dr. Brian has helped thousands overcome emotional and physical difficulties, reclaim energy, and optimize their life for high achievement.

Dr. Brian is the author of the forthcoming books Health Hijackers for Women and Health Hijackers for Men. Dr. Brian is a dynamic presenter whose insights have been featured on podcasts and stages before world audiences. He can be found in Medium, Authority Magazine, Thrive Global, iHeart Radio, and forthcoming in BuzzFeed & Entrepreneur Magazine.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive into the main focus of our interview, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?

I’m a native of Clarksdale, Mississippi. It’s in the heart of the Mississippi Delta and the birthplace of the blues. It was the kind of place where you never had to lock the doors, and kids could play anywhere in town.

I have fond memories of my childhood in Clarksdale. I recall buying treats from the neighborhood ice cream truck, playing outside from sunup to sundown, taking swimming lessons at the local American Legion pool, riding my bike to school every day, and having dinner almost every night at my grandparents’ house.

It’s the kind of childhood that would be foreign to kids today.

What or who inspired you to pursue your career? We’d love to hear the story.

I was inspired to leave mainstream medicine after coming to a significant crossroads in my personal life and professional career. I had gained up to 390 pounds, had no energy, struggled with severe brain fog, was depressed and anxious, and had been on nine different antidepressants over 16 years.

Professionally, I was frustrated because the mainstream medical system couldn’t provide solutions for these challenges. They simply told me, “Everything is normal. You just need to eat less, exercise more, and take this antidepressant.” The convergence of personal and professional angst is what set me on a journey to discover healing for myself.

I found healing in functional and integrated medicine, and it inspires me to help others. I’m happy to say that I lost 150 pounds, came off all antidepressants, and ended the depression-anxiety cycle.

None of us can achieve success without some help along the way. Was there a particular person who you feel gave you the most help or encouragement to be who you are today? Can you share a story about that?

Both of my daughters helped me more than they will ever know. As mentioned previously, I came to a personal and professional crossroads. The force that pushed me across the starting line was a nightmare. I can remember it as if it was yesterday.

In the nightmare, I witnessed scenes from significant events in my daughters’ lives; high school graduation, college graduation, wedding, and grandchildren’s births. In the nightmarish part, I wasn’t there in any of the scenes. I was watching from a distance. Particularly bothersome was the vision of their weddings. Another man was walking them down the aisle.

Startled awake, I had the immediate thought, “Brian, if you don’t change some things now, you will die an early death and never see these events unfold.” Thankfully, I’ve been present at every single milestone in their life, which has pretty special meaning to me now.

Can you share the funniest or most interesting mistake that occurred to you in the course of your career? What lesson or take away did you learn from that?

In the mid-’90s, while I was in training at the medical center, I drove an ancient Nissan Sentra. I think it was a mid-‘80s model, and I paid $1,000 for it. Most people would consider it a piece of junk that sucked oil and always needed some kind of repair work. And worst of all, especially for those who live in humid areas, the air conditioning didn’t work.

When I was in training, the medical district was the highest crime district in the city. So, I had the bright idea of leaving my car parked in a sketchy alley with the doors unlocked, and the windows cracked. I wanted somebody to steal my car.

Later that evening, when I turned the alley corner where I’d left my car, I noticed my car was still where I parked it earlier that morning. No one had stolen it. What a shame, I thought to myself. As I got closer to the car, I couldn’t believe my eyes. Someone had broken two of my windows and stolen my Pioneer radio-cassette player. They ripped it right out of the console, leaving wires hanging everywhere.

The lesson I learned from this: Never overestimate the “intelligence” of a thief!

The road to success is hard and requires tremendous dedication. This question is obviously a big one, but what advice would you give to a young person who aspires to follow in your footsteps and emulate your success?

Be courageous enough to remove the blinders because your formal education will attempt to not only weld them onto your face, it will try to place a harness on your head, a bit in your mouth, and reins around your neck if you allow it. I’m not saying academic work is terrible. It’s not bad at all. However, it’s necessary to approach the world with wide-open eyes and an unencumbered field of gaze.

Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?

Why We Sleep: Unlocking the Power of Sleep and Dreams by Matthew Walker. I feel this book is a must-read for anyone interested in optimized health. Here’s a quote from Matthew that sums it up, “the shorter your sleep, the shorter your life. The leading causes of disease and death in developed nations — diseases that are crippling health-care systems, such as heart disease, obesity, dementia, diabetes, and cancer — all have recognized causal links to a lack of sleep.”

Can you share your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Why does that resonate with you so much?

Quite simply, this quote resonates because I’ve found it to be wise advice. I don’t always get it right, but it’s the wisdom I strive to make a part of everyday life.

Keep your thoughts positive because your thoughts become YOUR WORDS.

Keep your words positive because your words become YOUR BEHAVIOR.

Keep your behavior positive because your behavior becomes YOUR HABITS.

Keep your habits positive because your habits become YOUR VALUES.

Keep your values positive because your values become YOUR DESTINY.

― Mahatma Gandhi

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? How do you think that might help people?

My current project involves optimizing for higher achievement. High-achievers don’t have time for anything that slows them down or has the appearance of or potential to slow them down.

In this fast-paced world, which seems to be even more fast-paced since COVID, I’ve found that high-achievers, myself included, are looking for ways to level-up their achievement-ability to higher levels.

One way I’ve found to level-up in a fraction of the time and with less effort is by nutritionally supporting their genes.

Let me share an example. I had a client who was, by all rights, an extremely successful serial entrepreneur. They came to me wanting to push the boundaries of higher performance. Their wellness regimen was well above average.

After obtaining proper genetic testing, it became apparent that this person could be having sleep challenges. In their medical history, they denied any such problems. I promptly began tracking their sleep performance with a relatively new biometric device. After two weeks, we had proof that deep wave sleep was nearly non-existent, heart rate variability (HRV) was low, and resting heart rate was staying elevated throughout the night.

I crafted a customized plan to nutritionally-support the genes and make the necessary lifestyle adjustments. Within four weeks, the results were astounding. They had nearly a 50% increase in productivity, creativity, and energy. In the subsequent months of monitoring, this translated into multiple six figures in additional revenue.

OK, thank you for all of that. Let’s now shift to the core focus of our interview. This will be intuitive to you but it will be helpful to spell this out directly. Can you help explain a few reasons why it is so important to create good habits? Can you share a story or give some examples?

Not to be redundant, but as Gandhi taught, “your behavior becomes your habits… your habits become your values… (and) your values become your destiny.” There’s not much to add to this wisdom. It’s pretty self-explanatory, and the journey to healthy habits, and subsequently your destiny, begin with your thoughts.

If I have a client whose habits don’t match optimal wellness, then this person has a breakdown in their thinking, the words they’re speaking over themselves, or their behavior. In my professional experience working with thousands of clients over 23 years, it’s usually a hang-up with all three; thinking, words, and behaviors.

How have habits played a role in your success? Can you share some success habits that have helped you in your journey?

A leader has to close the gap between their vision and the actions to execute that vision. Early in my professional development, I had it all wrong.

I used to get caught up in trying to do everything myself. And, if I’m frank, I thought I had to do it all myself if I wanted the job done right. By default, I was defining myself as a “human doing,” not a “human being.” “Doing” versus “being” is a “bad habit,” and I don’t recommend it.

In the “doing phase” of my business development, I was miserable because I attempted to do things beyond my gift and well below my billable hourly rate. I thought all my habits had to center around “doing” to give my dreams and vision structure.

Fed up with the “doing phase,” I threw myself headlong into the “visionary phase” of development. I suspect most high achievers consider themselves to be visionaries. For visionaries, seeing the 40,000-foot view comes naturally. They live and operate comfortably from this level most days. Ironically, high achievers who choose to stay at this level get less accomplished than they would’ve gotten accomplished, which is a “bad habit.”

The number one success habit I discovered was balance; how to balance between the habit of “doing” and the habit of “vision-casting.” Balancing the two is a work in progress. I’m always looking for ways to get “jobs” off my plate, even if it means investing in new personnel.

Speaking in general, what is the best way to develop good habits? Conversely, how can one stop bad habits?

The best way to develop good habits and stop bad ones is to create the habit of evaluating what works versus what doesn’t work then, keep what does work and get rid of what doesn’t. In some circumstances, this will be an intuitive process. In other cases, it’ll require a bit more thought and effort.

The principle here applies whether you’re optimizing your wellness, performance, or business. It’s highly individualized for everyone. Be patient with yourself and your team during this process, and don’t reinvent the wheel.

Develop the habit of being well-read across multiple genres and industries of non-fiction.

There is very little in the world that hasn’t already been done. Learn about existing systems and processes in other areas — brainstorm how you could better design those systems and processes.

In time, you’ll develop a system or process that’s uniquely yours. Many times, my best ideas originate from an amalgam of information I gleaned from industries outside of the health and wellness fields.

Let’s talk about creating good habits in three areas, Wellness, Performance, and Focus. Can you share three good habits that can lead to optimum wellness. Please share a story or example for each.

Imagine your body is like a finely-tuned high-performance European sports car. Would you drive it without water in the radiator, oil in the engine, or the best high-octane fuel in the fuel tank? Would you cover its air intake and block its exhaust? Hopefully, the answer to all of these questions is a resounding no!

So, if we wouldn’t treat our luxury sports car this way, why do so many high-achievers treat their bodies like aunt Betsy’s clunker? This phenomenon has puzzled me for years.

Often, well-intentioned, high-performing individuals will spend massive amounts of money on pretty much anything they desire. Sadly, self-care investment often gets pushed down the priority list or deleted from the list. Then, as if it magically happened overnight, their body breaks down, and they wonder why.

To make matters worse, they view self-care as an expense. This mindset is backward and highly dangerous.

Self-care is a top priority. It is an investment.

If you are a vision & mission-minded individual, people depend on you to carry out your vision and mission.

The vision and mission are not about you.

Self-care is not about you.

Self-care is the ultimate act of service to others.

The foundational formula for optimal wellness is simple → FUEL + OXYGEN = MOVEMENT.

THE RIGHT FUEL: Guard what you eat and drink. With bodies like finely-tuned sports cars, we have precise requirements for operating at the highest performance levels.

If you expect to navigate the hairpin turns of your personal and professional life with agility, speed, and finesse, then using the right fuel is the first foundational step.

THE RIGHT OXYGEN: Learn how to breathe. This certainly isn’t a scientifically proven number, but eight of ten people don’t breathe properly in my clinical experience. They only take shallow breaths, in essence, choking to death. They breathe with their chest and ribs instead of their abdomen. Constricted breathing starves every cell of oxygen and toxically overloads their body with an exhaust that can’t escape. Getting the right oxygen delivered to your cells is the next foundational step.

THE RIGHT MOVEMENT: Move your mass. Let’s face it. We live in a very sedentary society. Screen time is at an all-time high, and it’s getting worse. Researchers tell us that being sedentary is equal to the smoking epidemic of the past fifty years. If we don’t address this quickly, our present generation of teens and twenty-somethings will be the first generation to die before their parents. Even in a society that promotes sedentary life, if you don’t have the right fuel and the proper oxygen, you won’t move. That’s why “movement” is the third foundational step.

Can you help explain some practices that can be used to develop those habits?

ON GETTING THE RIGHT FUEL. Hydration is the foundation of optimal wellness. Seventy-five percent of Americans struggle with dehydration. Dehydration leads to health issues, mood swings, irritability, anxiety, brain fog, focus/concentration issues, and under-performance.

Some research even shows that “dehydrated-driving” is just as dangerous as drunk-driving. If you’re a high-achiever, I recommend women drink 2–3 liters of water per day and men drink 3–4 liters of water per day.

Next, choose foods that are “clean, green, and organic.” I won’t belabor this but eating plenty of organic veggies, green leafy veggies, and choosing ones as close to the source as possible is critical to optimal wellness.

When you eat “close to the source,” you’re not eating pre-packaged processed foods or refined sugar. For some, this is easier than it is for others.

If you’re new to eating this way, the easiest way to start developing this habit is perimeter shopping. Get in the habit of buying all your food from the store’s outside edges, not the center aisles. Be careful with bakery and dairy items as items may be prone to cause inflammation in the body.

ON GETTING THE RIGHT OXYGEN. To master breathing, I highly recommend practicing regularly. Train your body to sense the difference between constricted chest-breathing and proper abdominal-breathing. This way, when you go into your exercise routine, it’s easier to identify when you’re not breathing correctly. Take five or ten minutes at the beginning, middle, and end of your day to practice.

Additionally, during your workday, do a self-check and ask yourself, “Am I agitated or irritable? Has my mood or focus changed? Am I breathing with my chest? Do I feel tightness in my chest?” If the answer is yes, stop what you’re doing and spend a few minutes focused on proper breathing with the abdominal muscles. In time, your body will naturally revert to a state of abdominal breathing.

ON GETTING THE RIGHT MOVEMENT. Movement requires a balance between the type and amount of exercise. The field of epigenetics has expanded our understanding of this concept. The fancy term is hormesis, which loosely translates to, “The stress which doesn’t kill you, or make you too weak, makes you stronger.” Movement is only one form of hormesis.

I work with too many people who “over-exercise.” They stress their bodies into oblivion and then wonder why their health is failing, their performance is gone, and they can’t seem to take off those unwanted pounds. Conversely, I work with equally as many people who get to the end of their day, not having been purposeful or mindful about movement beyond basic biological needs, and they throw in the towel.

For different reasons, both extremes of the spectrum have ill effects. In both instances, cortisol is higher than it should be. Additionally, oxidative stress (internal rust) increases, antioxidants are depleted, the immune system breaks down, and organs become damaged from a lack of antioxidant protection.

Trust me when I say this is an over-simplistic view of the spectrum, but I hope you realize that movement requires balance; the right balance of proper fuel, the right balance of adequate oxygen, the correct type of exercise, and the right amount of activity.

If you want to get an upgrade, invest in a biometric tracking device that measures movement and sleep, and it can give you some form of readiness score each morning upon waking.

It doesn’t matter whether you’re at one end of the spectrum or the other; biometric tracking will give you a greater understanding of your internal biological signals that it’s time to pull back or it’s time to go full steam ahead. Many companies make these devices, but my personal favorite is the Oura Ring.

If you’re one of the sedentary-throw-in-the-towel types, keep in mind that mindful and purposeful movement can be as simple as a brisk five to ten-minute walk. Try not to overthink it. Be patient and forgiving with yourself. And, if you get to the end of your day and you haven’t done any purposeful movement, it’s never too late for a brisk walk, no matter how short or long it may be.

Can you share three good habits that can lead to optimal performance at work or sport? Please share a story or example for each.

Use Technology To Track & Improve Your Sleep. I always thought my sleep was excellent; however, I learned otherwise when I started using biometric technology to track my sleep. My core temperature was too elevated, and my deep-wave sleep (the restorative kind) was too low.

Over time, I began noticing the effects of lifestyle and diet on my sleep. So, biohacking my sleep has become an obsession of mine, which has extended into biohacking my entire lifestyle and has allowed me to be more alert, attentive, and productive during the day.

Develop a “Morning Routine” That Works for You. I’m not a morning person. I’ve never been. Yet, I’ve repeatedly tried to force myself into the “morning routine” dogma. Quite frankly, it’s always felt like I was trying to slog up the north face of Mt. Everest in 80 mile-per-hour wind while carrying an extra 60 pounds of gear.

And, when it’s all said and done, after months of attempting to pull off the morning routine, I’m more exhausted and less productive. When I learned to accept my biological rhythm as “normal” and found ways to make a “morning routine” fit into my life, my productivity soared.

Maximize the Benefits of Intermittent Fasting. I know I’m a little biased, but I think everyone should be incorporating intermittent fasting into their weekly routine. Notice I said “weekly routine.” I don’t expect everyone to do as I do. I fast daily from 7 p.m. to noon or 1 p.m. the next day. Once or twice a week, I extend my fasting window to 23 hours. Intermittent fasting has been one of the best ways I’ve found to optimize my work performance.

Can you help explain some practices that can be used to develop those habits?

On Using Technology To Track & Improve Your Sleep.

When I spoke about movement previously, I encourage all my clients to use a biometric tracking device, like the Oura Ring, to measure activity, sleep, and core temperature. My mantra, “You can’t improve what you don’t track and measure.”

Using these devices is passive and easy but opens up a whole new world of insight. Almost every client of mine who wears one of these devices brags about how life-changing the information is.

At its core, biometric tracking gives us the proof our skeptical and change-resistant minds need to perform at optimal levels effectively.

After years of interpreting my biometric tracking data and helping my clients do the same, here are some insights I’ve learned that will help you get a great night’s sleep.

  • Exercise regularly, being careful not to over-exercise.
  • Develop the habit of getting in bed at the same time each night and rising at the same time each day.
  • Hydrate well during the day.
  • Don’t eat two hours before you go to bed.
  • Avoid alcohol, eliminate caffeine and refined sugar, and limit wheat and corn consumption.
  • And avoid screen time two hours before bedtime.

On Developing a “Morning Routine” That Works for You.

Forty percent of the population are classified as “morning types,” while 30% are “evening types.” The remaining 30% fall somewhere in between. So, if this is true, how does an “evening type” or “combined-type” ignore their natural biological rhythm and successfully pull off a morning routine?

Here’s the answer. Boost your productivity by working with your biological clock, not against it.

We’re all wired differently, so do your “morning routine” whenever it’s best for you, even if this means interspersing pieces of the routine throughout your day.

This advice applies to morning, evening, or in-between types. It’s up to you. Besides exercise, which I recommend avoiding within three hours of bedtime, I frequently do my “morning routine” divided between midday and bedtime. It works for me. Find what works for you. There’s no right or wrong way.

On Maximizing the Benefits of Intermittent Fasting.

Intermittent fasting is to the cell what a house cleaning service is to your home. Intermittent fasting cleans out the cellular waste and debris that slows down processes in the body. Before you start an intermittent fasting regimen, consult your medical provider.

Initially, begin with a 12-hour fasting window. A 12-hour fast is pretty easy for most people. As you feel comfortable, extend your fasting window by an hour every few weeks until you’re up to 18 hours. As you’re adjusting, research tells us that you will likely be hungry at the time your body usually consumes food. Overcoming breakthrough hunger takes about 2–6 weeks to reprogram, so be patient. You won’t always feel hungry. By the way, dehydration is often mistaken for hunger. When “hungry,” drink water.

Can you share three good habits that can lead to optimal focus? Please share a story or example for each.

Optimize Your Methylation Genes.

I know that methylation may be a foreign word to most people. Don’t get hung up on the terminology. Just know that one of its many functions is that it allows your body’s neurological system to produce neurotransmitters. Without methylation, “feel good” chemicals like melatonin, serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine just don’t get manufactured by the body, which will leave you without optimal focus.

Optimize Your Neurotransmitter Genes.

There’s one gene in particular that is directly related to poor focus; the COM-T gene. Other genes indirectly affect focus via mood and anxiety regulation. Those genes are GAD-1, MAO-A, MAO-B, HTR2, SLC6A4.

Drop The Caffeine And Drink More Water. Do you ever have an “afternoon crash?” If so, you’re not alone. In my experience, this has to do with one of two things; eating a high carbohydrate meal at lunch or not drinking enough water.

In my professional experience, dehydration is the more common cause of poor focus. Sadly, most people turn to caffeine for the answer. Think of this scenario like a cut in your skin that needs stitches; water is the stitches, and caffeine is nothing more than a bandage. Caffeine doesn’t treat the cause. It covers up the problem.

Can you help explain some practices that can be used to develop those habits?

On Optimizing Your Methylation Genes:

Sadly, well-intentioned high-performers who turn to cheap genetic testing, like 23-and-me, only get a tiny piece of the methylation puzzle.

Methylation occurs in five phases across eight genes, but companies like 23-and-me only test for two of the eight methylation genes. And, if you want the best picture of methylation, you deserve to have all eight methylation genes checked along with the five genes that control B-12 demand, which 23-and-me doesn’t check.

Checking the genes that control all five phases of the methylation pathway and B-12 demand allows us to optimize focus at the highest level. When we know the exact genes out of balance, we can nutritionally support the body to overcome any inherited deficits. This means using methylated forms of b-vitamins rather than non-methylated forms.

On Optimizing Your Neurotransmitter Genes:

The names of the genes that I mentioned previously aren’t necessary. The takeaway is that your body is kind of like a bucket, and there are ways in which the bucket can leak. Each of these genes causes a leak in the bucket, and when this happens, you lose the resources needed to maintain focus. The good news is that we can stop these leaks and restore resources.

On Dropping the Caffeine and Drinking More Water:

Here are a few success tips I’ve found for staying focused through hydration. Start drinking water early. I recommend purchasing a one-liter stainless steel or glass water bottle. Fill it the night before you go to bed, and leave it at your bedside. When you wake up, drink half a liter of water. Within the hour, drink the other half a liter. Drinking water upon waking will give you a good jumpstart on focus.

Next, pace yourself for the remaining 1–2 liters if you’re a woman, and 2–3 liters, if you’re a man. Try to complete your daily water goal by 6:00 p.m. daily. If you wish to have something other than water in the evening, consider it a reward.

As a leader, you likely experience times when you are in a state of Flow. Flow has been described as a pleasurable mental state that occurs when you do something that you are skilled at, that is challenging, and that is meaningful. Can you share some ideas from your experience about how we can achieve a state of Flow more often in our lives?

I have quite a few flow-state hacks that I’ve layered into my routine over time.

  • I tune out the outside world.
  • I mentally frame this time as something I love, not just a little, but a lot
  • I give gratitude for the extreme productivity that has already occurred speaking of the future in the present tense.
  • I put my cell phone in a separate room.
  • I turn my watch on airplane mode.
  • I turn off all notifications on my computer.
  • I turn on a binaural and isochronic brainwave entrainment app and listen through noise-canceling earbuds.
  • I place my feet on a grounding mat at my desk.
  • I begin each session with my desk in a standing position.
  • I usually start each session with a hyper-oxygenation “power-up” breathing routine that lasts about four minutes.

Using these hacks, I’m usually in flow-state within 5–15 minutes and, on many occasions, have gone four hours or longer in a standing position before I realize how much time has passed.

Ok, we are nearly done. You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good for the greatest number of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.

Unnecessarily, many people deal with issues and challenges that are avoidable with proper early wellness planning.

In the field of epigenetics, we have a host of modifiable health factors at our fingertips, yet mainstream medicine seems blind to them all.

Within the field of epigenetics is nutrigenomics, wherein we’re able to identify & nutritionally support genes that affect mood, anxiety, energy, detoxification, inflammation, cellular function, and higher peak performance, and so much more.

  • The earlier we begin implementing genetically targeted wellness plans, the better the outcomes for individuals.
  • I believe that genetically targeted wellness plans are the future.
  • I believe the future is now.

We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US, whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we both tag them 🙂

I’d love to sit down and share a meal with Dr. Phil McGraw.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

Here’s how people can get in touch with me:

On the web: www.drbriangbrown.com

On LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/drbriangbrown/

On Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/brian.griffin.brown

On Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/drbriangbrown

On Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/drbriangbrown/

On Twitter: https://twitter.com/drbriangbrown

Thank you for these really excellent insights, and we greatly appreciate the time you spent with this. We wish you continued success.


Dr Brian G Brown: Getting An Upgrade; How Anyone Can Build Habits For Optimal Wellness, Performanc was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Clean Running Water In Every Community: Seán Kearney’s Big Idea That Might Change The World

You make your own luck by doing your best and working hard. We were in Indonesia and I commented to an Australian bricklaying instructor who was working with us about how lucky we had gotten with the volunteer group that had been assembled for the building project. He disagreed and told me he could see how hard our IWSH team had worked to organize everything — so it might have felt like luck, but he recognized that so much had been done behind-the-scenes to get us to this point.

As a part of my series about “Big Ideas That Might Change The World In The Next Few Years” I had the pleasure of interviewing Seán Kearney.

Kearney is the Managing Director at The International Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Foundation, the charitable arm of The International Association of Plumbing and Mechanical Officials (IAPMO). He oversees the development of the international Community Plumbing Challenge (CPC) program, which has grown into the flagship initiative of IWSH today. Over the past six years, he has directed projects launched in India, South Africa, Indonesia, and the United States to bring safe and hygienic plumbing solutions to communities that previously lacked access.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit. Can you please tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

While I was in school studying Visual Communication in Dublin I was introduced to an organization called WorldSkills, which is an Olympic Games-style competition for the skilled trades — everything from plumbing to other building and construction trades, to manufacturing and engineering, creative arts, IT, and other social and personal service careers. I entered the local competition in Dublin and won, and was selected to represent Ireland in Graphic Design Technology in the international competition. It gave me a totally unique perspective to see all these other young people around my age in all the different trades from more than 50 countries around the world.

I got hooked on this experience: on the international perspective, on getting to travel and to learn about and see other trades in action, so I volunteered to help at that same competition event the next time around. This experience set me off on an amazing path where eventually I got a job with the WorldSkills organization itself, connecting with plumbers and other skilled trades as I went along.

Now I work with IAPMO, which is a WorldSkills Global Industry Partner, so I am proud to have come up through the ranks of the WorldSkills movement from the grassroots — as a competitor, then volunteer, then staff — to now being involved in running international projects with them.

Can you please share with us the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

I couldn’t pick one, in particular! Through this job, I’ve been able to travel and see a lot of the world in a close-up, special way. When you work on a community level like this, you’re in places that most ‘outside’ people never see. So we’re working in people’s homes, in schools, I’ve been to local churches and mosques, I’ve been in orphanages and hospitals — experiencing up-close places and situations where some of the most vulnerable people in the world are living. We’ve had projects everywhere from informal settlements in South Africa to the Navajo Nation in the southwestern U.S. to small villages in Indonesia. A really fun part of this work is bringing ‘Western world’ plumbers to these places, and it blows their minds to be put into those kinds of environments and be so welcome, and to go away having changed lives by helping provide something that we think is simple — pipes and safe water.

Which principles or philosophies have guided your life? Your career?

Growing up, my mother was a social worker and my dad was a teacher, and their influence taught me a lot about the importance of helping others.

Now, I am a parent myself. I’ve got two young boys with autism. As they have special needs around speech and language, I’ve learned so much about communicating with people from them. I myself don’t have a talent for languages, but I think you can still relate to people even if they do speak a different language, you can still understand what they are trying to communicate, and you can get along without a shared language. It’s particularly cool when you bring skills into it, like in our job, when you put skilled people together. People can work side-by-side together, hands-on, and their shared skills do the talking!

I also firmly believe in the importance of respecting others. I don’t come from a privileged background, but I recognize that in the global sense, so many of us are extremely privileged purely by the luck of where we were born. When I travel to different parts of the world and get to meet new people and start work in a new community setting, I always try to put myself in their position, and it’s important to remember and recognize that we’re all people, all equally deserving of respect.

Ok thank you for that. Let’s now move to the main focus of our interview. Can you tell us about your “Big Idea That Might Change The World”?

Through IWSH, we are putting the skills and expertise of plumbers and other trade professionals to work alongside international organizations and manufacturers to carry out critical water, sanitation, and hygiene projects around the world. We work together to develop local infrastructure and improve water and sanitation conditions to improve public health and economic outcomes in the communities that need it most.

You know, the world is full of well-intentioned projects where equipment is donated and installed, but then years or even months later, it breaks down and no one knows how to fix it. It just goes out of use, and the people who received this donation are actually in a worse position than they were before the donation was given, because they’ve had time to enjoy the benefits of this new system but lost it or had it taken away from them again! It is now useless.

What makes IWSH different is that we bring education and skills into the heart of the communities we are working in, regardless of where they are in the world. We’re thinking about the whole structure, the skills and expertise needed to operate and maintain these new systems and new technologies into the future. IWSH embeds the work in the community — it’s so important to collaborate with local people and local authorities, and build in the support they will need to create resilient systems that will bring value to them in the long term.

So it could be pipes, or pumps, or water filters being delivered into a community for the first time, but it can’t just be about installing a shiny new plumbing system and walking away — it also has to be about the skills development, awareness and understanding that is transferred. This means new systems can be properly managed and maintained, then even expanded and upgraded in time.

How do you think this will change the world?

What we do is simple, but it can be life-changing. When running water is supplied to a community or into a household for the first time, this has a massive impact on people’s daily lives, on their health, and on the community as a whole.

When we collaborate with our host partners and help transfer and develop the new skills they will need to maintain their new systems, it requires true buy-in from the community and a level of understanding, trust, and respect on both sides. But if you want to talk about changing the world — it would be difficult to overstate the impact these resources bring to the people who need them the most. When we get the chance to work together and give the support they need, they immediately see what they can do themselves to improve their own day-to-day lives.

Keeping “Black Mirror” and the “Law of Unintended Consequences” in mind, can you see any potential drawbacks about this idea that people should think more deeply about?

The projects we focus on aren’t the type of work where you are at risk of seeing unintended drawbacks. What we’re talking about is as simple as installing plumbing in a place where it didn’t exist previously and providing the training needed to maintain the systems within the community itself. It’s improving hygiene and protecting people’s health around the world in the most basic way. The only unintended consequences we can imagine in these projects are positive ones.

Was there a “tipping point” that led you to this idea? Can you tell us that story?

The tipping points I think about the most are the smaller realizations that happen during every project. Once we worked at a school in Indonesia, where we taught some young kids a handwashing game. They were washing their hands with soap as part of the game and were smelling their hands and having a real laugh over it. We realized that, for those kids, the soap smell was quite funny and unusual because washing their hands in this way was a novel experience for them. These kids were right around the same age as my own sons, and I realized they didn’t have access to soap, which obviously has a massive impact on the health of the child. It just reminds you of all the things that so many of us take for granted.

Everyone involved in our projects has experiences like these. From the U.S. we’ve recruited volunteer plumbers or other tradespeople who needed to get a passport to leave the country for the first time! It blows their mind when they arrive in these communities, so it is an honor to witness and help steer these learning experiences for them as a member of the IWSH organizing team. There they are, performing a task that in their day-to-day work is a basic, mundane thing, like installing a new pipe — but that’s when the lightbulb comes on and they realize how huge this simple installation is for these families. Our volunteers talk all the time about what a life-changing experience these projects are for them. Many of them get hooked on it and are first in line for the next overseas opportunity that comes up. The benefits of the work are felt on both sides.

What do you need to lead this idea to widespread adoption?

We need to continue collaborating across industries, combining industry resources with education, and building partnerships with solid community organizations around the world. It’s a potent mix when essential skills development and new opportunities are connected with the right partners at the table, and there’s no end to what we can accomplish when we’re working together effectively.

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)

  1. You make your own luck by doing your best and working hard. We were in Indonesia and I commented to an Australian bricklaying instructor who was working with us about how lucky we had gotten with the volunteer group that had been assembled for the building project. He disagreed and told me he could see how hard our IWSH team had worked to organize everything — so it might have felt like luck, but he recognized that so much had been done behind-the-scenes to get us to this point.
  2. Always be on the lookout for new connections. I realize this is true in virtually every field, but making new connections and thinking creatively about new partnerships are invaluable to my work with IWSH. Innovative collaborations across industries and across communities are essential to the success of our projects. Always seize those opportunities to make new connections…
  3. … And if you see an opportunity, take it! Don’t waste your time being passive or nervous; take a chance, and believe in yourself. What if I had been too hesitant or self-conscious to compete in WorldSkills when I was a young student back in Dublin? I certainly would never have arrived at my current role with IWSH and would have missed out on so many life-changing experiences. Always stand up and take advantage of the opportunities that cross your path in life.
  4. Respond, not React. When conflicts inevitably arise on a project, I’ve learned it’s important to be a calming influence. Avoid knee-jerk reactions, but instead take the time and effort to provide considered and constructive responses that will help get things back on track. It’s not always easy to do, but I think it goes a long way towards building stronger collaborative partnerships with people. When you are always open to change and ready to respond in a positive way, you can help things move in a new, and often better, direction.
  5. Underpromise, but Overdeliver. It is a favorite work expression of mine that I heard early on, at the start of my career, and I’ve always tried to stick with it ever since. It comes back to clear communication, the importance of being honest, open, and being respectful, particularly when working in community environments like we do with IWSH. Resist the urge to exaggerate and instead concentrate on getting the absolute maximum benefit out of the resources and opportunities available in any given situation.

Can you share with our readers what you think are the most important “success habits” or “success mindsets”?

As a manager of projects like these, I think the best thing you can do is to set other people up to succeed, to create work environments that will enable them to perform at their best. This is particularly true when you work with people who have skill sets that are very different from yours. For example, in my role with IWSH, we’re talking about everyone from master plumbers to engineers to other specialist construction tradespeople or experts. Paying attention to the details and anticipating people’s needs ahead of time will allow you to get the best performance out of everybody. Be positive, encourage others, and then get out of their way and let them tackle it! That’s where you get that feeling of satisfaction.

Some very well known VCs read this column. If you had 60 seconds to make a pitch to a VC, what would you say? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂

When you look at projects like the ones that IWSH takes on, small amounts of money can go a really long way when the structure is set up correctly. On the flip side, a huge amount of money can be wasted on well-intentioned projects if they aren’t well thought out. Whether a project budget is $5,000 or $5 million, the right people and the right skills will always need to be in place to build the resiliency and provide the knowledge base to keep new water, sanitation, and hygiene systems running for the long term. That is the IWSH approach.

Money enables further outreach, but most of all it’s about continued investment in people and in communities. Every IWSH project — regardless of its size or budget — is designed to benefit the locality and empower people for the long term, creating a well-resourced environment for the future.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

Readers can follow me on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/se%C3%A1n-kearney-18a62b11/

They can also follow IWSH on social media:

https://twitter.com/IWSH_Foundation

https://www.facebook.com/IWSHFoundation

https://www.linkedin.com/company/iwshfoundation/

Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational.


Clean Running Water In Every Community: Seán Kearney’s Big Idea That Might Change The World was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

ALIEN Thinking: Cyril Bouquet’s Big Idea That Might Change The World

So the big idea is “helping people generate truly original solutions”. Together with my colleagues, Mike Wade and Jean-Louis Barsoux, we developed an approach to innovation that we call ALIEN thinking. It captures the need to look at the world with fresh eyes, as an alien would, in order to come up with unconventional ideas.

The way we all see things is distorted by our individual habits and assumptions, by our experiences and professional training. For example, a lawyer, a physician and an engineer may have very different takes on the same problem.

Everyone has these blinkers. So, ALIEN thinking is a set of guidelines to help you move past your blindspots and adopt a perspective that increases your chances of finding and implementing novel ideas.

As a part of my series about “Big Ideas That Might Change The World In The Next Few Years” I had the pleasure of interviewing Cyril Bouquet.

Cyril Bouquet is a Professor of Innovation and Strategy at IMD Business School and a co-author of ALIEN THINKING: The Unconventional Path to Breakthrough Ideas (PublicAffairs; March 16, 2021). Bouquet helps organizations reinvent themselves by letting their top executives explore the future they want to create together. As a professor at IMD, Cyril is doing research that has gained significant recognition in the field. His PhD dissertation won the Academy of International Business 2004 Richard Farmer Award. Since then, he’s published one book “Building Global Mindsets” (2005), and several academic articles in the most prestigious academic journals, including Harvard Business Review, MIT Sloan Management Review, the Academy of Management Journal, the Journal of International Business Studies, the Journal of Management, and the Journal of Management Studies.

Cyril has a keen interest for technology. He’s created a start-up & collaboration platform — Augmented Tribes — to help executive teams progress through various stages of an innovation journey. And he is part of the faculty team having launched the program TransformTech — in collaboration with EPFL (Ecole polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne) — to help senior leaders learn how new technologies such as artificial intelligence, blockchain, robotics and the internet of things are transforming the world of business.

Cyril was educated in France and Canada, having received a PhD degree from the Richard Ivey School of Business at the University of Western Ontario in London (Canada), and an International MBA from the University of Ottawa.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit. Can you please tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

I think my interest in innovation is somehow linked to my personal journey.

Basically, I’ve been an immigrant most of my life, moving around the world from France, where I was born, to New Caledonia, where I grew up as a kid, to Reunion Island where I spent my teenage years, to Canada, where I pursued my studies, and most recently to Switzerland, where I work.

With each move I was forced out of my comfort zone, which was quite hard, especially as a child. But with hindsight, I now realize that it pushed me to question the standard or best way of doing things. You realize that there’s more than one way of addressing the problems that exist in the world. Good ideas come in many shapes and forms, if you’re open to seeing them.

Can you please share with us the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

It dates back to the start of my career. To help finance my doctoral studies, I joined a research team that was looking into the genetic drivers of innovation. My role was to go around collecting saliva samples from hundreds of participants — not exactly glamorous.

Initially, the study found that entrepreneurs had more testosterone than non-entrepreneurs. And it was true for women as well as men. So, it seemed like conclusive evidence that there really was a genetic factor that drove their propensity to take risks and their resilience to setbacks.

But subsequent research revealed that the higher levels of testosterone were, in fact, a consequence of engaging in innovation activity, and not a driver of it. In fact, the only valid finding from the original study was that entrepreneurs were more stressed out than non-entrepreneurs!

That reversal of cause and effect reassured me and confirmed my personal belief that we are in control of our own destiny — that it’s not testosterone, personality factors or some genetic endowment that drives our creativity and ability to solve problems. Actually, everybody has the potential to be innovative.

And, ultimately, that has boosted my motivation to work with executives on real-world challenges for which they need strong innovation skills.

Which principles or philosophies have guided your life? Your career?

Building on what I just said, I have a strong conviction that we can all make a difference in this world. I mean, we can all do things that bring progress regardless of whether you’re working in academia, in a big company, in government, in a lab or in the social domain. And this is something that I try to apply to myself and to the education of my kids. But it never comes easy.

So the other thing is hard work. And in the specific case of academia, it’s about balancing rigor and relevance. We can’t just tell a good story. Rigor means making sure that it’s backed by empirical evidence and solid reasoning. At the other extreme, we must remain relevant. Fundamental research is important, but it can lead you down a rabbit hole where you focus on niche issues and lose contact with the very population you’re trying to help.

Ok thank you for that. Let’s now move to the main focus of our interview. Can you tell us about your “Big Idea That Might Change The World”?

So the big idea is “helping people generate truly original solutions”. Together with my colleagues, Mike Wade and Jean-Louis Barsoux, we developed an approach to innovation that we call ALIEN thinking. It captures the need to look at the world with fresh eyes, as an alien would, in order to come up with unconventional ideas.

The way we all see things is distorted by our individual habits and assumptions, by our experiences and professional training. For example, a lawyer, a physician and an engineer may have very different takes on the same problem.

Everyone has these blinkers. So, ALIEN thinking is a set of guidelines to help you move past your blindspots and adopt a perspective that increases your chances of finding and implementing novel ideas.

The reason we capitalize ALIEN is because it’s not just a metaphor but also an acronym. It captures the five key strategies that support a fresh and flexible approach to problem-solving.

Attention is about consciously switching your focus to see the world from different angles to help you notice different things.

Levitation is about retreating from the world — like taking a time-out in sports — to make sense of what you’ve observed.

Imagination is about thinking across existing boundaries and connecting the dots in creative ways.

Experimentation is about testing your ideas while remaining open to new possibilities and learning.

Navigation is about finding ways to get your solution accepted without getting shot in the process.

Our book, ALIEN Thinking, explores those dimensions in detail.

How do you think this will change the world?

People with ideas or looking for inspiration need an innovation model they can easily recall and apply. Our framework is not aimed exclusively at people in business. It’s really a tool that can be applied by anybody, in any walk of life.

We studied innovators who generated breakthrough solutions in domains from business to medicine to science and social causes. The examples we discuss include a bus designer who trained rats to sniff out landmines; a car mechanic who invented a safer device to help free babies stuck in the birthing canal; and a balloonist who became the first person to fly round the world without using fuel.

I feel we’re in a context where the world needs more original thinking, bigger ideas, and more radical solutions to address some of the vexing problems we have inflicted on ourselves, from pollution to overpopulation, as well as multiple health issues, including the current pandemic.

We face so many pressing challenges that we need to encourage innovation from all quarters, not just experts. Innovation is a shared responsibility.

Keeping “Black Mirror” and the “Law of Unintended Consequences” in mind, can you see any potential drawbacks about this idea that people should think more deeply about?

Sure. Our framework is meant to support progress — both economic growth and social innovation. But it’s just a tool. It’s what you do with it that counts. You can choose to use it for any purpose — like criminals, counterfeiters, and hackers when they find ingenious new ways to beat the system.

We focus on well-intentioned innovators. That’s why we studied a lot of social entrepreneurs. It’s also why we present ALIEN thinkers as rebels with a cause. They aren’t just loose cannons, trouble-makers or anarchists, causing disruption for personal gain or for the sake of it. They’re unconventional thinkers who are really trying to find better ways of tackling problems that matter.

Was there a “tipping point” that led you to this idea? Can you tell us that story?

I think it was a convergence of two things. First, I was feeling a bit frustrated with design thinking. Although it’s a rich approach to innovation, I saw too many smart executive teams using it like a kind of recipe, which produced disappointing results. I realized it wasn’t a fundamental problem with the model but rather with its implementation. Participants were not really pushing themselves or challenging their deep-held assumptions.

That observation happened to coincide with me picking up a book from the mid-2000s, called Future Think, written by Edie Weiner and Arnold Brown. The first chapter was called “Looking Through Alien Eyes” and it struck me that this was exactly the mindset you needed to adopt throughout the innovation process, if you wanted to come up with original ideas. The idea of turning it into an acronym came later.

What do you need to lead this idea to widespread adoption?

For our idea to succeed, we need individuals to realize that it is not just aimed at executives, engineers, and entrepreneurs. Whether you’re a scientist, an artist, an activist or a governmental officer, ALIEN thinking can help you come up with more interesting ideas about how you can do things better in your job and in your life. It provides a simple and comprehensive template for tackling any difficult decision, problem, creativity blockage or innovation that requires divergent thinking.

Beyond that, we also need organizations to recognize the value of ALIEN thinking. Will they be willing to let employees experiment with the ideas that we develop in the book? For example, will they allow employees to spend time observing, reframing or generating additional options? In many companies, reflection time is questioned or even considered wasted time. Everything is about immediate payoffs and visible effort.

Also, will organizations be prepared to overhaul some of the internal processes, incentives, and cultural norms that suppress the most creative ideas? Collectively, these hidden blockers act as a sort of “corporate immune system” against ideas that might disrupt the existing and proven way of doing things.

Organizations wishing to encourage ALIEN thinking must first change themselves.

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)

There were several things I wish I’d known before setting out on writing this book, but the overarching one would be “Heed your own advice”. Ironically, a lot of the struggles we faced while writing the book were precisely to do with traps we were warning others about — like getting stuck with self-imposed constraints or targeting the wrong audience. So we learned to schedule regular lunches together to step back from the writing and question the perspective we were taking. That underpins the other four lessons.

  1. You can’t create by committee. Our initial approach was to gather several experts and to let each one write about one dimension of the ALIEN framework. That resulted in a disjointed mess. Different perspectives only help creativity if there is lots of interaction.
  2. Question the framing. The original frame was based on the ALIEN thinker. I was quite resistant when my colleagues proposed changing it to ALIEN thinking. It sounds like a trivial change, but it impacted the narrative in lots of different ways. In the end, it was the right decision. But you must be careful that ego doesn’t get in the way of a better solution.
  3. Be prepared to abandon your assumptions. When we started, our collective assumption as business professors was that we wanted to study people in big companies. But we quickly realized that some of the most interesting examples were in other spheres of action, and that the book could have much wider appeal.
  4. Expect surprises. We know that book projects are always complicated, but since I’d been teaching this material in class for several years, I anticipated that we’d sail right through. But different setbacks and feedbacks prolonged the process way beyond my original estimate. The final glitch was an extensive rewrite — two weeks after handing over the final manuscript — because one of our key protagonists was ousted for inappropriate conduct.

Can you share with our readers what you think are the most important “success habits” or “success mindsets”?

I would say that if you want to be an ALIEN thinker, there are three habits or mindsets that you need to develop.

Don’t jump to solutions. We often believe that we know what the problem is and what the solution should be, but a good ALIEN thinker is willing to suspend judgment and to remain open to alternative interpretations and options. To come up with unconventional solutions, you must embrace this process of exploration, learning, discovery, and be receptive to other people’s ideas.

Be willing to surround yourself with people who think differently. Underpinning all the advice we provide is the mindset of accepting to expose yourself to different ways of thinking and doing things. That could mean inviting feedback from critics or perhaps welcoming millennials into your top team discussions. But it could also involve going to conferences that are not in your field or visiting a museum to take the time to change your ideas and prime your mind for alternative thoughts.

Manage yourself. Many of the same qualities that can help you succeed as an ALIEN thinker, can also derail you. For example, creativity is good, but too much creativity can distract you and lead you to disperse your efforts across projects. Likewise, persistence is helpful, but too much of that can lead you to ignore signals that it’s time to change course. If you’re in hyperdrive, you just want to advance and you don’t take the time to learn. To find some kind of balance between focus and flexibility, you need to manage yourself.

Some very well known VCs read this column. If you had 60 seconds to make a pitch to a VC, what would you say? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂

Honestly, I think every VC should know this framework in order to talk to aspiring entrepreneurs in terms they can easily understand. It provides a structure and a shared vocabulary for discussing and delivering truly breakthrough solutions. It also shows innovators how to leverage digital tools at every stage of the process — and reminds them of the need for divergent thinking throughout.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

Twitter: @Cyril Bouquet

LinkedIn: http://linkedin.com/in/cyril-bouquet-a028a0

Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational.


ALIEN Thinking: Cyril Bouquet’s Big Idea That Might Change The World was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Priscila Martinez of 1795 Communications: 5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Became a C-Suite

Priscila Martinez of 1795 Communications: 5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Became a C-Suite Executive

Imposter Syndrome is real. Keep that at the forefront whenever you feel down or inadequate. It would be impossible to count the of times incredibly bright, young females have confided about their imposter syndrome. Its real, and the best way to guardrail against it is to be aware.

As part of our series called “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Began Leading My Company” I had the pleasure of interviewing Priscila Martinez.

Priscila Martinez is a marketing, creative communications, and public relations professional based in Los Angeles. She is CEO and founder of three award-winning, global creative communications agencies, The Brand Agency, Vicaria Multicultural Agency, and 1795 Communications. She is an expert in the entertainment, fashion, beauty and lifestyle sectors and has serviced a variety of luxury and consumer clients in those spaces. Her firms and the campaigns they represent have won numerous prestigious awards like Best Branding and Communications Firm, CES Innovation Award, and Best PR Firm in the West Coast. Martinez’s expertise has been featured in outlets like Forbes, Entrepreneur, and AdWeek. She is currently a Public Relations, Social Media and Branding correspondent for NBC’s Peacock platform.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series. Before we dive into our discussion, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share with us the backstory about what brought you to your specific career path?

I was a business major and right out of college, I accepted my first job in that field. I would spend 10 hours in a windowless office, my eyes bleeding from staring at spreadsheets. I was living with roommates at the time and one of them was definitely not sharing that first-job-out-of-college experience with me. She would bop around from premiere to premiere, received armloads of free clothes, and would arrive home in a chauffeured car that a client provided. I thought, “Man, I must be doing something incredibly wrong here.” I decided to give her career choice a go, she was a publicist. Little did I know that those perks only made up for the hard work publicists put in behind the scenes. We get to see the glamorous side but the hard office hours are really what get you to do those glimmering moments.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?

I’ve had so many awesome career moments, its hard to single out just one. From meeting childhood idols of mine at their home and having them ask for my advice (little old me!), to seeing your team grow into the best communicators in the business. One of the most poignant stories though isn’t a very positive one, but it stung so hard that it provided the gas I’ve needed during hard times. I had set up a meeting with a potential client via email. Meaning, we had never met in person or chatted on the phone before. The meeting went incredibly well, we stood up from our table at the Beverly Wilshire and I was saying my goodbyes. The potential client says, “I’m happy this went well. With a name like Priscila Martinez, I didn’t know what to expect.” The potential client was referring to my Latin name and last name. I stood in horror. I couldn’t even tell you what I said back, everything froze in that moment. It reminded me that there were a lot of barriers to continue breaking before girls like me got a fair chance.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life?

The Stockdale Paradox is a very useful life lesson I keep on going back to. I learned it from Jim Collins’ book Good to Great. It details how Admiral Stockdale survived as a prisoner of war. The only thing that kept him alive was his belief that one day he would be out. His other POW companions succumbed one by one. It was clear to Stockdale that they didn’t make it because they would impose deadlines on themselves. “We will be out by Thanksgiving” or “We will be out by Christmas.” Only to have those dates come and go. It became clear that the only way to survive is to keep on going and trusting that you will get out of a hard situation. You can never lose faith. I kept on going back to the Stockdale Paradox during the beginning of COVID, it is the only thing that kept me sane: knowing that somehow, some day, we would be out of this.

Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on your leadership style? Can you share a story or an example of that?

I’m an avid reader and devour a few books per month. Good to Great by Jim Collins is definitely one of my favorites. Admittedly, I’ve read it a few times. Principles by Ray Dalio is also a fantastic book. The tips are so actionable you can’t help but write in the margins. This is a book a keep by my bed and open up to random chapters, the book always provides something new that you can relate to during these chance encounters with it.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

I helm three global, award-winning public relations and creative communications firms: The Brand Agency, Vicaria Multicultural Agency, and 1795 Communications. I can say, without any doubt in my mind, that the reason all of these agencies stand out is because they house the best communicators in the business. Our female-only team is sharp, agile, and ready to roll up its sleeves. It makes me so proud to be out in the field at a premiere or red carpet and to hear how others outside of the organization perceive our hustle.

The road to success is hard and requires tremendous dedication. This question is obviously a big one, but what advice would you give to a young person who aspires to follow in your footsteps and emulate your success?

My pieces of advice to somebody trying to break into the field of PR is to always volunteer yourself for hard work. It doesn’t matter what position you hold, an internship or a VP title, people around you will always recognize tenacity and hard work. No matter how hard, always take on assignments that get you closer to the personality you want to work closely with, be it a CEO, CMO, or a cool artist you feel you can learn a lot from.

Often leaders are asked to share the best advice they received. But let’s reverse the question. Can you share a story about advice you’ve received that you now wish you never followed?

Advice is also colored by the lens the individual giving it has acquired through their personal experiences. Don’t let their life experiences taint yours.

I was told to never leave the comfort of a big firm and start my own business. That the margins were terrible, and that PR was dead. Glad I didn’t listen to that 6 years ago! Everyone has advice, you need to be extra discerning about which one you follow.

You are a successful business leader. Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success? Can you please share a story or example for each?

The three-character traits that best define me are tenacity, hard-work, and agility. Tenacity has helped me put one foot in front of the other through situations that would’ve otherwise devastated my business, like a global pandemic. Hard work helped put me and my agencies on the map and help keep our services memorable. Agility has helped me pivot during hard times or recalibrate once we’ve started down a road that may not be the best path forward.

Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the primary focus of our interview. Most of our readers — in fact, most people — think they have a pretty good idea of what a C-Suite executive does. But in just a few words can you explain what a C-Level executive does that is different from the responsibilities of other leaders?

A C-Suite executive acts as a hub for the essential activities in a business. A C-Suite exec shares the successes with a team, but needs to absorb the risk and blame should anything not go as planned. A C-Suite exec needs to focus on two things only: growing the business and installing the right people, in the right seats.

What are the “myths” that you would like to dispel about being a CEO or executive? Can you explain what you mean?

A common myth about a CEO is that they need to be involved in every detail. Not so. Your company will only flourish if you trust your team and allow them the room to grow as executives themselves. Micromanaging or being caught in the daily minutia will take away from a CEOs ability to look at the larger picture and to plan with intent.

What are the most common leadership mistakes you have seen C-Suite leaders make when they start leading a new team? What can be done to avoid those errors?

The most common mistake C-Suite leaders make when joining a new team is assuming they have all the answers. Being at the helm of the organization means you’ve earned your spot and that you have experience. Nevertheless, some employees who have been in the culture longer than you will offer a different perspective. These diverse perspectives are what should inform winning solutions. Just because a title hands above your door doesn’t mean you have all the correct answers. People underestimate what listening can do.

In your experience, which aspect of running a company tends to be most underestimated? Can you explain or give an example?

The most underestimated part of running a business is what I call the “business of doing business.” Meaning, the time suck that is created when you navigate a business through bureaucracy. This can range from dealing with the employment department at a different state when you make a new remote hire to setting up your accounting and paying your taxes.

Ok super. Here is the main question of our interview. What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Began Leading From the C-Suite”? Please share a story or an example for each.

Everybody is making it up as they go. When I started in my career, I could’ve sworn people in positions of power had this crazy experience and knowledge that I could never compete with. Slowly but surely, you start to realize that a lot of what we are doing is being made up as we go. There is no textbook for crisis situations or high-risk decisions. Sure, the more experience you have the better your decision-making process, but we learn as we go.

There is nothing that differentiates you from somebody sitting in the C-Suite. Don’t feel intimidated or discouraged, your opinions and knowledge have value.

Imposter Syndrome is real. Keep that at the forefront whenever you feel down or inadequate. It would be impossible to count the of times incredibly bright, young females have confided about their imposter syndrome. Its real, and the best way to guardrail against it is to be aware.

Identify your weak spots and protect against them as best as possible. Part of being a successful entrepreneur is being keenly aware of what you are great at, and what you lack in. Knowing your strengths will come in handy but knowing what you don’t know is invaluable. Whenever you identify a weakness, hire the best person you can find that will complement that.

Bringing ego into the C-Suite will only make you a less effective leader. Remember, it’s never personal. It’s just business. At the end of the day, you get to close your laptop, get in your car, and drive home to your family. Don’t let ego cloud your decisions or make you an unhappy leader.

In your opinion, what are a few ways that executives can help to create a fantastic work culture? Can you share a story or an example?

Executives have a myriad of ways to create a fantastic work culture. The best tool in the box is making sure your team feels empowered to contradict you. We can get wrapped up in our day to day and forget that the more brain power you bring into an equation, the better the solution. Many times I’ve been chipping at a client problem in a certain direction and somebody in the team will provide a differing opinion that opens up a new way of perceiving and solving things.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

We need to make extraordinary things seem attainable for young girls.

The movement I would love to start is empowering young girls to be able to see themselves in seats they may not be exposed to. I didn’t know running a PR firm was an option growing up. If I hadn’t been exposed to that early on in my career I would’ve never thought it attainable.

How can our readers further follow you online?

The Brand Agency website and handle, Vicaria Multicultural Agency website and handle, 1795 Communications website and handle, and my personal handle @prismartinez.

Thank you for the time you spent sharing these fantastic insights. We wish you only continued success in your great work!


Priscila Martinez of 1795 Communications: 5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Became a C-Suite was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Kristin Deiss of ‘Stir the Sage’: How We Can Leverage The Power Of Gratitude To Improve Our…

Kristin Deiss of ‘Stir the Sage’: How We Can Leverage The Power Of Gratitude To Improve Our Overall Mental Wellness

Make it a point each day to express gratitude to yourself. This one is important. When is the last time you expressed gratitude to yourself? So often, we focus on what’s not right about ourselves — what we’re not good at, what we need to improve, how we need to change. But what about the stuff that makes us awesome?

As we all know, times are tough right now. In addition to the acute medical crisis caused by the Pandemic, in our post COVID world, we are also experiencing what some have called a “mental health pandemic”.

What can each of us do to get out of this “Pandemic Induced Mental and Emotional Funk”?

One tool that each of us has access to is the simple power of daily gratitude. As a part of our series about the “How Each Of Us Can Leverage The Power Of Gratitude To Improve Our Overall Mental Wellness” I had the pleasure of interviewing Kristin Deiss.

Kristin Deiss is a dancer, educator, yogi, healer, and mom trying to live her best life through helping others improve theirs.

She holds an MFA in Dance Performance and Choreography from Tisch School of the Arts at NYU and is a certified yoga teacher, Reiki Master, and Integrated Energy Practitioner.

Kristin is currently the Commercial Dance Department Chair at Hussian College Los Angeles and writes about overcoming failure on Stir the Sage. For inspiration, laughs, and cute pics of her toddler, follow her on Instagram.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dive into our discussion, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share with us the backstory about you and about what brought you to your specific career path?

When I was just seven years old, from the backseat of my mother’s Buick, I matter of factly exclaimed, “If I can’t dance, I’ll die.” I have carried the weight of those words ever since.

My dream was to be a principal dancer in New York City Ballet and after years of being on scholarship at the most prestigious ballet schools in the country, I was well on my way. That was until I was diagnosed with Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis at the age of thirteen. That disease took its toll and took me out of training for a little over a year. I was one of the lucky ones however, and after a year it went into remission, so I went back to training, not knowing that my body would never be what it once was.

Needless to say, I never achieved that dream. I did however show up to the studio every day, even as my body was breaking down, my mind was starting to turn on me, and my soul was feeling like it was being crushed. I eventually decided that enough was enough and left the ballet barre behind to pursue another path, but ultimately, I returned to the world I loved. Since then I have earned an MFA in Dance Performance and Choreography from Tisch School of the Arts at NYU, I have performed and toured with multiple concert dance companies, I have premiered choreographic work at festivals and colleges across the country, I have held adjunct positions in dance departments at multiple institutions of higher learning, and have most recently been named the Chair of one.

And you know what? I still feel like a failure. I still carry an immense amount of shame that I wasn’t able to achieve my goal. And I still battle every day with the limiting beliefs I hold of myself about who I am and what I am capable of. So, I started the intense inner work to heal from my past and decided that rather hide from my defeat, I would learn to dance with it.

I am passionate about sharing that message with others, so that they too can dance with their defeat, whether it’s through teaching dance, yoga, reiki, meditation, or though my blog Stir the Sage.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?

Oh geeze, too many to count!

That time I thought I was going to be a principal dancer with NYCB and then quit dance due to injury?

Or maybe that time I thought I was going to work in a museum when I was studying to earn my PhD in history and then has the realization that wait, is this my life?

Or perhaps that time I was dancing on the stage at the Walt Disney Concert Hall with the LA Opera and remembered moments just years prior where I thought I would never dance again?

The most interesting things that have happened to me in my life are when things have not worked out as planned. Though painful, they usually have a way of creating something even more beautiful than you could have originally imagined.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Why do you think that resonates with you? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life?

When I was 13 years old, I was asked to provide a quote for my eighth-grade yearbook. This is the quote that sits underneath my adolescent face: “Today is the tomorrow you worried about yesterday.”

Corny, I know. But at the time I thought it was the most mind-blowing thing I had ever read.

The author of that quote, Dale Carnegie, understood that the past and the future only exist by the attention we give them. If we refocus our attention away from these linear concepts of time, and into the only time that is real, the present, we are better equipped to feel at ease and content.

To be content, we must understand that the only thing that is guaranteed, ever, is the present moment. The past is gone and the future may never come. All we have is now.

And this goal to be present, to be in each moment, is something I work toward every day. And you know what helps me achieve that presence? Gratitude.

Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story about why that resonated with you?

I have always been interested in the intersection of science and spirituality, especially when it comes to my energy work practice. So, when I read Molecules of Emotion by Candance B. Pert, I was blown away. It helped me to bridge my own gaps between my logical and intuitive mind. I highly suggest it for those also interested in doing the same!

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

My newest venture is Stir the Sage, where I deliver the tools and support necessary to heal wounds and trauma caused by past failures in order to create future opportunities for abundance and success. Too many of us carry limiting beliefs about ourselves, so it’s time to say goodbye to them and hello to all the power, potential, and peace waiting to be uncovered within us.

Over the course of my own journey to do so, I have taught countless others to heal and overcome those beliefs. I know it is possible. I also know that it is hard work. And I know that it sometimes takes a village to support us on that journey.

So, I started Stir the Sage to be that village. To inspire others. To encourage others. To support others. To provide information, guidance, and the simple reminder that we are enough.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

My husband is probably my biggest cheerleader, and that person who sees things in me that I don’t even see in myself. I am endlessly grateful not only for his support, but for his insight into who I am and what I am capable of.

I implore everyone to find who your biggest cheerleader is. Listen to what they say about you. Sometimes, we are so clouded by own perceptions of ourselves that it’s difficult to see through the haze of limiting beliefs and past failures. An outside perspective, especially from someone you love and trust, is immensely helpful in being able to clearly see who you are and what you are capable of.

Ok, thank you for all that. Now that we are on the topic of gratitude, let’s move to the main focus of our interview. As you know, the collective mental health of our country is facing extreme pressure. We would like to explore together how every one of us can use gratitude to improve our mental wellness. Let’s start with a basic definition of terms. How do you define the concept of Gratitude? Can you explain what you mean?

Gratitude is feeling grateful. Of course, sometimes this happens naturally, like if someone were to hand you a million dollars! But as a practice, gratitude is a choice. It is an outlook and a mindset. It is a choice you make daily to notice the wonderful things about your life and feel grateful for them.

Why do you think so many people do not feel gratitude? How would you articulate why a simple emotion can be so elusive?

We are wired to see what’s wrong. It helps us survive. We see what’s wrong so that we can fix it. But that instinct doesn’t help us thrive. Too often, it allows us, many times unconsciously, to turn a blind eye to the many wonderful and beautiful things that come into our lives every day.

This might be intuitive to you but I think it will be constructive to help spell it out. Can you share with us a few ways that increased gratitude can benefit and enhance our life?

Gratitude has been shown to promote a bevy of physical, psychological, and social benefits, some of which include: a stronger immune system, lower blood pressure, more joy/optimism, better resiliency in the face of stress, and a stronger sense of connection to others.

Let’s talk about mental wellness in particular. Can you share with us a few examples of how gratitude can help improve mental wellness?

Because increased gratitude enhances our lives in such a full way, it also lends itself to helping us find contentment, which in turn improves our overall mental wellness.

Being content does not necessarily mean being happy. But it does mean being able to better weather the storms of life. A gratitude practice helps to shift perspective and moves our attention from pain to peace. All humans are on a quest for fulfillment. All humans strive for ease. All of us, whether obvious or not, are seeking how to be content in life, and the power of gratitude can help us achieve it.

Ok wonderful. Now here is the main question of our discussion. From your experience or research, what are “Five Ways That Each Of Us Can Leverage The Power Of Gratitude To Improve Our Overall Mental Wellness”. Can you please share a story or example for each?

1.) Begin your day with a gratitude practice. By starting each day by choosing gratitude, we allow ourselves to begin the day with a positive outlook on life. This practice can take shape in many different ways. You can think of three things you are grateful for while you brush your teeth. You can write down three things you are grateful for while you have your morning coffee. Or, my personal favorite, if you are a morning shower person, you can verbally express three things you are grateful for out loud while you are in the shower!

2.) End your day with a gratitude practice. Ending our day with gratitude is a wonderful way to calm the mind and prepare for rest. It helps relieve any anxiety/worry that may be hampering your ability to sleep. I have been doing this recently and I love it. Each night, before bed, I simply write down three things I am grateful for that happened that day and why.

This nightly practice can also highlight for you how prone you are to either keeping those wonderful moments at the forefront of your mind or shoving them way in the back. And in full disclosure, it has shown me how quickly I release moments of joy and contentment to make way for feelings of failure, discontentment, sadness, and dis-ease. Ouch. But, I am happy to report that after a few months now of this practice, I am much quicker now to not only remember reasons for gratitude at the end of the day, but to spot them during my day as they happen.

3.) Be mindful each time you say “Thank you.” How many times do you say “thank you” simply out of habit without really thinking about why you’re saying it or who you’re saying it to?

I don’t know about you, but my count is high.

Being more mindful each time you say “thank you” can help you to fully access the gratitude that so many of are haphazardly expressing throughout the day.

The next time you say thank you, take pause, realize what it is you are grateful for and why you said it.

4.) Make it a point each day to express gratitude to someone you love. Set a phone alarm for the same time each day to remind you to express gratitude to someone you love. It can be as simple as sending a text message to a friend that says, “I am so grateful that you are in my life.” Or, maybe you send them an interpretive dance that expresses the same sentiment — I know you’re laughing, but that’s the point — make them and yourself laugh! A gratitude practice doesn’t need to be all serious all the time. Make it fun, make it interesting, and express your gratitude to those you love!

5.) Make it a point each day to express gratitude to yourself. This one is important. When is the last time you expressed gratitude to yourself? So often, we focus on what’s not right about ourselves — what we’re not good at, what we need to improve, how we need to change. But what about the stuff that makes us awesome?

Write yourself a love letter and read it to yourself out loud every day for a month. Jot down a few things you are grateful for on some sticky notes and place them where you will see them throughout the day. (Just make sure they are centered around you!)

While a gratitude practice is really wonderful for helping us make the connection between ourselves and our surroundings, it can also help us connect more deeply to our own selves.

Is there a particular practice that can be used during a time when one is feeling really down, really vulnerable, or really sensitive?

Sometimes the best thing we can do when we feel these things is to get it out. Talk to a friend or write it down in a journal. Don’t keep it bottled inside. Express how you are feeling and it may be easier to change your mindset to one of gratitude.

Do you have any favorite books, podcasts, or resources that you would recommend to our readers to help them to live with gratitude?

If you do not know who Prem Rawat is, I highly suggest you google him and listen to him as much as you can. The wisdom he shares really touches my soul, and I think it will touch yours too.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I would love to see a movement centered around teaching children the importance and practices of concepts like gratitude and mindfulness.

As humans, we are capable of such beauty, but too often we suffer immensely and don’t have the tools to cope or transmute it into peace. If we were to learn those tools from a young age, we would have a population of people better equipped to handle everyday stressors who, instead of operating from a place of pain, hurt, anger, and anxiety, would operate from a place of acceptance, ease, joy, and peace.

Wouldn’t that be a wonderful world?

What is the best way our readers can further follow your work online?

I would love for readers to follow my work. Head on over to Stir the Sage and follow me on Instagram.

Thank you for the time you spent sharing these fantastic insights. We wish you only continued success in your great work!


Kristin Deiss of ‘Stir the Sage’: How We Can Leverage The Power Of Gratitude To Improve Our… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Jeff Ferguson of Amplitude Digital: 5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Became a C-Suite…

Jeff Ferguson of Amplitude Digital: 5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Became a C-Suite Executive

Thirst For Knowledge — never stop learning, ever. I don’t just mean in your chosen field, either. Break out of your comfort zone and read books and articles about ideas and concepts you’ve never touched before. Lately, I’ve been on a real kick to learn more about Economics while also learning about woodworking. Last summer, I was all about Philosophy. Sometimes these things unlock some pretty big ideas; other times, they just make for good stories to incorporate into something I’m writing or a speech I’m giving at some conference.

As part of our series called “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Began Leading My Company”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Jeff Ferguson.

Jeff Ferguson is a passionate growth marketer and digital educator who has led the online marketing efforts for companies such as Hilton Hotels, Kimberly-Clark, InterActiveCorp, Experian and Napster.

In his current role as Head of Production at Amplitude Digital, he has worked with renowned brands such as Belkin, Billabong, CBS, eHarmony, JustFab, Manchester United, Paychex, PetSmart, Popcornopolis, The Smithsonian, Stila Cosmetics, ThriveMarket, Sony and many more.

Honored as one of PPC Hero’s “Top 25 Most Influential PPC Experts” for three years in a row, Jeff Ferguson is a regular presenter at Ad:tech, AllFacebook Expo, Conversion Conference, eMetrics, Search Marketing Expo (SMX), Digital Hollywood, Online Marketing Summit (OMS) and Consumer Electronics Show (CES). He has been both a speaker and board member at Search Engine Strategies (SES).

Jeff is a columnist for Search Engine Journal, where his legendary data research projects have tipped many sacred cows of SEO and paid media advertising malpractice.

As an adjunct professor for UCLA, Jeff teaches introductory and advanced digital marketing classes and designed the school’s first ever course on Search Engine Optimization (SEO). Jeff volunteers time with the Search Engine Marketing Professional Organization (SEMPO) and Digital Analytics Associations (DAA) on both the national and regional levels, where he serves as a board member of the Los Angeles chapter.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series. Before we dive into our discussion, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share with us the backstory about what brought you to your specific career path?

I started as a Computer Science major in college but switched to Communications and Advertising after a few years to become a copywriter. Near the end of school, my advisor told me that I was a couple of credits away from a double major, so I figured it wouldn’t hurt.

After graduation in early 1995, I sent my resume out everywhere, but all anyone wanted to talk about was the internet, and this new thing called the World Wide Web. I passed at first, but after my first monthly bill for my student loan arrived, I told the next company, “I know everything about the Internet!”

I landed the job, ran out, bought a big book on HTML, and never looked back.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?

A few years after I started my agency, a former client referred my team to their contact at The Smithsonian, who was looking for help in the area of Search Engine Optimization (SEO). It took over a year to make it happen, but we eventually got the business, and it was a monster of a project.

We audited their existing website and their designs for a planned update, from top to bottom. Plus, I ran a multi-day education seminar to their team to upgrade the skill sets of multiple departments so that their entire squad became an SEO powerhouse.

If the project wasn’t cool enough on its own, I presented my findings and taught my classes at “The Castle” museum building on The Mall in Washington, DC.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life?

One of my early mentors once told me his favorite piece of advice: “Don’t be an asshole.”

He didn’t mean I was an asshole at the time, but having that kind of attitude in business doesn’t get people very far. I’ve kind of used that as my North Star in my life the best I can, and I think it’s one of the reasons why most of my agency’s business comes from referrals.

Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on your leadership style? Can you share a story or an example of that?

I have two books that have changed my perspective on business.

“Thinking Inside the Box:12 Timeless Rules for Managing A Small Business” by Kirk Cheyfitz. Written after the first internet boom and bust, Cheyfitz dismantles most of the ideas around “The New Economy” and reminds readers that things like “profit” and “cash management” are still very much a thing.

My understanding of business was always firmly planted in reality, thanks to my education and some of my early employers (Hilton Hotels, Kimberly Clark). Those companies may not have led the charge of digital transformation, but at the very least, embraced the technology while never forgetting the basics. Many startups tried to tempt me to jump ship during the first internet boom, only to see those companies fail. This book explained it all, plus reminded me of what was truly important in business

“The Deviant’s Advantage: How Fringe Ideas Create Mass Markets” by Ryan Mathews and Watts Wacker. I picked this book up years ago because it mentioned one of my previous employers, Napster. The book details how slight deviations from the norm have radically changed entire industries and how the companies that don’t embrace those deviant tendencies can get left behind.

As I mentioned earlier, I worked for many “old school” companies early in my career. They provided a lot of stability but not a lot of opportunities for trying new things. This book became my bible for how to change internal thinking to allow for “deviant behavior.”

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

After 15 years on the client-side of advertising and working with some of the largest advertising agencies in the world, when it came time to start my shop, I had a pretty good idea of what I didn’t want it to be.

My business plan stripped away a lot of the bureaucracy that seemed to rule the big shops those days. None of the endless forms or long turnaround times I saw from the big shops while still focusing on classic media planning and buying principles, a concept that had fallen out of favor with the flashy digital media shops of the day.

Plus, I stripped away a lot of the attitudes I experienced from agencies at the time. No more acting like what we were doing was some form of dark art that mere mortals could never understand. We would offer marketing services, pure and simple, but using the modern digital media I had grown to love.

The road to success is hard and requires tremendous dedication. This question is obviously a big one, but what advice would you give to a young person who aspires to follow in your footsteps and emulate your success?

Either be prepared to do the work or stick with the safe bet of working for someone else.

I occasionally coach friends and family when they want to start a business, and one of the first things I have them do is write a business plan. Nothing fancy, just an outline to collect their thoughts into one place.

Most of them never bother to fill it out.

That’s the first test. If you can’t bother to write a simple business plan, you don’t have the strength to run a business.

Often leaders are asked to share the best advice they received. But let’s reverse the question. Can you share a story about advice you’ve received that you now wish you never followed?

For a while, it seemed like all the advice around the advertising agency business was to “specialize.” Basically, find one or two industries and focus all of your attention there. I rejected the idea for years; it sounded dull and looked like nothing but an opportunity for unethical behavior.

However, for a few years there, most of my new clients were in the clothing and beauty industries. We worked up some new materials that focused on our experience in these areas and just chased these sectors. It worked for a bit, but soon what I feared would happen happened. Prospects would hear that I was working with one of their competitors (or someone they thought was a competitor) and not give us the business because of the potential for overlap.

Plus, as a bonus, when we decided to pivot back to a broader target market, it took longer to get back into the marketplace, and things got really thin for a while. Luckily, we bounced back after about 18 months, but it got really scary.

You are a successful business leader. Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success? Can you please share a story or example for each?

Responsibility — I’m not afraid of “getting my hands dirty.” I don’t mean I could kill people or anything weird like that! I just mean I’m willing to put the actual work in to meet my goals. Most people think entrepreneurship is just shouting big ideas into the ether, but those people are a dime a dozen. Successful people do the work. I start by doing every aspect of the business I can do myself for every company I’ve created until I can’t do it anymore. This includes the stuff I hate, like finances, human resources, even packing and shipping — I handled them all until the business grew enough that I could afford for someone else to take them on.

Thirst For Knowledge — never stop learning, ever. I don’t just mean in your chosen field, either. Break out of your comfort zone and read books and articles about ideas and concepts you’ve never touched before. Lately, I’ve been on a real kick to learn more about Economics while also learning about woodworking. Last summer, I was all about Philosophy. Sometimes these things unlock some pretty big ideas; other times, they just make for good stories to incorporate into something I’m writing or a speech I’m giving at some conference.

Patience — seriously, calm the hell down. Drive is an excellent trait for an entrepreneur, but be realistic about time and your abilities. Every stumble isn’t the end of the world. Get back up, figure out what you did wrong, and keep rolling.

Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the primary focus of our interview. Most of our readers — in fact, most people — think they have a pretty good idea of what a C-Suite executive does. But in just a few words can you explain what a C-Level executive does that is different from the responsibilities of other leaders?

In short, your job is supposed to be more about strategy than execution. That’s not always the case when you start a business from scratch, but I can confirm this is at least the ultimate goal.

What are the “myths” that you would like to dispel about being a CEO or executive? Can you explain what you mean?

That you don’t always get to focus on strategy just because that’s the definition of your title!

What are the most common leadership mistakes you have seen C-Suite leaders make when they start leading a new team? What can be done to avoid those errors?

Not understanding how their products and services work. My first job out of college was with a medium-sized hardware/software company. Shortly after I started working there, one of their engineers came up with some software that scraped information from the internet and repurposed it into other applications (or stealing, it was stealing).

Once the CEO and CMO got a hold of it, they started selling it as this all-in-one business information solution, but it wasn’t… at all. I remember sitting in marketing meetings in the early days of the product and thinking, “This is just a complete fantasy, and we’re going to get called on it.” I’m not sure if some engineer sold him the fantasy, or he just didn’t understand the product, but either way, he was selling something that didn’t exist.

After a few hours, I couldn’t stand it and said, “This is all well and good, but this product doesn’t do these things you’ve written up on the board!” The CMO pulled me aside and asked what I meant, and I laid it all out for him, and he was honestly shocked.

I still run into this constantly, usually from salespeople, but sometimes from clients, and it’s still terrifying.

In your experience, which aspect of running a company tends to be most underestimated? Can you explain or give an example?

Planning is everything. My dad had the entrepreneur spirit as well, but he tended to have more ideas than executions. When I was younger, I just thought that maybe he was a flake, but in reality, he just lacked the knowledge on how to create execution plans for those ideas properly.

The concept of the “idea man” is fun for the movies, but in reality, if you want an idea to see the light of day, you have to plan.

Ok super. Here is the main question of our interview. What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Began Leading From the C-Suite”? Please share a story or an example for each.

Sure! In no particular order:

  • You still have a boss. It’s easy to think the buck stops with you, but in the end, you’ll always have to answer to someone: shareholders, clients, partners, and so on. When I started my agency, I had no grand ideas that I would tell my clients to scram whenever I felt like it. However, years later, when I merged my agency with another, suddenly, I had business partners who had just as much of a stake in the company as I did. I may insist my partners speak to me a little differently, but I can’t simply ignore them.
  • Some employees don’t just need more direction; they want it. Sure, you can try to be the cool boss and give your staff plenty of room to move, but some of them want you to tell them what to do. That’s ok if that person is worth the extra effort, but sometimes, not so much.
  • Make time for the small stuff. I don’t know how many management books and articles I’ve read that tell you to delegate the small stuff elsewhere, but trust me, some details need to be dealt with by you and only you.
  • Learn as much of the details of your business as you can. Like Captain Kirk once said, “You must learn why things work on a Starship…” because one day, you may have to run it yourself. When I started my experimental e-commerce business in grad school, I did everything myself, even if I sucked at doing so. Sometimes I ended up getting help, but most of the time, I just pushed through. Eventually, when I had enough revenue to offload some tasks, I knew how those tasks functioned and could negotiate the price and so on much better.
  • Remember to take a minute to appreciate the fact that you’re the boss.

In your opinion, what are a few ways that executives can help to create a fantastic work culture? Can you share a story or an example?

Be a mentor, not a boss. I speak to everyone that works for me like they’re going to outgrow their box. Some move on, some don’t, but no one leaves angry because they felt like I held them back.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

There are two things I would love to see happen, both involve working with young people.

We need to find a way to help high school students learn how to “adult” better these days. Before the 1970s, high schools used to provide “Home Economics” classes that taught basic cooking and cleaning skills and sections about home finances, balancing your checkbook, and so much more. When I was in elementary school in the mid-1980s, these classes were turned into “electives” and then eventually done away with entirely.

Another is giving young entrepreneurs access to resources to develop their ideas. My partner, Ellen, is a CASA here in Los Angeles, a program that works with individual wards of the state who would usually get lost in the system if not for people like her. Many of these kids are bursting with ideas, but most of them go unheard because the system focuses more on just getting them out of the system rather than setting them up for success.

How can our readers further follow you online?

I’m @countxero on Twitter and everywhere, really.

Thank you for the time you spent sharing these fantastic insights. We wish you only continued success in your great work!


Jeff Ferguson of Amplitude Digital: 5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Became a C-Suite… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Sheila Miller-Nelson of Midian: Giving Feedback; How To Be Honest Without Being Hurtful

If at all possible, have an in-person discussion. Just because the person works remotely does not make this impossible. If that cannot happen in a timely manner, then use a video tool to have the discussion. The three components to speaking are what we say, how we say it and how we look while saying it. 33% of that is lost when we cannot see the speaker. Additionally, we lose the physical cues to help us understand how our message is being received. This can lead to misunderstandings, frustration and hurt feelings.

As a part of our series about “How To Give Honest Feedback without Being Hurtful”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Sheila Miller-Nelson of Midian.

Combining her background as a Project Management Professional, Senior Dale Carnegie Trainer and Certified Sign Language Interpreter, Sheila Miller-Nelson empowers individuals and teams to find their voice, create connections and elevate company culture through communication and leadership training. Impactful sessions such as Disagreeing with Dignity, Leadership During Crisis and Three Pillars of Character guide individuals to better understand themselves and help cultivate a more cohesive environment.

Aside from training, Sheila brings a critically impartial voice when she moderates panel discussions and facilitates team events.

Thank you so much for joining us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?

From an early age, I witnessed my parent’s willingness to help others whenever they could. Their altruistic example left a strong impression and I found myself taking the path of volunteering and working with others to create better situations. After obtaining my degree in Speech Communications, I was offered two jobs in the same week — one to become a Speech Therapist at an assisted living facility and the other to work in a Fortune 100 corporate environment. The consensus from friends and family was to take the job with a higher profile and more growth opportunity. About seven years into my career, feeling a bit unfulfilled, I took the Dale Carnegie course. After the first evening, I was approached by the franchise owner and asked if I would be interested in becoming a trainer. While completing months of training, I knew I had made a good choice. I continued in my career as a project manager and taught for Dale Carnegie in the evening. I eventually left my corporate job, continued training for Dale Carnegie and felt I still wasn’t fulfilling my mission in life. That led me to launch Midian LLC. Now I am back to helping others create better situations through customized training that impacts them both professionally and personally and cultivates an improved work environment.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

My alma mater had the motto “quality education with a personal touch”. I think of Midian as quality training with a personal touch. While the training is created based on the participants and the company, there is another layer of individualization that happens during the training sessions. They are personal and often delve into additional unplanned topics and deeper conversations. In one particular session about life balance, a participant revealed they had difficulty letting go of work when they got home. Although not part of the agenda that day, the group then had a discussion and came up with a list of ways to keep family ‘in sight’ throughout the day and strategies to transition focus before walking through the front door. After the session, another participant stayed behind and told me through tears how grateful he was for the work life balance discussion. He too was struggling because he had two young children and he was afraid they were going to grow up to resent him and his work. He said he did not know how to address the problem and was too frustrated and embarrassed to ask anyone for help. That is the personal touch that Midian is inspired to give all participants.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?

Two weeks into my corporate career, a young man I hardly knew had a heart attack and died in the parking lot. I was given the task of working with his family to get all his belongings and benefits situated. I was told I could handle it because my father had passed away not long before, so I would know what to do. Not only was this not my job; I was stunned at how it was being handled.

I was shocked and considered pushing back, but then realized I truly did not want to turn away from this family. I contacted them and did everything I could to help them handle all the work components. Turns out there were several challenges with his benefits that took several months to resolve. In the end the family was quite thankful for my assistance, and I know I treated them with the care and respect they deserved. Turns out, I actually was the right person for that job.

This taught me two important lessons. First, opportunities that come to us are not always done so with a pleasant invitation. We shouldn’t let pride or anger get in the way of taking on a task. Second, the universe has a way of putting things in our path that suit us, even if we think otherwise. If I would have declined this opportunity, the family may have had a much less pleasant experience. Stay open to opportunities no matter how they present themselves.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

I was being interviewed for a job by a panel of three people who I did not know previously. The next week I was hired, and my onboarding coincided with a department holiday luncheon. In the lobby of the restaurant, I thought it would be a good time to start meeting people. I confidently walked up to a woman, extended my hand and introduced myself. Her expression was a combination of a smirk and surprise as she introduced herself and reminded me that we had met. Yes. She was one of my interviewers.

What I learned is not to be so self-absorbed and concerned about me. I wanted to have a good interview and make a good impression. I am afraid that I may have diminished that impression with my forgetful follow up. This unfortunate mistake led me to develop a strategy for me to overcome nervousness. I use my energy to look, listen and learn about the other people in the room and focus on them. This takes my mind off me and helps me avoid these funny (and rather embarrassing) mistakes.

What advice would you give to other CEOs and business leaders to help their employees to thrive and avoid burnout?

Many people would suggest making time for things outside of work like hobbies, friends and volunteering. Focusing on your family is also common advice as is creating and sticking to specific work hours. I agree with all those things. What we often forget to consider is whether the person is in the right job. If an employee is not following their mission and truly being fulfilled through their daily work, they will become complacent, burnout and eventually leave.

That said, my best advice to hire thoughtfully. So much time and money are wasted on employees who are not in the right job. This doesn’t mean they are a bad employee; they are just not the right employee for that role. That causes slow work product, rework, poor attitude, lack of inspiration and enthusiasm and turnover. When patience and care are invested while hiring, many of these problems do not arise. While it may take additional time and money up front, placing a person in a role that inspires them to do their best will help them thrive and prove invaluable.

How do you define “Leadership”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?

A leader is someone who inspires others to do something. That is an extremely broad definition, and many folks, by that definition, are leaders. However, leadership is the way they choose to wield that power to inspire others. People cannot truly be inspired unless they understand the ideas and motivation behind a course of action. Often leaders make sweeping decisions or change direction and tell (or just expect) people to get on-board. Sometimes people will “get on-board” because they are used to that type of leadership and/or they have become complacent. That does not lead to a successful environment. Leadership is taking the time to not only explain decisions but the reasoning behind them. People may not always agree with the action, but they are far more likely to support and respect it.

In my work, I often talk about how to release and relieve stress. As a busy leader, what do you do to prepare your mind and body before a stressful or high stakes meeting, talk, or decision? Can you share a story or some examples?

While there are some quick fixes you can do to prepare for stress -physical activity, breathing exercises and mindfulness — I subscribe to slow and steady thinking here. Working on stress is an ongoing process. If there is already a base of stress built up in your system, it is easier to become stressed more quickly and more often. I use and recommend three practices — quality eating, regular physical activity and Transcendental Meditation (TM). While eating doesn’t need to be pristine, what we use as fuel for our bodies and minds is highly significant. As for exercise, find something that is not a chore. That could be dancing, walking, gardening — something that you look forward to is much more likely to get done. While eating right and exercising are important, for me, practicing TM has been life changing. It allows me quiet time to still my mind and just be, while releasing that base of stress and allowing me to enjoy life more. I encourage everyone to find a meditative practice that resonates with them. Nurturing your soul on a daily basis helps overall stress remain in check so you are always prepared for situations, whether you knew they were coming or not.

Ok, let’s jump to the core of our interview. Can you briefly tell our readers about your experience with managing a team and giving feedback?

As a project manager, I worked with a split team of local and remote folks. It was naturally convenient to give regular feedback to people I saw daily. For remote folks, I built time in my schedule to check in via phone or video. Text is fine, but I wanted to hear and see how they were doing. With time differences it wasn’t always practical to call, so I sent an email requesting a chat the next morning. Aside from feedback, I also took time to talk with remote folks about other general topics. When you are not in the same environment you lose the benefit of hallway exchanges and dropping by their office for a chat. These extra conversations were an important element in keeping all team members included and building cohesiveness as a team.

This might seem intuitive but it will be constructive to spell it out. Can you share with us a few reasons why giving honest and direct feedback is essential to being an effective leader?

Here is an example, an employee takes an action — moving something from point A to Point B. That was the correct action to take, in the correct manner at the correct time. As their leader, I say nothing. After all, they are just doing their job and they get paid, so why take precious time to notice their efforts. I invite you to consider these questions. What will inspire that employee to continue to take the same action? What if they have doubts about it or think the way they do it doesn’t much matter? If I don’t let them know they are doing it right, then I am opening the door for it to change.

Another employee moves something from Point A to Point C. It should have been moved to Point B. As their leader I say nothing. Why, you might ask, would I say nothing? See if you’ve ever heard (or thought) any of these things:

  • I am busy — far too busy to correct this action.
  • It’s one small thing — it doesn’t matter than much.
  • I don’t feel comfortable doing this right now.
  • I might embarrass the employee.
  • The employee will figure it out.
  • The employee’s team will set them straight.
  • I’ll put that in their file and bring it up at their review.

Now put yourself in the employee’s place. Wouldn’t you rather be given the opportunity to correct the action immediately? The potential temporary awkwardness of a corrective discussion is a much-preferred choice to being left in the dark, having others notice your continued actions and creating rework. Leaders need to give people every opportunity to make the right choices and take the right actions, if not, their silence paves the way for the opposite.

One of the trickiest parts of managing a team is giving honest feedback, in a way that doesn’t come across as too harsh. Can you please share with us five suggestions about how to best give constructive criticism to a remote employee? Kindly share a story or example for each.

While these are specifically for remote employees, they are applicable to all feedback.

  1. If at all possible, have an in-person discussion. Just because the person works remotely does not make this impossible. If that cannot happen in a timely manner, then use a video tool to have the discussion. The three components to speaking are what we say, how we say it and how we look while saying it. 33% of that is lost when we cannot see the speaker. Additionally, we lose the physical cues to help us understand how our message is being received. This can lead to misunderstandings, frustration and hurt feelings.
  2. Use eye connection. This is appropriate during all communication (with possible cultural exceptions). Connecting with the person eye to eye helps create trust and elevates our ability to understand the message. When distraction or discomfort causes us to look away, the recipient can create many assumptions and stories around our words. Remember, the way to look someone in the eye on video is to look at your camera lens.
  3. If you cannot talk with the person and must write something, consider every word carefully. Write the message, walk away from it and do something else, then come back and reread it. Ask an appropriate person to read it confidentially and give you feedback. Reread it again. Would you find the tone of this feedback acceptable if it were given to your parent or your child? Remember, the person cannot un-read it, and your name will forever be attached to it. This is one significant way to create or destroy your reputation and leadership style.
  4. Share one of your stories of imperfection. Remind the recipient that no one is infallible — including you. Before talking with them, think of a relevant story from your history, how you corrected it and how it helped you grow. While it doesn’t change what happened, it can make for an easier conversation with two-way dialogue instead of a reprimand.
  5. Ask questions. We often go into a corrective situation with a script. While it is suggested to be prepared, begin the conversation with questions to gather facts. What is this person’s perspective of what happened? Were there extenuating circumstances? Why did they choose this action at this time? Stay quiet and listen. Do not interject, sigh or roll your eyes. Invite the other person to share and you may end up in a vastly different conversation then you expected.

Can you address how to give constructive feedback over email? If someone is in front of you much of the nuance can be picked up in facial expressions and body language. But not when someone is remote.

How do you prevent the email from sounding too critical or harsh?

As stated above, I would only do this if there was not an in-person or video option. Instead of creating a lengthy message loaded with all the information you have, start by letting them know you think there is an issue. Ask a few well thought out questions with neutral language to get their side of the issue. It is beneficial to agree to the facts before proceeding with correction.

Many people ask about giving a compliment to start the message. While you can make a general statement, people are often wary of the leading compliment, because they know there is a “but” coming, making the compliment seem shallow and gratuitous. The better compliment is to show them respect by asking questions, getting their side of the issue and inviting a discussion.

In your experience, is there a best time to give feedback or critique? Should it be immediately after an incident? Should it be at a different time? Should it be at set intervals? Can you explain what you mean?

Feedback, whether positive or corrective, is usually most effective when given immediately after the action or incident. However, a perceptive leader will know if the circumstances are not conducive to feedback in the moment and wait for the next best time.

When the incident has just occurred, memories are fresh, and the feedback can lead to a more productive discussion and understanding. An effective example of this is sports teams. The coach doesn’t wait until the end of the game, next week or an annual review to discuss what’s going well with the game and what needs improvement. This behavior would cause frustration for the player, the team and the fans. In business, how can we expect employees to change behaviors or keep doing certain activities if we don’t discuss it with them while we have the opportunity to do so? When team members see something that needs correcting and leaders do not take the time to do so, it breeds a negative culture. Stakeholders can feel this, and it can completely undermine your business.

How would you define what it is to “be a great boss”? Can you share a story?

A great boss will never ask something of their team that they are not doing themselves. One time over our corporate two-week holiday shutdown, our team was required to work. Our leader was there with us every day. Not only that, he was the first one in with breakfast and coffee, treated us to lunch, and most importantly sincerely shared their gratefulness for our team’s sacrifice. People will be more inspired to do great things with you rather than for you.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

Sometimes the simplest ideas have the biggest impact so I would like to inspire people to habitually use three simple courtesies — please, thank you and may. This small politeness gives us a second to think about the kindness we bring to one another and the environment. If I created the popular voice-controlled intelligent personal assistant home devices, I would have coded them so they wouldn’t work unless your command ended with “please”. I realize this may have reduced their sales.

When it comes to people, this courtesy is so powerful, yet we have allowed our fast-paced world to overshadow the habit. We tell the restaurant server, “I’ll have a steak and potato” or “Give me a croissant and coffee”. How would the world start to look different if we started with “May I”? Even better, get a 2 for 1 deal and start with “May I please”.

And while “thank you” may get the most use of the three, it is often a trite automatic response. What if we looked the other person in the eye, thought about what they did for us, and used the words meaningfully?

Although these are three small words, when used consistently, think about how the world would sound. Creating that environment might lead to bigger and better changes in how people think and feel.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t — you’re right.” Henry Ford understood the role that approach and attitude have in all we do. While knowledge, critical thinking, training and practice all play a part, the attitude with which we undertake something can be the keystone to our success.

I have encountered many things in life where negative self-talk has sabotaged the outcome. Over time I have gotten more in step with this quote. It has allowed me to think bigger, be smarter and reach further. I would have never started Midian if I thought I could not be successful. That said, sometimes this positive attitude still escapes me, so I keep Mr. Ford’s quote nearby!

How can our readers further follow your work online?

I appreciate this opportunity to share and hope it has proved valuable for the readers. I invite folks to visit my website at midianllc.com


Sheila Miller-Nelson of Midian: Giving Feedback; How To Be Honest Without Being Hurtful was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

John B Johnson of ‘a small studio’: Five Things You Need To Build A Trusted And Beloved Brand

John B. Johnson of ‘a small studio’: Five Things You Need To Build A Trusted And Beloved Brand

Culture creates authentic content consistently — Content, content, content. It is the only way to build a following and it is the only way to build a brand. Whether you are creating content for your clients or creating content to sell your product, the only way to create authentic content consistently is by building a strong culture around you. As a leader we hear things like surround yourself with people who are smarter than you, but if you surround yourself with people who are passionate about solving the same problem you are, you will create a powerful collective of voices and stories that can’t help but move mountains.

As part of our series about how to create a trusted, believable, and beloved brand, I had the pleasure of interviewing John Johnson.

John Johnson is an Identity Architect — a term that comes from his experience as a student of architecture and the yearning to bridge the gap between people and the communities they belong. With the belief that everything starts with identity and understanding who you are, he created [a small studio], a brand identity and digital design agency. As an agency leader, John works with a collection of creatives to help impact-driven leaders understand their identity and translate them into powerful brands and digital products.

Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

It all started when I received my Masters in Architecture and MBA. I always had a passion for creating spaces and designing experiences that caused people to interact with each other. After practicing architecture, I realized my passion was more specifically focused around community building rather than physical buildings. Immediately, I decided to leave architecture and built a tech startup that actually created more face-to-face interactions within the built environment. Although that startup ultimately failed, the one thing that I felt we did incredibly well was build a brand that people were able to get behind. This is when I realized that the brand we created wasn’t just a marketing tool, it was a reflection of who I was in the marketplace. This is when I realized that I was going to help others build brands and products that authentically represent who they are. My story comes full circle as I now call myself an Identity Architect.

Can you share a story about the funniest marketing mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

The first thing I learned building a small studio was when to say no because when you are starting, everything sounds fun to work on. A few years ago, I engaged a client to produce a marketing campaign for their co-working space. They came to me specifically and said, “We need you to help us be creative!” How could I say no to that?

My team and I came up with a campaign and they loved it. However, because we never did a project like this I had no idea what was in store. I made many mistakes but just to name a few; I underbid the project, I underestimated the project, and I did not staff appropriately. These mistakes led me to managing the project, writing the script, directing the production, acting in the videos, handling wardrobe and extras, and monitoring the campaign itself. I learned so much from the experience and have no regrets at all. In the words of the late Bob Ross, “We don’t make mistakes, we only have happy accidents.” See the end product here.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

I believe there are several things that set us apart. One is our belief that everything great starts small and starts with identity. To realize your gifts and use them to bring peace to peoples’ lives — no matter if it’s a large organization or a solo entrepreneur — you have to understand who you are at your core and your deeper purpose. That’s the premise from which we begin our branding process. The other is, we believe the world of design — whether that’s product design, brand design, experience design — has the power to shape societal behaviors and norms, and as such, has a tremendous responsibility to do so ethically and thoughtfully. To achieve that, it has to become more accessible and that requires diversity in perspective. We are focused on trying to create a design community that is more accessible and diverse. Not just in terms of race or gender, but more importantly, diversity in experiences. We do this through our hiring practices and partnering with organizations that are on a mission to do the same.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

While every project we take on is exciting and impact driven, one that has really imprinted on me was a project called Dose.

Following the shooting of George Floyd in June 2020, we assembled a team of design-thinking and psychology experts to brainstorm ideas to amplify the black experience. That’s when Dose, a concept that originated from psychology scholar Dr. Julia Garcia, was born. It has become a powerful platform for people to share their own experiences and learn from others about what it means to be black. From concept to design, Dose was launched in five days. The response was overwhelming, with people from every corner of society sharing their experiences and learning from each other. This project has become a demonstration of the power one seemingly small idea can have and the impact an impassioned group is capable of making when they’re driven by purpose.

In a nutshell, how would you define the difference between brand marketing (branding) and product marketing (advertising)? Can you explain?

I think of brand as the foundation — the identity — of an organization, where products are the gifts it brings to the world. However, I believe these two can’t be decoupled. An organization’s products, marketing messages, approach to customer engagement and experience, are all extensions of the brand or the core essence of the organization. They shouldn’t be thought of as existing in silos or vacuums.

Can you explain to our readers why it is important to invest resources and energy into building a brand, in addition to the general marketing and advertising efforts?

Spending the time and energy to build a brand is foundational. It has the power to help guide an organization’s mission and vision, rally a team around a deeper purpose, and become the foundation for which products and services are developed. A good brand, or identity, can truly become an organization’s North Star. It’s also how stakeholders connect to brands.

Can you share 5 strategies that a company should be doing to build a trusted and believable brand? Please tell us a story or example for each.

  1. Everything starts with identity — We all know it is not easy building a brand. It is even harder building a trusted and believable brand. Simply put this translates to an authentic brand. By first understanding your identity you create an authentic foundation to build on.
  2. Align your identity with a need — By understanding who you are you will have a better understanding of your unique ability to solve a problem in the world. You cannot solve all the problems in the world, but you 100% can solve one problem very well and odds are your unique perspective of the world is the exact reason why. People trust and believe in people or organizations that have actually felt the pain of what they’re selling.
  3. Empathize completely with one person — Don’t sympathize, empathize with one specific person who has that need. Your brand must communicate powerfully with a specific demographic and to do that you must become that demographic. If your unique perspective is the reason you can solve the problem, it is the same reason why you can empathize very well with someone who has that need.
  4. Don’t compete, you are one of a kind — There is so much clutter out there all competing for consumers’ attention. You either need an endless amount of resources to reach them or you need to stand out. The fact is that there is no other person like you and as a leader this can be a surefire way to stand out from the clutter of your industry. Instead of competing with other brands, find your own place in the market. It will take longer up front, however, it will pay dividends in the long run.
  5. Culture creates authentic content consistently — Content, content, content. It is the only way to build a following and it is the only way to build a brand. Whether you are creating content for your clients or creating content to sell your product, the only way to create authentic content consistently is by building a strong culture around you. As a leader we hear things like surround yourself with people who are smarter than you, but if you surround yourself with people who are passionate about solving the same problem you are, you will create a powerful collective of voices and stories that can’t help but move mountains.

In your opinion, what is an example of a company that has done a fantastic job building a believable and beloved brand. What specifically impresses you? What can one do to replicate that?

There are so many brands that do this well, each in their own way. One that comes to mind is REI. They are a shining example of a brand that puts people first and stays true to their mission and vision even if it means taking a financial hit. For example, while most other retailers offer extended hours and deep discounts to attract shoppers on Black Friday, REI has made it a practice since 2015 to close their stores down on that day, instead urging people to get outdoors. They’re also one of the few that have chosen to operate as a member-owned co-operative. In their words, this allows them to “focus on shared values, not share values.” That’s powerful.

The biggest lesson to learn here and replicate is how REI used their business structure as a member-owned co-operative as a way to operate with integrity. The decisions we make early on in our careers can serve as an asset to our values or a hindrance. Make those early decisions wisely.

In advertising, one generally measures success by the number of sales. How does one measure the success of a brand-building campaign? Is it similar, is it different?

We measure success by impact — how deeply a brand is able to positively impact the community it serves and engage its stakeholders. Those stakeholders are not just customers, but also their employees, partners, vendors, etc.

For us, it’s to what degree we’re using our gifts to bring peace to peoples’ lives.

What role does social media play in your branding efforts?

This always depends on the brand and if that channel is the most appropriate for their audience. For us, we see video as a powerful tool for connecting on a deeper level with our stakeholders.

What advice would you give to other marketers or business leaders to thrive and avoid burnout?

Take time for creative endeavors. They’re soul-filling and enriching. This will look different for everyone. It could be cooking, reading, writing, painting, drawing, going to a museum, etc. As business leaders, we spend so much of our time in our logical left brains, stimulating the right brain can be a powerfully energizing activity.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

My goal is to create a platform that empowers people to identify and use their unique gifts to bring peace to peoples’ lives. I believe we all have unique gifts that if unlocked can be used in powerful ways to positively impact the world. So many individuals struggle to understand their identity and therefore their gifts. I want to build the platform that helps them get to the root of their identity and take action on it.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

One of my favorites is from Jim Whittaker, the first American to summit Everest: “If you’re not living on the edge, you’re taking up too much space.”

We are blessed that very prominent leaders in business and entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world with whom you would like to have a lunch or breakfast with?

I have two. One is Lebron James, but not for the reason you think. I was born and raised in Cleveland, OH and I will be moving back soon to build a home, my family, my business, and integrate myself into the city. I know he would have a priceless perspective of the city and I would love to have his perspective as I attempt to impact my hometown positively.

The other is Duane Johnson. He is by far one of the most impressive people I have watched from afar since I was a child. From wrestling (when that was popular) to his unbelievable workout regimen to watching him in the movies. Yes, he is an entertainer but he is also the most lovable/popular guy in the world! You can learn a lot from someone like that when you are attempting to make the world a better place.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

https://www.instagram.com/johnbcreating

https://www.linkedin.com/in/johnbcreating/


John B Johnson of ‘a small studio’: Five Things You Need To Build A Trusted And Beloved Brand was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Converting Used Tires: Henrik Selstam’s Big Idea That Might Change The World

Adjust your perception of success — not every startup will become a unicorn but that doesn’t mean you won’t make an enormous impact on the world. Success comes in many different forms and sometimes, making a small difference now will have an enormous impact later on.

As a part of my series about “Big Ideas That Might Change The World In The Next Few Years” I had the pleasure of interviewing Henrik Selstam, CTO of Wastefront, the Norwegian waste tyre recycling company. Henrik is an engineering physicist and industrial developer with an MSc. in Engineering Physics from Chalmers University of Technology, and now has more than 25 years’ experience setting up global businesses within a variety of sectors including IT, real estate and, most recently, waste to energy.

Prior to joining Wastefront as CTO, Henrik worked for a number of exciting tech and green energy companies, founding both Quantafuel and ScandGreen Energy, and a director at MSX International.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit. Can you please tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

Many years ago, I had the fortune to meet with a good friend who was an expert in catalytic chemistry and he taught me all there is to know about gasification and pyrolysis. This was 20 years ago and since then I’ve been looking for different applications for the technology with the aim of reducing waste and finding new solutions that can positively impact the environment.

Can you please share with us the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

Since starting my career, I would say one of the most interesting things that has happened to me was when my friend and I went to China in 2015 and, while we were there, made an on-the-spot decision to buy a pyrolysis factory we had randomly come across. Neither of us were in the best place financially at the time and had to borrow money from another friend. But, we decided to take the plunge and go “all in” on what we were hoping would be a successful ‘in the moment’ business venture. Two years later, the factory was producing synthetic diesel from plastics waste in what was described by multiple independent laboratories as “best practice”. In the end, the success of this wild endeavor was down to our conviction and determination more than anything else and it has taught me a valuable life lesson about following your gut instincts.

Which principles or philosophies have guided your life? Your career?

Keep it simple and use common sense. It is no secret that most applications of technology are rather complicated and it can be easy to lose track in the masses of information you encounter. But, by stripping the problem down to its roots and focussing on the core components of the issue, what once seemed a scary and insurmountable task suddenly becomes much more manageable. Generally, by striving to execute good judgement and not unnecessarily overcomplicating matters, I find that everything tends to fall into place far more efficiently and effectively.

Ok thank you for that. Let’s now move to the main focus of our interview. Can you tell us about your “Big Idea That Might Change The World”?

At Wastefront, we convert disused vehicle tyres into useful commodities that can, among other things, be fed back into the tyre production chain and help to prevent the estimated 29 million metric tonnes of vehicle tyres that reach the end of their lifespan each year ending up in landfill, as granulates for use in civil construction work, or being burned as fuel for industries such as cement production. By converting disused tyres into liquid hydrocarbons (the main component of the current energy infrastructure) and carbon black (one of the main components in tyre production), we are helping to pave the way for the creation of circular economies in the tyre manufacturing space.

Naturally, the shipping of tyre waste to landfill sites or manufacturing microplastics that are difficult to contain do not constitute sustainable waste solutions and, as a result, represents a major cause of global pollution.

Wastefront uses pyrolytic reactors which utilise a form of thermal decomposition known as ‘pyrolysis’ to break down a tyre’s materials at elevated temperatures. By sending tyres through reactors with a catalyst, a combustible gas is produced, in addition to a liquid hydrocarbon, carbon black and heat. The gas is circled back in to fuel the furnace, the liquid hydrocarbons undergo a refining process as a means of improving the quality and performance, and the carbon black is then washed and milled to upgrade the chemical properties, and can be used as a complement to natural rubber in the tyre production, mechanical rubber goods or as a filler for plastics. The heat is then repurposed locally within industry or to heat nearby residential homes.

The issue of tyre waste is one that should have been solved a long time ago. At Wastefront, we saw an opportunity for innovation and are doing our bit to help reduce the waste problem that is plaguing our planet. Looking back throughout history, so many of the features in modern vehicles have been improved, but for some reason, tyres have stayed the same. Vehicle owners are now significantly more environmentally conscious and, in realising that their disused tyres likely end up in landfill, or are shipped overseas to be burnt in a polluting kiln, are not content in knowing that the extra tens of thousands of dollars they are spending on an electric car is not sufficient to neutralise the carbon emissions from the waste products of the vehicle. This is primarily because, as it stands currently, green automotive manufacturers are having to rely on tyres produced in the same manner as those made for traditional cars.

From the output of Wastefront’s conversion process, tyre producers are able to create new tyres, offering an opportunity for vehicle manufacturers to enhance the environmental credentials of their vehicles. Wastefront’s processes also significantly offset carbon emissions, as the alternative to the recycled commodities is often crude oil, or unrefined petroleum; a fossil fuel which creates a significant amount of air pollution when refined down.

In fact, a recent life cycle assessment of our proposed plant in the Port of Sunderland found that the outputs of the plant in the base-case scenario would avoid 1,815,839 tonnes of CO2e over 30 years, or 60,528 tonnes per year, by replacing the typical sources of these substances i.e. raw fossil fuels.

Of course, minimizing environmental effects like sulphur emissions or finding the right methods to extract fuels from tyres is not an easy task. For this, Wastefront cooperates with the best available partners to utilize state-of-the-art solutions. Through our use of a combination of proven technology and proprietary processes, we are pioneering innovations in tyre pyrolysis as a means of mitigating the negative impact of tyre waste, helping to improve global sustainability and create a circular tyre production value chain.”

How do you think this will change the world?

Circular economies are the key to a sustainable future and our work to convert waste tyres into useful commodities will play a significant role in helping to reduce the enormous amount of tyre waste that ends up in landfills every year, in addition to making a positive environmental impact and helping to revolutionise the way we view tyre manufacturing as a whole.

As the global issue of tyre waste is being brought to the fore, people are beginning to see the value in creating circular economies. I expect in 20 years from now, we will all look back and wonder how we could have been so reckless and ignorant to have been throwing tyres into landfill in the first place.

Climate change is a matter of problem-solving and I believe that with our combined efforts, we can solve it.

Keeping “Black Mirror” and the “Law of Unintended Consequences” in mind, can you see any potential drawbacks about this idea that people should think more deeply about?

No matter how hard we try, rubber tyres are here to stay, and although alternatives have been conceptualised, none have yet been widely adopted. The unintended consequence of having a safe and environmentally friendly alternative to throwing tyres into landfill may mean that the progress being made in replacing conventional rubber tyres altogether slows down. As a result, despite our solution benefiting the environment immensely, it may temporarily halt innovation in the tyre industry as the need to find more environmentally friendly alternatives becomes less of a priority.

Was there a “tipping point” that led you to this idea? Can you tell us that story?

I was having a conversation about electric vehicles with Inge Berge, Wastefront’s CEO and co-founder and, when doing some digging, we discovered that despite the above-average price point of many modern electric vehicles, the tyres are still just tyres — the same tyres you would find on any non-electric vehicle. Following this discovery, we began to look into whether it would be possible to recover end-of-life tyres and, through feeding the output back into the tyre manufacturing process, help to create circular economies for tyre production and start the conversation of using recycled tyres on all vehicles as standard practice.

What do you need to lead this idea to widespread adoption?

The turning point will ultimately be public awareness. If the general public were more aware of the statistics — that 1.6 billion car tyres are produced every year and that most end up in landfill — I believe there would be greater public demand for reform. Ultimately, the voice of the general public is what forces politicians and regulators to act.

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)

  1. Be patient — the idea might be great, but the moment may not be quite right to launch it.
  2. Surround yourself with great people — when building a new business from scratch, it’s important to make sure that you collaborate with people you can trust and who are just as passionate as you are about the projects you are working on.
  3. Don’t be afraid to fail — not every endeavor will be successful and some may not work out. Don’t give up, your next big idea may be just around the corner.
  4. Live in the present — It can be very easy to get caught up thinking about the future and forget to focus on what is happening right now. Live in the moment and tackle each day’s challenges as they come. Eventually, you’ll be able to look to the future having built a solid foundation from which to work.
  5. Adjust your perception of success — not every startup will become a unicorn but that doesn’t mean you won’t make an enormous impact on the world. Success comes in many different forms and sometimes, making a small difference now will have an enormous impact later on.

Can you share with our readers what you think are the most important “success habits” or “success mindsets”?

Never give up and always keep an open mind. Being an entrepreneur is 50/50 patience and persistence. If you believe that you have a good idea, stick with it and the right moment will come along where you can launch it. Sometimes it is a waiting game, but it is also often worth the wait.

Some very well known VCs read this column. If you had 60 seconds to make a pitch to a VC, what would you say? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂

Wastefront has developed a local solution to a global problem. With a growing middle class, consumption is rising, which means, in turn, that the amount of waste is increasing. At Wastefront, we utilise a waste product that creates valuable resources that can be reused to produce new products. It’s a circular story.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

Wastefront:

https://www.linkedin.com/company/wastefront

https://www.facebook.com/wastefront

https://twitter.com/wastefront

https://wastefront.com/

Henrik:

https://twitter.com/hselstam?lang=en

https://www.linkedin.com/in/hselstam/?originalSubdomain=se

Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational.


Converting Used Tires: Henrik Selstam’s Big Idea That Might Change The World was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Rising Through Resilience: Tess Estandarte of Rainfactory On The Five Things You Can Do To Become…

Rising Through Resilience: Tess Estandarte of Rainfactory On The Five Things You Can Do To Become More Resilient

…Be able to communicate. Have those smart conversations to relay and resolve the issue. This is a way wherein you can gain or contribute additional support. Learn to compromise and understand that communication is a two-way street.

In this interview series, we are exploring the subject of resilience among successful business leaders. Resilience is one characteristic that many successful leaders share in common, and in many cases it is the most important trait necessary to survive and thrive in today’s complex market.

I had the pleasure of interviewing Tess Estandarte.

Tess Estandarte is a seasoned Senior Product Marketing Manager with a demonstrated 20-year history of working in operations, customer support, software development, information technology, and network management. She believes that Marketing is mainly about effective storytelling and messaging, Tess first worked with a family-owned real estate development company and moved on to new technology and product launches, where she realized she had a knack for storytelling and creating impactful campaigns to help establish strong relationships between consumers and brands. Over the years, Tess has gained extensive experience ranging from working at startups, she worked through the evolution of mobile technology, in all areas of operations, and got the opportunity to work with big companies such as Sony Pictures Entertainment. She also holds an MBA from Pepperdine University. Tess is currently the Director of Product Marketing at Rainfactory, a full-service digital agency that operates as a Marketing Department for growing brands.

Thank you so much for joining us! Our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your backstory?

I am currently the Director of Product Marketing at Rainfactory, a full-service digital agency that operates as a Marketing Department for growing brands. I have worked in the field of crowdfunding and product launches for over five years now, previously I worked for companies that already had a product out commercially. In my early career, I gained experience in the areas of customer service, billing, and software development. Anything that touches the client, I was always involved in. I am blessed to have worked with companies ranging from wireless startups to large entertainment companies such as Sony Pictures. I ended up in marketing when I worked for a family Real Estate Commercial Development as their Vice President of Marketing and Business Development. We worked with a number of marketing agencies to tell the story of their brand. This is where I fell in love with marketing as it is essentially a storytelling journey where you introduce a new company/product to the world. I loved finding creative ways to highlight products and services that made the audience believe in the mission. I was also a Social Media Marketing/Editor for a big publication. Having multiple industries and department experience helped me gain a wider perspective that goes beyond technicalities and performance metrics, it showed me the intricacies of running a company are always complex.

Can you share with us the most interesting story from your career? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?

Many stories come to mind but the Y2K Migration is the one that stands out. It was a 9-month project that focused on the impact of systems on the last day of the year 1999. This was a company-wide effort to construct a plan for business operations not to be disrupted. Each department such as Accounting, Filmmaking, and Production had to have their own specific contingency plans and cross-departmental plans to ensure systems checks on the day of. A lot of resources and budget planning were needed to ensure the mobilization of teams on-site to make sure the job was done right and that on January 1, 2000, all things would run without a hitch or that we would change the way of doing business if the crisis did occur. In this process, we had to identify all the potential crises that may happen and there were many redundancies created. I learned to manage expectations and sustain motivation within myself and my peers. Turbulent times are a test of people’s patience and capability.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

Rainfactory stands out as each campaign we launch is a test of resilience. It is a glorious feeling to work with product launches but there will always be setbacks and opportunities to change. The way in which we run campaigns, require steady resiliency. Each campaign is a story of resiliency and adapting to change.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

Several people come to mind but in Rainfactory specifically, it would be Janielle Denier. She has provided me with tons of guidance & support and taught me a lot about preparing for possible opportunities for resilience. I think she is an amazing leader and it is seen in the growth of Rainfactory over the last year as we now have a better caliber of clients in a year where we saw so many companies struggle in this aspect.

On a personal note, I have my father to thank. He was a high-level director in a pharmaceutical company based in London and growing up we moved all over the world and this made me a worldly person. He gave me a childhood filled with many lessons on resilience and a life that was comfortable but not cobbled.

Ok, thank you for all that. Now let’s shift to the main focus of this interview. We would like to explore and flesh out the trait of resilience. How would you define resilience? What do you believe are the characteristics or traits of resilient people?

A lot of influencers and writers have written about this and I believe resilience is defined as the ability to adapt well and change. It is the ability to keep going despite setbacks and understanding that change is needed. In the workplace, a true test of resilience is when the team members are performing during times of downturns and unpredictability and these employees stand up for themselves by going above and beyond the job description. Resiliency is also about achieving a balance in their life, knowing that work has to be done and there are certain expectations on performance.

Relating to the hiring process, you should be looking for traits of a resilient individual which are self-reliance, confidence, passion for life/business/personal interests, self-belief, good listener, and excellent communication skills.

When you think of resilience, which person comes to mind? Can you explain why you chose that person?

I believe that Elon Musk could be a person who is resilient in terms of himself. He seems very self-disciplined and quick to adapt. He proved people wrong on his ideas and this could be because of self-reliance. He managed to build and grow Tesla despite many challenges and now he also runs the forefront in solar technology with SpaceX. This doesn’t mean I agree with him but the fact that he is now the richest man in the world, he had to work really hard and in the face of adversity professionally and personally he hung in there and didn’t let anything in the world deter him.

Has there ever been a time that someone told you something was impossible, but you did it anyway? Can you share the story with us?

Way back in my earlier career, I was tasked with a project where the end goal was to create a billing system equal to AT&T. Meaning constructing the whole data and program down to the customer-friendly database from scratch. The end goal was mainly to bill end users that looked user-friendly and accurate. The challenging part was we didn’t have access to that data, manpower, or resources. We had to really dig deep in tapping into resources and get the best people to support the project.

Did you have a time in your life where you had one of your greatest setbacks, but you bounced back from it stronger than ever? Can you share that story with us?

The death of a parent may be a huge personal setback for any individual. The death of my father happened when I was just 20 years old. I classified this as a setback because I looked up to him as a mentor personally and professionally. He was a very successful businessman and an amazing father, he provided me with guidance in terms of managing a team, working with a team, dealing with my boss, fighting for what I want, and how to perform. Something he passed on to me was to be the first to work and last to leave.

Did you have any experiences growing up that have contributed to building your resiliency? Can you share a story?

There’s no tougher job than being a mother. Having my 3 children, I was a young mother, had a full-time career, and went to school to complete my MBA. It was challenging running a household and you can’t do that if you don’t have resiliency. So many things, which could set you back, can happen. As a mother, there is an endless list of unexpected things and it boils down to what you do to balance your work and personal life. I would advise planning to always be present, perform and that scheduling your time is key. Being a mother requires resourcefulness, flexibility, and self-discipline.

Resilience is like a muscle that can be strengthened. In your opinion, what are 5 steps that someone can take to become more resilient? Please share a story or an example for each.

  1. Be able to communicate. Have those smart conversations to relay and resolve the issue. This is a way wherein you can gain or contribute additional support. Learn to compromise and understand that communication is a two-way street.
  2. Not only ask for help, but also be helpful to others. Understand that everyone is just trying to do their job. If you see an opportunity to be of support, be that, because you’d want that for yourself. May it be in the form of a cheerleader, support, or guide.
  3. Be positive. You can’t have a resilient team if you have doomsayers. Identify the roadblocks and find a way around them. Stay open to opportunities for change. Stay positive with your contributions. Be a positive person in the time needing resilience.
  4. Be knowledgeable. Be hopeful and know your stuff. Get the experience, training, and information you need. Stay curious.
  5. Define your why and what for. Find reason and meaning. Resilient people have their actions defined. Impart that same wisdom in all aspects of your life. This can be your motivation or the reasons why you live. What are you living for/working for? It should go beyond the reason of putting food on the table or paying your bills. Look for how you benefit from this.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

One thing I want to practice for myself but can I believe can benefit the world would be knowing that you don’t always have to be right or successful but you can always be kind. In business, you don’t get to see or feel much about kindness.

We are blessed that some very prominent leaders read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them 🙂

I would love to spend some time with Donald Miller. His book “Storybrand” got me in love with marketing. This was a tool that helped me understand the fundamentals of sales and marketing.

He has very rich advice for people’s personal lives and not only business. Donald Miller is a great tactician for marketing and I believe he is a good life mentor. One of his memorable philosophies would be to always be the guide, never be the hero. The other people can be the heroes and they are heroes because of your support. That is a manager.

I’d also love to pick the brain of Jack Welch as he also has a memorable philosophy which would be to hire the best people and get out of their way.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

You can connect with me via LinkedIn and Facebook.

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!


Rising Through Resilience: Tess Estandarte of Rainfactory On The Five Things You Can Do To Become… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

The Future Is Now: Gagan Grewal of Mogul Productions On How Their Technological Innovation Will…

The Future Is Now: Gagan Grewal of Mogul Productions On How Their Technological Innovation Will Shake Up The Film Industry

Don’t be afraid to ask questions. I think this is the most important. Sometimes people are afraid to ask for fear of judgement or coming across unintelligent. I know I’m a pretty smart guy and if you’re explaining something to me and I don’t get it, I don’t think that’s my fault. But if I don’t ask questions to try and understand it better, then that is my fault.

As a part of our series about cutting edge technological breakthroughs, I had the pleasure of interviewing Gagan Grewal.

Gagan Grewal, CEO of Mogul Productions, leads the financial vision for the platform, including development of the Mogul Film Fund infrastructure and Smart Wallet. Prior to joining Mogul, Gagan was the managing partner of a private equity firm, led the private banking team for Scotia Wealth Management, and founded his own recruiting firm with a successful exit. Gagan brings his expertise in partner-client relations, capital management, and operations to Mogul Productions.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

I’ve always loved technology; I’ve always loved film, and I’ve always loved losing myself in a movie. Growing up I found it easier to relate to characters on screen and in books than I did in real life so it has always been a passion of mine to be involved in entertainment. I especially enjoy independent content that breaks with the expected formula. That, and I tried my hand at acting and didn’t have the face or skill set for it lol.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

I was in Milan on my way to a dinner and somehow got lost on my way there; the restaurant was kind of in a park and I thought I could cut through but it turns out I entered this park right before it closed and got locked in. I wandered around for a little bit until I saw this opening through a fence. I peeled back this weird mesh thing and reached through…it turned out to be a door. I opened the door and all of a sudden I was in a kitchen and all these people were looking at me. I was in a suit so it was kind of confusing for them…well, I walked through like I was supposed to be there hoping I could still make it to my dinner in time and as I got through the kitchen doors it turns out I was in the restaurant and my table saw me coming from the back. It made me look a lot cooler than I was and yes, the dinner was a success.

Can you tell us about the Cutting edge technological breakthroughs that you are working on? How do you think that will help people?

As the CEO of Mogul Productions, I’ve been working with our team to create a decentralized film financing platform that gives everyone a voice in the filmmaking process. The entertainment ecosystem is fragmented and hasn’t worked as well as it could for creators, fans, and investors. It’s very difficult for creators to receive the financing they need to get their ideas off the ground. In spite of their pivotal role in fostering the growth of the entertainment industry, regular people have no say in the types of films that get made. Meanwhile, film financiers have little to no transparency into how their funds are being used and the process of distributing profits after a film’s release is almost entirely opaque. We realized that by leveraging blockchain technology, we could address all of these issues and help ensure more great films get produced.

How do you think this might change the world?

We depend on great entertainment more than we are willing to admit as a society. The most impactful films and TV shows bring people of different backgrounds together and help us all feel more connected. Entertainment can also be a much-needed escape from the hardships of daily life, something that’s been especially important during the coronavirus pandemic. What we aim to do with Mogul Productions is get more great films financed and produced by harnessing the wisdom of the crowd. When we give regular people the power to decide which films get financed, more creators have the chance to get their ideas made into films, and fans get to see films that they actually want to watch. This is a good system for film financiers as well since there is a built-in audience ready to watch and support each film that is released.

Keeping “Black Mirror” in mind can you see any potential drawbacks about this technology that people should think more deeply about?

There are a lot of platforms that claim to harness the wisdom of the crowd but that do not take care to ensure the voting and governance systems are fair. Mogul leverages a quadratic voting system to make sure that everyone’s voice is heard in the voting process, regardless of the number of STARS tokens held (STARS are required to cast a vote). The quadratic voting formula makes each vote cast by the same user exponentially more expensive so that everyone’s first vote counts the most. This system guards against any single STARS-rich user having undue influence over the voting process.

Was there a “tipping point” that led you to this breakthrough? Can you tell us that story?

A few friends and I were together one night and one of the guys with us was working on the film Deadpool. We started to chat about how long that movie sat in development and how the studios didn’t want to go through with the project the way it was presented. Somehow, the proof of concept trailer was released and people got really excited. It was amazing to watch the momentum build, and I loved how the fans got behind it and “encouraged” the studio into making it. I think that was the breakthrough — we don’t want to be told what’s best for us. We know what we want to watch and our opinion should count for something.

What do you need to lead this technology to widespread adoption?

To see mass adoption of any novel platform, ease-of-use is essential. At Mogul, we have prioritized making our platform easy to use regardless of technical knowledge. For example, Mogul’s Smart Wallet holds a user’s STARS, the in-app cryptocurrency needed to vote on which films should gain financing and that can be redeemed for one-of-a-kind rewards like set memorabilia, red carpet tickets, invitations to exclusive events, and mentorship. The Smart Wallet is non-custodial, which means the Mogul Platform does not hold the private keys that grant users complete control and ownership over the value held in STARS. Most non-custodial wallets in the cryptocurrency space are intimidating for anyone not familiar with the space. Mogul’s Smart Wallet addresses this issue with an automated password reset flow that lets users reset their password in a way that’s familiar without ever giving Mogul access to their private keys.

What have you been doing to publicize this idea? Have you been using any innovative marketing strategies?

In addition to working with our communications partner Melrose PR, we have an experienced team of producers and other veterans from the filmmaking industry who are helping to spread the word and attract new users. James Pratt, an award-winning actor, director, and celebrity favorite within luxury auctioneering internationally, hosts Mogul Live on Instagram where he interviews directors, actors, writers and other entertainment professionals about their experiences.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

Honestly there are so many people that it’s really hard to pick one. I had a few teachers in highschool who really taught me some valuable lessons and I have a really good group of friends and family who keep me in check. I think the theme is good people who I trust, who support me, and who I can go to for advice.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

This is a tough one; I don’t think my success has specifically led me to bring goodness into the world — I think you either want to be someone who contributes or doesn’t. I was raised to give back and have been volunteering since I was a kid; I think that’s something that has stuck with me and I try to be involved in the communities I’m passionate about. As a teenager, I spent a lot of time volunteering in hospitals and in the community and now I sit on a couple of not-for-profit boards and a charity called Kids Up Front, which helps children attend events and experiences through donated tickets.

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)

Unfortunately, even if someone had told me the following things, I probably wouldn’t have internalized them at the time. Experience is the teacher and sometimes that’s the problem. But these are 5 things that I think everyone should be comfortable with:

  1. Failure helps you grow. There’s nothing wrong with it, but you will be judged.
  2. You can’t get better without practice.
  3. Don’t brag. Lots of people better than you have achieved much more.
  4. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. I think this is the most important. Sometimes people are afraid to ask for fear of judgement or coming across unintelligent. I know I’m a pretty smart guy and if you’re explaining something to me and I don’t get it, I don’t think that’s my fault. But if I don’t ask questions to try and understand it better, then that is my fault.
  5. You don’t have to answer every question.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I believe in the power of storytelling to bring people together and even change the world. I’d like to see a movement where more untold stories are brought to life, providing all of us with more perspective, humanity, and connection. I aim to do our part with Mogul to make this cultural transformation a reality.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“Twenty years from now you’ll be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do.” — Mark Twain

Some very well known VCs read this column. If you had 60 seconds to make a pitch to a VC, what would you say? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂

Mogul Productions is a decentralized film financing (DeFiFi) platform that connects creators, movie fans, film financiers and other contributors in one space to ensure the best films get made by giving everyone a voice. By leveraging blockchain technology and a tokenized model, Mogul incentivizes participation and engagement. Using the Mogul in-app payment and utility token (STARS), users can vote for their favorite films to be greenlit and participate in key decision-making aspects of production. STARS holders are key governing bodies of the Mogul platform. Mogul’s production team and advisors are award-winning Hollywood veterans who have written, directed, acted in, and produced diverse slates of films and TV shows.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

You can learn more by visiting our website and following us on Twitter, Facebook, Medium, and LinkedIn.

Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational.


The Future Is Now: Gagan Grewal of Mogul Productions On How Their Technological Innovation Will… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Charlene Walters: Five Ways To Develop More ‘Grit’

Always have a Plan B, C, D and E. It’s rare that your first try will work out the way that you want it to. There are times when I’ve failed or been rejected and I had to come up with a new plan which eventually worked after my initial strategy flopped.

As a part of my series about “Grit: The Most Overlooked Ingredient of Success” I had the pleasure of interviewing Charlene Walters.

Charlene Walters, MBA, PhD, is an entrepreneurship coach, business and branding mentor, corporate trainer and author of Launch Your Inner Entrepreneur. She serves as a mentor on Entrepreneur magazine’s “Ask an Expert” forum and through her own consulting business, is featured among other CEOs, influencers and celebrities on the BAM Network and was selected as one of 150 Marketers to Follow by Rubicly. Charlene developed a digital entrepreneurship MBA program and is an entrepreneur who enjoys combining her knowledge and love of marketing and business strategy with her passion for innovation and desire to help others succeed.

Charlene also wrote a memoir about overcoming tragedy/loss and moving forward in life based on her own personal experience (pre-publication). As part of that, she serves as a speaker and mentor to others, and writes and contributes to numerous publications on business and motivational topics. Charlene also writes a blog called Entrepreneurship, Life Enthusiasm & Energizing Your Brand and has taught hundreds of business, marketing and entrepreneurship courses and workshops for businesses and universities.

Charlene is also a busy single mom currently living in Charlotte, North Carolina with her two beautiful daughters.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what events have drawn you to this specific career path?

Absolutely. I’d be happy to. I grew up in Connecticut and moved to Miami as soon as I graduated with an undergraduate degree in English (leaving the cold weather behind). I started my career in sales and marketing and really enjoyed the hustle of making deals and matching customers with products which led to my growing love of business. I decided to pursue my MBA in management. From there, I went on to earn my PhD in marketing. I continued to move on professionally to other positions in marketing and higher education before eventually creating a digital entrepreneurship MBA program. I loved the energy of it- it was wonderful to be able to work with business owners and aspiring entrepreneurs. I also began to do some mentoring with Entrepreneur’s “Ask an Expert” Platform” and through my own consulting business. Around the same time, I also began to present more workshops and corporate trainings as well. From there, I fulfilled a life-long dream and published my first book, too. It’s been an extremely rewarding career so far and the best is yet to come.

Can you share your story about “Grit and Success”? First can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey?

I’ve had many spots on the journey where I’ve experienced obstacles and setbacks. There have been times that I haven’t gotten deals or opportunities that I thought for sure that I would. Other times, I’ve encountered difficult people who’ve thwarted my progress or that didn’t recognize my value. These tough times and challenging people actually made me try harder, pivot and go after new opportunities. Success at anything has a lot to do with knowing your own value, being tenacious and not giving up until you reach your goals. Stick with it and you’ll make it happen.

Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?

How resilient you are, and how quickly you bounce back has everything to do with mindset. I have always been a goal-oriented person, and at some point, I realized that nothing is ever easy and you have to make a number of attempts before you will achieve those tough goals. Everything worth having in life requires a lot of work and a long wait. I’ve also experienced personal tragedy in my life and that helped me become more resilient as well.

So how did Grit lead to your eventual success? How did Grit turn things around?

Grit is the key ingredient for any sort of success. Because of grit, I was able to pivot, deal with difficult situations, setbacks and people, and find new ways to achieve my goals. The journey to success is never a straight line. It’s got a lot of ups and downs and zig zags, but eventually we get to where we need to be through persistence, trial and error and a lot of willpower.

Based on your experience, can you share 5 pieces of advice about how one can develop Grit?

Sure. I would be happy to:

  1. Always have a Plan B, C, D and E. It’s rare that your first try will work out the way that you want it to. There are times when I’ve failed or been rejected and I had to come up with a new plan which eventually worked after my initial strategy flopped.
  2. Train yourself to find the silver lining. Even when something bad happens, there is always a bright side. Perhaps you got the feedback you needed to improve your product or service, or something else (that’s better) is now possible as a result. Always endeavor to look for the silver lining.
  3. Celebrate both successes and failures. Whenever you have a big decision or outcome looming (such as a presentation, pitch or interview), plan a celebration afterwards and celebrate either way- whether you prevailed or failed. Without failures, we would never learn and grow.
  4. If you’re struggling, take a break. If you find yourself focusing on the negative or the bad in a situation, it’s a sign that you need to regroup and take a timeout. Go for a run, spend a few hours with your family or give yourself an afternoon outdoors. In this sort of scenario, you need to reset your mindset -you won’t be productive or effective until you do so.
  5. Remind yourself that you have what it takes and that you can do it! Come up with a mantra if you need to like “Mary you’ve got this,” or “Jack, it’s going to work out.” Repeat it when you feel yourself getting pulled down by an obstacle or setback.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped you when things were tough? Can you share a story about that?

I am grateful to many different people who have helped me become the person and business professional that I am today. It is hard to name just one individual as I feel as if there were multiple people who’ve guided me and given me encouragement along the path to where I am. These people range from teachers and professors to different supervisors, mentors, friends and colleagues. We can learn something from everyone we interact with so listen up and show gratitude. The world is full of amazing people.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

I’ve tried to be a mentor and support system to others, sharing information and ideas, and helping when I can. I also try to set a good example for people who may have encountered experiences similar to mine. I recently published a book which supports women on their entrepreneurial journeys and I hope that will help many people. The more we put ourselves out there and share stories, the more others will benefit.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

The most exciting thing that I am working on right now is the publication of my new book- Launch Your Inner Entrepreneur. It will come out 2/23 so it is at the forefront of my efforts at the moment. 😊 You can check out the book trailer if you’re interested (I think it’s kind of motivating). After that, I will turn my attention towards my second and third books, and am also planning to launch a podcast, too. I’ve been doing some great virtual events and trainings as well. These activities are helping people by giving them tips and tools to improve their mindsets and their business success. More to come.

What advice would you give to other executives or founders to help their employees to thrive?

Make sure that you are acknowledging your employees’ contributions, supporting them, and encouraging them to keep aiming higher. Let them know that it’s okay to fail, too. The grittier your team is, the more effective it will be in innovating and solving problems as they arise.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

There are so many worthy causes, and it’s difficult to narrow it down, but I am very passionate about helping women elevate themselves through entrepreneurship and education, particularly single mothers who are the sole breadwinners for their families. I understand what they go through because I have lived it myself. Women are at a disadvantage and typically have to juggle much more than their male counterparts so they would really benefit from some extra backing.

I would love to start a movement to help support these women, particularly now as the impact of COVID-19 looms and women are being more negatively impacted, providing them with the tools to develop the mindset and the skills that they need to be successful in business, and to foster work-life balance, which is more challenging for women, and again, single mothers in particular. This movement would also benefit their children, through positive role-modeling and support, and therefore clearly impact future generations.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

I have so many that I love to share. For this particular article, I would like to emphasize the quote, “God helps those who help themselves.” It’s a really old quote and one that my mother repeated to me all the time, but one that has everything to do with grit. I think about it when I get stuck or am waiting for someone else to intervene. You are ultimately in charge of your own success or failure, so when you are not getting the outcome that you want, help yourself (you’re in control) and come up with a new plan. That’s what I always do.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

I want to thank you, and your readers, for taking the time to learn more about me. I am so appreciative and humbled.

They can further follow me on my website/blog, by reading my book Launch Your Inner Entrepreneur or by connecting with me on social media:

Twitter- @CWaltersPhD

Instagram– @CharleneWaltersPhD

LinkedIn- @Charlene Walters, PhD

Clubhouse- @CWaltersPhd

Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational.


Charlene Walters: Five Ways To Develop More ‘Grit’ was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Erik Johnson of White Point Partners: Rising Through Resilience; Five Things You Can Do To Become…

Erik Johnson of White Point Partners: Rising Through Resilience; Five Things You Can Do To Become More Resilient

Before we started development at Optimist Hall, many people told us we would never land an office tenant or get any good food & beverage operators. We believed in our vision, put our heads down, and have delivered on what we set out to do.

In this interview series, we are exploring the subject of resilience among successful business leaders. Resilience is one characteristic that many successful leaders share in common, and in many cases it is the most important trait necessary to survive and thrive in today’s complex market.

I had the pleasure of interviewing Erik Johnson.

Erik co-founded White Point and is responsible for asset management, underwriting and capital markets strategies. Erik previously served as SVP of Finance for a publicly traded student housing REIT. Prior to the REIT, he worked in J.P. Morgan’s Real Estate & Lodging Investment Banking Group where he advised clients on M&A transactions and raised over $6.5 billion of debt and equity capital. Erik began his career at Wells Fargo as a commercial real estate lender.

Erik received a Master of Business Administration from The University of Texas at Austin and Bachelor of Science in Business Administration from The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He is active in the Urban Land Institute and the Corners Society. He also serves on the Advisory Board of the McCombs School of Business Real Estate Investment Fund and the Board of Advisors Next Generation Committee of the Kenan-Flagler Business School

Thank you so much for joining us! Our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your backstory?

My name is Erik Johnson of White Point Partners, one of the developers behind Optimist Hall. Opened in Charlotte, NC on August 1, 2019, Optimist Hall is a 147,000 SF redevelopment of a former gingham mill that features a food hall complemented by retail, restaurant, and creative office space. Located in the Optimist Park neighborhood between Uptown and NoDa, the development has transformed the turn-of-the-century textile mill into one of the most unique projects in the Charlotte metropolitan area. Optimist Hall retains many of the property’s original, 120+ year-old elements including hardwood floors, soaring 14+ foot ceilings, and brick and beam interiors with true industrial character. With heritage rooted in the industrialization of the South, and a space dedicated to innovation, sustainability, and historic preservation, Optimist Hall melds the legacy of Charlotte’s rich history with the opportunity of tomorrow. Open tenants include the following: Archer Paper, Ava Pizzeria, Bao & Broth, Billy Sunday, Botiwalla, Boxcar Betty’s, Collier Candy Co., Duke Energy, Dumpling Lady, El Thrifty Social Club, Felix Empanadas, Fonta Flora Brewery, Harriet’s Hamburgers, Honeysuckle Gelato, Papi Queso, Pet Wants, Spindle Bar, Suárez Bakery & Barra, Undercurrent Coffee, Velvet Taco, Village Juice, and Zukku Sushi. Additional tenants slated to open in the coming months include Mezeh and Xiao Bao.

Can you share with us the most interesting story from your career? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?

The past year has been a true test of our business. The food hall and the adjoining restaurants, bars, and tap room were designed on the premise that eating and drinking are enriched with social interaction. Sharing tables, meeting strangers and talking, however, became prohibited activities with COVID. This past spring, we were able to quickly pivot to become the “largest drive through in Charlotte,” allowing a large percentage of our tenants to stay in business the entire year. We were able to employ the janitorial staff as food runners so they could keep earning a paycheck, and customers were able to safely order and pick-up their favorite meals from the small businesses that call Optimist Hall home.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

At Optimist Hall, it’s our tenant community that stands out. Each tenant operates within its own walls, but we see the success of the overall development as a group effort. Tenants collaborate on F&B offerings and work to promote each other’s success. This was especially true when the drive through was operating, as tenants were all in survival mode trying to help each other out.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

The success of Optimist Hall during the pandemic is a result of the tenants, staff, management, ownership and loyal customers. The ever-changing mandates, health information, and technology have required flexibility and adaptability from the top to the bottom.

Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s shift to the main focus of this interview. We would like to explore and flesh out the trait of resilience. How would you define resilience? What do you believe are the characteristics or traits of resilient people?

As Jimmy Valvano said in his speech at the ESPY’s shortly before he died of cancer, “Don’t give up. Don’t ever give up.” It’s only seven words, but it succinctly embodies what it means to be resilient.

When you think of resilience, which person comes to mind? Can you explain why you chose that person?

Any of the members from our Armed Forces that overcame being physically maimed in war come to mind. The ability to come back from losing a leg, learning to walk with a prosthetic and live a normal life is remarkable. This epitomizes Valvano’s quote.

Has there ever been a time that someone told you something was impossible, but you did it anyway? Can you share the story with us?

Before we started development at Optimist Hall, many people told us we would never land an office tenant or get any good food & beverage operators. We believed in our vision, put our heads down, and have delivered on what we set out to do.

Did you have a time in your life where you had one of your greatest setbacks, but you bounced back from it stronger than ever? Can you share that story with us?

When COVID started to impact the entire U.S. in March 2020, it upended our entire business model. However, with flexibility and adaptability, we were able to pivot to a drive-thru-only operation until it was safe to open our doors again with a COVID protocol plan in place. We’re proud to say that all of our tenants are still in operation, and we’ve even signed on two more tenants since the pandemic began.

Resilience is like a muscle that can be strengthened. In your opinion, what are 5 steps that someone can take to become more resilient? Please share a story or an example for each.

1. Don’t give up
2. Be flexible
3. Be adaptable
4. Believe in your ideas
5. Have confidence in yourself.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

@optimisthall on instagram

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!


Erik Johnson of White Point Partners: Rising Through Resilience; Five Things You Can Do To Become… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Author Elizabeth Rusch: 5 Steps That Each Of Us Can Take To Proactively Help Heal Our Country

Pay attention to and vote in state elections. The constitution gives states the power to run elections, so what happens in your state really matters for our democracy. Does your state automatically register voters? Does offer mail balloting to anyone who needs or wants it? Who draws the voting district maps in your state? Politicians or citizens? Has your state signed on to the National Popular Vote interstate compact?

As part of our series about 5 Steps That Each Of Us Can Take To Proactively Help Heal Our Country, I had the pleasure of interviewing Elizabeth Rusch.

Elizabeth Rusch is a public policy and youth activism expert, speaker, and author of the new nonpartisan book You Call THIS Democracy? How to fix our government and deliver power to the people (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2020), which examines in simple terms our democracy’s missteps and how we can work together to create “a more perfect union.”

You Call THIS Democracy?, an Amazon Bestseller, was featured in the New York Times Book Review, received a starred review from Kirkus, which called it “a riveting must-read,” and has been endorsed by commenters from CNN and FOX News, among others.

Rusch is also the creator of the “50 State Democracy Report Card,” a simple tool people can use to check how elections function in their state overall and on specific metrics; and a series of short, fun, informative YouTube videos on the issues covered in the book, called Flash Course on Democracy, which entertain while educating people of all ages about how our elections really work.

The author of 20 award-winning books and more than 100 magazine articles, Rusch and her work have been featured in The Discovery Channel, Fox News Now, ABC10, Politics Done Right, RodioACTive, Oregon Public Broadcasting’s Think Out Loud, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Denver Post, and Smithsonian, Teacher, and Parenting magazines, among many others. She has a masters’ in public policy from the University of California, Berkeley, and served as a Jacob K. Javits Fellow in the U.S. Senate.

Learn more at youcallthis.com and elizabethrusch.com.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you. Can you tell us a bit about how you grew up?

I grew up in a large family with five siblings. My father was in the Navy and then in business and my mother was a nurse. We moved around a bit, and I’ve lived in seven different states. My family is quite spread out now and live in rural, urban, and suburban places, on the east coast, west coast, north, south and Midwest. People in my family are wealthy, blue collar, religious, nonreligious, college graduates, high school dropouts. Born citizens and naturalized citizens. So my family encompasses a pretty broad range of American experiences and situations.

Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?

When I was in my teens, I came across a magazine called World Press Review and I bought myself a subscription. I’m not sure what the online version does now but at the time the magazine reprinted articles from all around the globe on various current events. What I loved was how different the perspectives were on the same topics. It really opened my eyes to the many different ways people see things.

Do you have a favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life or your work?

When I was in 8th grade, my class took a school trip to Washington, D.C. I remember watching in awe as a law was debated on the floor of the US Senate. I bought a portrait of President John F. Kennedy in the gift shop and hung it on my wall. I used to stare at it and wonder what I could do for our country. But I like another quote of his even more: “Let us not seek the Republican answer or the Democratic answer but the right answer. Let us not seek to fix the blame for the past — let us accept our own responsibility for the future.” I have tried to take that to heart, always looking for the right, best answer rather than blindly following what one or another party thinks.

How do you define “Leadership”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?

Leadership means being open-minded and being willing to work creatively with anyone on areas of agreement so that you can make progress. I saw this while working as a fellow in the U.S. Senate. I admired how liberal Senators like Edward Kennedy could find common ground with even the most conservative Senators and work together to pass legislation. I’d like to see more of that in all of our public officials.

In life we come across many people, some who inspire us, some who change us and some who make us better people. Is there a person or people who have helped you get to where you are today? Can you share a story?

My earliest mentor was Ron Wolk, who was the creator and editor in chief of The Chronical of Higher Education, Education Week and Teacher Magazine. From him I learned about the power of research and reporting and writing to add clarity and depth to any important issue or discussion we face. He also used to grumble and say, “Nothing in this life is easy” and I actually have taken comfort in that. When I face a challenge, I remember that life is not supposed be easy and I try not to let the challenges and difficulties stand in the way. If you are trying to accomplish something important it will not be easy and that is OK.

Ok, thank you for all that. Now let’s move to the main focus of our interview. The United States is currently facing a series of unprecedented crises. So many of us see the news and ask how we can help. We’d love to talk about the steps that each of us can take to help heal our county, in our own way. Which particular crisis would you like to discuss with us today? Why does that resonate with you so much?

I would like to talk about the crisis in our democracy.

This is likely a huge topic. But briefly, can you share your view on how this crisis evolved to the boiling point that it’s at now?

It’s clear that lies trumpeted by the former president — paired with his urgings to fight — incited the violent attack on the Capitol in an attempt to overturn the results of the election. But the weaknesses in our democracy predate President Trump.

The sad truth is that while the marauders were dead wrong about voter fraud — it is a non-issue in this country as case after case has shown — they may have been partially acting out of a vague sense that there is something not quite right with our democracy. Consider that because of our antiquated electoral college system, citizens in FORTY-FOUR states cast votes that they know don’t really matter in the contest for the presidency. Think of the 5 million Republicans who live in the “blue” state of California who feel they have no real voice.

Half of states allow politicians to draw voting district maps that can benefit themselves, their buddies, and their party. How can we call elections based on those maps fair?

The oversized role of money in elections and lawmaking give citizens real reason to suspect that lawmakers don’t always work for them. These are just a few features of our democracy that undermine the principle of one person one vote.

These problems will not go away on their own so we the people must work to fix them.

Can you tell our readers a bit about your experience either working on this cause or your experience being impacted by it? Can you share a story with us?

After getting my master’s in public policy I had a fellowship to work in the Senate for a year. I was impressed with how Senators with very different views worked together on bills, but the experience left me with many questions: Why could one Senator put a hold on a bill that most people and Senators supported? Why could a few people stop a bill in its tracks by a mere threat of a filibuster? And what about all those bills that had so much public support that never made it out of committee, were never even voted on?

Then in the 2016 election, for the second time in my voting live, the candidate who won popular vote by 3 million votes lost the election.

I figured there was something I could do for my country. I could shine a light on seemly small flaws in our democracy that are causing big problems and offer a way out of the mess we are in.

In addition to examining flaws in how our elections are run, my book You Call THIS Democracy? How to Fix our Government and Deliver Power to the People suggests proven solutions and tells true stories of ordinary citizens working to make change. It even offers resources to help readers get involved. For example, You Call THIS Democracy? shows citizens how we can move past the electoral college, so every citizen’s vote in every state counts equally toward the election of our president. It covers how to end gerrymandering, so citizens rather than political parties are drawing voting district maps. If offers proven ways to ramp up voter turnout so our democracy reflects all voices. And it offers simple ways to move political power from the wealthy and corporations to ordinary citizens.

I also created “The 50 State Democracy Report Card” as a free tool anyone can use to figure out how to improve their state’s elections to better reflect the will of the people. You can find it at Youcallthis.com

Ok. Here is the main question of our discussion. Can you please share your “5 Steps That Each Of Us Can Take To Proactively Help Heal Our Country”. Kindly share a story or example for each.

  1. Become a Cell Phone Citizen: Each of us have five people whose job it is to represent us: Our two U.S. Senators and one U.S. Representative and our state senator and representative. These representatives want and need to hear from us. Look up their names, phone numbers and email address at https://www.commoncause.org/find-your-representative/addr/ and put them in your cell phone. Share what you think about different issues and thoughts on laws being considered.
  2. Read the For the People Act, H.R.1/S. 1. It is a bipartisan law being introduced in both the U.S. House and Senate which include a bunch of elements that will improve our elections. A good summary can be found at: https://sarbanes.house.gov/issues/hr-1-the-for-the-people-act If you support it, let your representatives know. (See above.) Share it with your friends and family. If you want changes to the bill, email your representatives (See above.)
  3. Pay attention to and vote in state elections. The constitution gives states the power to run elections, so what happens in your state really matters for our democracy. Does your state automatically register voters? Does offer mail balloting to anyone who needs or wants it? Who draws the voting district maps in your state? Politicians or citizens? Has your state signed on to the National Popular Vote interstate compact? You can find the answers to these questions at https://www.youcallthis.com/your-state. Then let your representatives know how you think elections should be run.
  4. Join a bipartisan group working to improve our democracy. Many citizens from all over the country and across the political spectrum are working to improve our democracy. Joining a group to work together to make change that will help us can be really healing. Find a group at: https://www.youcallthis.com/get-involved-1
  5. Spread the word. If you become a cell phone citizen, tell others! Show your family members how to do it. Share on facebook, twitter, insta or anywhere else you hang out. Talk about the For the People Act and ask others to support it. Talk with friends, family and neighbors about how elections can be improved in your state. Register to vote and tell everyone. Ask friends, family and neighbors if they are registered and help them get registered. https://vote.gov/ can help. Most people get passionate only during presidential elections, but our democracy needs us all year, every year. The most powerful way to encourage someone to care is to ask them!

We are going through a rough period now. Are you optimistic that this issue can eventually be resolved? Can you explain?

I’ve been so inspired by the ordinary citizens who have already been so effective in making change in their state. Katie Fahey was just 26 when she started a bipartisan movement to end gerrymandering in Michigan. She and her family and friends began working and people across the state joined in and passed a ballot measure that is being implemented now. Now citizens, not politicians, will draw the new voting district maps. Another great example is the self-named Bad-ass Grandmas, a Democrat and a Republican, who led an effort to pass anticorruption legislation in North Dakota. The bipartisan group RepresentUs has tracked wins in more than 20 states! https://represent.us/our-wins/ The power of people really can beat the power of habit and the power of money and the power of partisan politics.

If you could tell other young people one thing about why they should consider making a positive impact on our environment or society, like you, what would you tell them?

As I wrote in my book: “We cannot fix the issues that matter to us until we fix the system. Whether you care about safe streets, a fair and effective justice system, immigration reform, the environment, the military, gay rights, the right to bear arms or the right to prevent gun violence; whether you worry about wages, the cost of college or our broken health care system; whether you are more concerned about clean air or clean water or the small business tax burden or all three, for our government to work effectively on any of these issues, it has to be responsive to the will of the people.” Our democracy matters to our lives. Small fixes could lead to great leaps forward for us all.

Is there a person in the world, or in the US, with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂

Greta Thunberg so we can discuss the state of democracy and climate in our world

How can our readers follow you online?

www.elizabethrusch.com

www.youcallthis.com

Also on Facebook at authorelizabethrusch and on twitter at @elizabethrusch and on Instagram @lizrusch.

This was very meaningful, thank you so much. We wish you only continued success on your great work!


Author Elizabeth Rusch: 5 Steps That Each Of Us Can Take To Proactively Help Heal Our Country was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

The Future Is Now: Ian Burgess of Validere On How Their Technological Innovation Will Shake Up The…

The Future Is Now: Ian Burgess of Validere On How Their Technological Innovation Will Shake Up The Tech Scene

Don’t fall in love with your technology. Fall in love with your customer. ​When an academic starts looking to commercialize the result of scientific experiments in their lab that were not optimized around a commercial application to begin with, the odds of this thing being the perfect solution for any business problem is analogous to the odds of a random configuration of 1,000 2x4s being a designer house.

As a part of our series about cutting edge technological breakthroughs I had the pleasure of interviewing​ ​Ian Burgess.

Ian is a co-founder of ​Validere​, and serves as President and Chief Technology Officer. Validere is a data intelligence platform that is transforming the energy industry by making critical product quality data available, accessible, and actionable. Ian is the technical and innovation lead at Validere and has become one of the foremost industry experts, driving innovations through analytics, artificial intelligence and machine learning. Over 50 of North America’s leading energy companies rely on Validere’s insights to enhance operational and trading margins, and reduce waste and emissions. Ian sits on the Board of Directors of ​NEXT Canada​ — non-profit that provides education, mentorship and funding to entrepreneurs, and was a Senior Venture Partner at ​Pioneer Fund​, a leading seed-stage VC funded and run by Y Combinator alumni to help the next generation of startups get off the ground. Ian completed his Ph.D. in Applied Physics at Harvard in 2012.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

I first got introduced to the energy industry in the aftermath of the Lac Megantic rail disaster. Back in 2013 a train carrying crude oil derailed and exploded in the middle of a town and killed 47 people. One of the learnings from the post-accident investigation was that dissolved gas content in crude transported by rail at the time varied widely and could sometimes be dangerously high for standard tank cars. The lab I worked in at the time was approached by the Federal Railroad Administration and funded to look into ways to improve rapid testing of crude at rail terminals. It was through working on this project that I learned that the world’s largest supply chain operated with little visibility into the composition or quality of many commodities. My co-founder, Nouman Ahmad, and I set out to tackle this large fundamental gap. Some of the brightest minds in the energy industry, data science, and physical science have since joined our mission to help the industry track product quality in real time and unlock operational and environmental efficiencies.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

It is hard to come up with the definitive answer to this question because a lot of interesting things have happened over the past 6 years. For some reason the first stories that this question brings to mind are all about my experiences traveling to remote field sites. As someone who has spent my whole life living in big cities, there is something just captivating about the vastness of the wilderness up in northern Alberta and BC. It feels like traveling back in time to before human civilization spread across the globe. I remember one evening driving back to my hotel from a site in central Alberta in the middle of October, it being -20C (-4F), and nearly hitting a huge moose that was sauntering down the middle of the icy road I was driving on. I had seen moose before, but never that close and my first thought was ‘I can’t believe how enormous these animals are’ (this moose was much bigger than my SUV). My second thought was, ‘wow, my life has officially become a US sitcom’s caricature of life in Canada’.

Can you tell us about the Cutting edge technological breakthroughs that you are working on? How do you think that will help people?

Essentially, we build a database that companies across the energy industry can use as a single system of record for all data on volume and composition of commodities. We then help clients improve operations and drive efficiency by:

  1. Making this validated data accessible and actionable. This is accomplished through a combination of UI, search/suggestion analytics, and monitoring analytics and maintenance workflow tools to ensure instruments are working properly
  2. Using predictive analytics to derive the maximum scope of useful information from the data. We build virtual analyzers that predict full compositions in real time across operations and predict the root causes of plant and system imbalances. Our analytics attach other important attributes to a molecule (e.g. carbon intensity) and then accurately track these attributes throughout the supply chain.
  3. Enabling clients to use this data to make better decisions operationally, logistically, and environmentally.

We’re building machine learning models that are helping the energy industry to be far more agile, lean, and capital-efficient. Front line workers and management alike are able to now use one source of truth for all the data that matters. This not only makes their lives much easier, it also helps organizations make smarter decisions, faster — helping usher one of our most important legacy industries into the digital age.

How do you think this might change the world?

We are trying to bring a level of efficiency to the world’s largest supply chain that many other industries, especially in the consumer space, now take for granted. I like to introduce the problem we are trying to solve by pointing out that I generally have more liquidity (easier to find sellers with the product specs I am looking for), more price transparency and a higher probability of receiving the specs that I ordered when I buy a $150 used golf club on eBay than when I buy a >$1M physical shipment of oil from a public company. Having a system of record for inventories (volume and composition) across the industry and then driving operational and logistical efficiency with analytics will make the global supply chains for energy much more efficient, nimble, and resilient. It will also lay the groundwork for carbon intensity to be able to be actually measured and tracked through the supply chain, making it possible for companies to drive their carbon reduction systematically.

Keeping “Black Mirror” in mind can you see any potential drawbacks about this technology that people should think more deeply about?

I think the ease with which circular logic can embed itself into ML models that monitor plant processes with external controls is probably the potential flaw of this type of technology that worries me the most. It is easy for models to learn to predict the controller’s behaviour rather than the relationship between the control settings and the process outcome. As a result, it fails to detect precisely the sort of anomalies it may have been built to detect in the first place. I try to ensure we are extra cognizant of avoiding this flaw in our own designs, and we have internal tests that we run on new models to check for this.

Was there a “tipping point” that led you to this breakthrough? Can you tell us that story?

Probably the closest thing I can think of to a tipping point came the first time we went to a field site to install earlier testing hardware that we were building at the time. It was there I realized that while the measurement hardware customers already had was not perfect, they had far greater issues with communication and data management. It became clear that solving problems of data management, data accessibility and analytics would add much more value than adding another widget to their instrument panel.

What do you need to lead this technology to widespread adoption?

We are at the stage of our product lifecycle that I call ‘v1 feature complete’. We have recently arrived at the place where we can deliver a version of our entire vision to a company and have been able to do so for our early customers. In this process, one of the things we have learned along the way is that no matter how simple your UI is, it takes effort for users to learn a new daily routine, and it takes a lot of effort to roll that change across an entire organization and then an entire industry. This is why we are focused intensively on simplifying our UI and optimizing our training and support to make both using the product and change management really easy.

What have you been doing to publicize this idea? Have you been using any innovative marketing strategies?

Our product and the value we deliver is our best marketing tool. I see the energy industry as a small village, and we aim to be good citizens of our community. We contribute by providing thought leadership and sharing our learnings. We have done so through a series of webinars and articles. We have also been fortunate to have some of the most notable energy and tech media outlets amplify our message. Just as with customers, our approach has been to nurture authentic relationships with the media where we can share our perspective and add value. We’ve also had success in going against the grain somewhat with events, and forgoing some of the larger conferences in favour of hosting or sponsoring smaller gatherings. Our Calgary team hosts a quarterly bike ride through the Rockies, which has been a great way to engage with our community outside of work. Our Houston team hosts regular golf outings and participates in industry charity events.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

There are a number of people who have been critical to helping us get to where we are now, but one who stands out is Chen Fong. He was our first angel investor. Despite thinking that our original business plan (centered around hardware at the time and spread between several industries) was bad, he saw potential in us. Chen made a lot of early introductions to energy executives to help us gain appreciation for the opportunity in the industry, while patiently coaching us toward a more focused and sound business plan. While he is a very humble and low-key guy, it is amazing the number of entrepreneurs that I know that owe their start to Chen.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

I make an effort to be as generous with my time and share as much of the benefit of my experience as possible with other people trying to start new businesses. I owe so much of my own progression to the same generosity from other entrepreneurs who were further ahead of me when I was just starting out. I think that culture of paying it forward was a critical part of the reason why Silicon Valley has become such fertile ground for iconic technology companies to emerge, and I would like to see that dynamic spread out to more places. Recently, I joined the board of ​NEXT Canada​. ​It’s a non-profit that provides world-class business training and mentorship to early-stage entrepreneurs for free. Its programs are designed to get people to think bigger by showing them what is possible and to give essential business training in a way that can be managed while running a business. To date, over 600 entrepreneurs trained through its programs have raised more than $1B collectively and created billions in value for Canada’s tech ecosystem.

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why. (Please share a story or example for each)

1.) Don’t fall in love with your technology. Fall in love with your customer. ​When an academic starts looking to commercialize the result of scientific experiments in their lab that were not optimized around a commercial application to begin with, the odds of this thing being the perfect solution for any business problem is analogous to the odds of a random configuration of 1,000 2x4s being a designer house.

2.) You ask for money, and you will get advice. You ask for advice, and you will get money. ​This is an old saying that you hear when raising money, but it applies equally to talking with customers.

Anchoring a first conversation on their pain points and what they are looking for is a much more efficient path to delivering lasting value than to anchor on why they should want what you already have.

3.) Success correlates to the time average of your successes and failures, not the number of successes and failures.​ The best outcomes we have achieved have always come from failing fast, recovering quickly from bad luck and getting as much out of good luck and good decisions for as long as possible. In contrast, our worst outcomes have come not from making many mistakes, but from getting stuck on one mistake for a very long time.

4.) Media is not your customer ​(at least for our business)​. ​Tech media coverage is optimized for stories that will catch people’s attention, which doesn’t necessarily correlate with what are the most useful gadgets in people’s lives. If viral content were a solid predictor to business value, then I suppose cat videos would have to be the solution to many of life’s problems. When I was still in grad school our original hardware technology got a ton of press, not because it was that useful for any application, but because it was interesting and could make really cool visuals (e.g. a shot glass in which the word ‘drink’ changed to ‘drunk’ when it contained more than 20% alcohol). The early highs of press validation definitely got in the way of spending more time with customers early.

5.) Being good to someone doesn’t mean being ‘nice’ to them all the time.​ Key to my learning in the early days were a handful of mentors who were willing to tell me they believed in me, but also that my current work was sh*t. It feels good giving people praise and validation and it can feel uncomfortable giving direct feedback about areas of improvement, but learning is impossible without feedback. Sometimes holding back on constructive criticism can be more damaging to a person’s development than anything someone could say to them, no matter how direct. Words can hurt, but so can silence.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I’m not sure if I had the power to build anything that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people that a ‘movement’ is what I would want to build. If you look back through history, technological breakthroughs have delivered far more social benefit with fewer tradeoffs. So if I had the power to inspire people to devote themselves to something new, it would be to invent and think big. Some ideas that come to mind are:

  1. a cheap, portable, mass produced messenger RNA synthesis machine, so that vaccines could be instantly produced directly at doctor’s offices around the world the second they are discovered. Updates for new viruses or new variants could be uploaded to all these synthesizers over the internet and be injected the next day.
  2. an efficient carbon capture technology that could be attached to the exhaust of power plants, cars, etc, that could precipitate CO​2​ as a salt or mineral that could then be disposed of in conventional landfills.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

My favourite personal tagline is ‘I believe in the ​Second Law of Thermodynamics​’. One approximate way to explain the Second Law in layman’s terms as it applies to business is: you can’t do something very improbable reliably without expending a lot of effort. I think many of the biggest mistakes in strategy I have seen otherwise smart leaders make in business and government, result from a kind of wishful thinking that effectively requires suspending belief in the Second Law. The same would apply to some of our biggest mistakes, like Lesson #1 from the 5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started.

Some very well known VCs read this column. If you had 60 seconds to make a pitch to a VC, what would you say? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂

Validere is the first and only software that provides real-time visibility into the true composition (quality) of energy commodities and their associated carbon footprint. Our team is bringing much needed transparency and innovation to a legacy industry that has been underserved by tech advances, but is incredibly important to our daily lives. While you might have full transparency into a $150 eBay or Amazon transaction, that is not currently the case for a $1M+ physical shipments of oil from public companies. Data is currently fragmented, opaque, and difficult to track due to costs and operational constraints. That is the fundamental gap that we are addressing. We are building a platform that acts as a system of record for oil and gas product quality and all the data that is critical in guiding operational, logistical, and environmental decisions. By attaching a trusted digital fingerprint to energy products, we are helping make a $40T industry more transparent and efficient. As we transition to renewables, we believe that creating transparency around emissions and driving efficiency within the energy industry is one of the most impactful ways to help the world lower its carbon footprint. Validere’s platform is already powering over 50 of North America’s leading energy companies and we are looking forward to growing our impact in the coming years.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

I’m not a big social media user (I’m not on Facebook, Twitter, TikTok, etc), but you can follow my updates through our company ​LinkedIn​ and ​Twitter​ (@​validere​).

Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational.


The Future Is Now: Ian Burgess of Validere On How Their Technological Innovation Will Shake Up The… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Fawn Anderson of ‘Our Friendly World’: 5 Things We Can Each Do To Help Solve The Loneliness…

Fawn Anderson of OurFriendlyWorld.com: 5 Things We Can Each Do To Help Solve The Loneliness Epidemic

Change the way we work and share. The work week needs to be shorter. We as Americans work so much pay so much in taxes but we don’t have healthcare, dental care, child care, time to spend with family… We must support our families, especially mothers. I am always mistreated by pediatricians, supermarket clerks, fellow moms…let’s give each other more understanding. By sharing, I mean let’s become a village again and help each other through life. Talk about the taboos that make us uncomfortable. The best way to not let emotions build up and get stored in your body is to feel it completely for 90 seconds. The more comfortable we become with hardships, the less taboo they are and the more capacity we have to be there for one another.

As a part of my interview series about the ‘5 Things We Can Each Do Help Solve The Loneliness Epidemic’ I had the pleasure to interview Fawn Anderson.

Fawn is a humanitarian-focused, architectural photographer, founder of the social movement Our Friendly World, geared at making our world friendlier, and host of the podcast, Our Friendly World with Fawn and Matt, dedicated to moving our society away and out of the loneliness epidemic and into a happier, friendlier world. On their podcast, Fawn and her husband Matt invite listeners to the friendly, welcoming world of their kitchen table to discuss ways in which we can create a socially, economically, and racially compassionate world through the art of friendship.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share your “backstory” with us? What was it that led you to your eventual career choice?

I am proof that babies comprehend and remember everything around them. From the time I was a toddler, I quietly observed the culture I was born into — in Iran — as well the one my family and I had moved to in the United States. I listened and watched everything, everywhere, and I remember it all.

I witnessed my family try to manage living in a country with a diverse range of kindness and animosity. I saw and felt a tug of war that existed on just about every level. I felt racial/cultural acceptance one day, and its total opposite the next. I felt the closeness of one culture that held their elders and young close under one roof; under another, children were told they were out on their own at age eighteen, as their elders were put into a separate home. I saw parents splitting up and kids carrying keys and raising themselves until their parents came home from long hours at work.

I grew up noticing the behaviors of our society through immigrant eyes, ears, and heart, and I took a mental note of EVERYTHING. I later studied fine art photography and went to work on documenting all the feelings and the nuances of our global cultures, in pursuit of figuring out the reasons for deep, underlying pain in our society. Why did the United States seem less embracing of its own people than in other countries?

BUT, the reason why I started this career alongside my photography work, was this: years ago, after moving away from my Mentor, which is how I view the city of Santa Monica, California; the one who guided and taught me everything about friendship (I go into full details on our very first episode on our podcast “Our Friendly World with Fawn and Matt” episode “The Mentor”). My husband Matt and I became increasingly aware of an unsettling shift. When once, we made friends wherever we went, we suddenly found ourselves feeling it was impossible to even have one friend over for a meal, or to just hang out with. We blamed ourselves in the beginning but then realized there was something else happening. We looked around and noticed how the landscape of friendship had changed. Alongside technological advancement, meaningful connection was becoming a lost art. A wave or a nod constituted a friendship for people. Conversations were gossip fests at the local coffee shop with the barista. I even confronted a gossiper whom I discovered was speculating on my own life once, and told him I would gladly tell him my story myself — instead of him going out of his way to listen through our bushes of our adjacent properties. He preferred the gossip route. Out of frustration one day, on our daily walk, I spouted out to Matt, “I thought it was hard to find that one true love in this world, but now, it feels like dating all over again, just to find a FRIEND!” That day, with Mount Rainier and the beach as our witness, we jokingly came up with the plan of having a dating service like Match.com but to find a platonic friend. Little did we know, our intention around this would get serious really fast. And so, here we are today, the matchmaking site all coded and fully growing podcast devoted to the art of friendship.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?

I’m not sure this is the most interesting, but it was profound and defining for me. One day I stood in the hospital, having left our little girls with strangers in order to be with my husband in ICU. I was grasped by fear and total desolation as the doctors told me my husband would not make it. That day, was the last day I ever heard from those I believed then to be my best friends. To this day, they do not know if we are alive or not. (My husband is totally fine now). These “friends” just disappeared. I never heard from them again. It was betrayal on top of trauma. Dealing with trauma is really excruciating. When you add betrayal or abandonment to that, it is beyond scarring to your spirit and even your physical heart.

I know first-hand the many types of loneliness that exist. People often think I am totally bubbly and upbeat all the time. You may have never known, looking at me standing alone in that hospital, that I was the founder of this friendship movement. I felt completely alone. But — I grew from this point on. I began to research even more and understand the true meaning of CAPACITY and why people disappear. I found some answers and I share it all the time on our podcast and anywhere else I can. I also went back to Aristotle and studied his Nicomachean Ethics, not only for my own sake, the sake of our girls who’ve had their feelings hurt by people, but for everyone else out there. I want everyone to know the true meaning of a true friend; how to know who is a lifelong friend, and who is there superficially and where their capacity level is.

Can you share a story about the most humorous mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson or takeaway you learned from that?

I think it’s all too fresh right now and there’s nothing funny about it to me, BUT, Our Friendly World was accepted into this entrepreneurship accelerator where we were routinely telling our “why” and describing what our mission was. I was told by others that what I was doing just didn’t have value. People claimed they felt they had lots of friends and they just didn’t see the need. Now these entrepreneurs were barber shops, food companies, and retail establishments. What is really funny was hearing their pitches begin to resemble mine. One day, a naysayer from a barber shop came up to me, and with a straight face commented on how interesting it was that we were both in the friendship business with the similar purpose and mission of bringing people together through friendship. The turnabout honestly still frustrates me, but in time, I am sure it will be funny. They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Well, I was not flattered. However, around this same time, I came across a speech by Lisa Nichols who said: “If no one in your community gets your vision, it’s because God didn’t give it to them. God gave it to you.”

I have learned not to waste time with naysayers. They don’t get it. And when they do, they will not admit where the idea came from and will probably even claim it as theirs. To all those who experience this, I say — get away from these people and put all your focus and energy towards situations that uplift you. You have important work to do. Leave the judgers behind and run on the path of your destiny.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

We our growing our podcast “Our Friendly World with Fawn and Matt” and expanding our work to community Friendship Summits, allowing people to find their true friends (getting matched up with friends) and enjoying time together while playing cooperative games, participating in art projects, taking part in mental health forums, practicing yoga and meditation, listening and creating music, shopping, dining, relaxing, and celebrating life together and creating new family branches. This will help people to create friendships while relaxing. You know… RELAXING, something that is not done in our American culture unless you’re privileged. We are working now on having these summits around the world in preparation for when we can all come back together again.

Can you share with our readers a bit why you are an authority about the topic of the Loneliness Epidemic?

I have been observing human behavior and understanding new ways to get people to know something about others and themselves since I came on the scene! One: I am human. I personally have experienced loneliness and have witnessed loneliness beginning as a small child watching my immigrant family be disregarded; longing for friends, having few friends, and sustaining friendships out of desperate necessity that were not the healthiest. Most immigrants can attest, there is a feeling of constantly being on guard and never feeling like you can relax and feel at home, or truly fit in anywhere. As I became a working photographer, traveling our little blue marble, I met our collective soul family and felt that sense of home wherever I went. I talked with people constantly over the years about family and friendship and how their particular relationships were formed and how their relationships worked. I thought these interactions would only be side anecdotes for the photography book I was working on, but it turned out to become a personal life project of mine; my grand opus. My husband and I developed a platonic matchmaking service that matched future best friends within your own neighborhoods and once 2020 began, we really felt the need to bring conversation and stories to everyone at the same time, and so we launched our podcast and put the in-person matchmaking service on hold for a little while. Throughout my experience both personally and professionally, I have been able to study deeply how to be clearly and utterly truthful with ourselves and come to know why we even have this loneliness epidemic to begin with. I have studied many cultures around the world, researched all the world’s religions and philosophies, attended lectures by scientists and come to this point in time now where I am here to be of service to my fellow friends around the world. As a documentary photographer, it is my greatest desire to share everything I have seen, felt, and learned over the past 33 years, share what is happening now and creating a friendlier society going forward. Loneliness and I have known each other quite intimately. I learned how to walk by myself for a while. I also know how to leave it behind. I am here to help everyone else now.

Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the main focus of our interview. According to this story in Forbes, loneliness is becoming an increasing health threat not just in the US , but across the world. Can you articulate for our readers 3 reasons why being lonely and isolated can harm one’s health?

These articles are true and very scary. Yes, loneliness hurts (emotionally, physically, and finally, it hurts our entire society. When one hurts, we all hurt.

The brain hurts. The prefrontal cortex, the region of the brain that’s connected to decision making and social behavior gets smaller. The Hippocampus when touched by loneliness gets smaller, impairing learning and memory and the stress hormone cortisol (affects and is regulated by the hippocampus) is increased. Stress! The amygdala’s size is linked to a person’s social network and to the processing of emotion. When experiencing loneliness, amygdala shrinks.

There is also the heart (a major influenced player in loneliness). A broken heart is a very real thing. Scientists have discovered that in fact there are walls called heart walls. Heart walls get created during pain and cause dysfunction. The heart is now being considered as a second brain. The heart’s magnetic field has been continually measured by researchers and scientists with the magneto-cardiogram, and these measurements have shown that the heart generates 60 to 1000 times more power and electromagnetic energy than the brain.

There are in fact measurable positive effects on the body when we feel love and appreciation toward someone, or something. We also receive these “love signals” from the people who think of us as they feel love and appreciation. They literally show up in our brainwaves! But “I have nobody around me” you say? All you have to do is picture someone or something to have the feeling and that makes the signals appear in your heart and brain. So you see, it works when you are all alone in lockdown. We are more connected that you think.

So, when feeling loneliness for a prolonged period of time, not only does your brain and heart become compromised, but emotionally, you begin believing lies that infect you and your spirit; like you are not lovable, not talented, perhaps you just don’t play well with others, not pretty, skinny, fit, talented enough; just not enough. All these are lies! Another thing that happens is you begin to believe that you’re separate from everyone and everything else in life. This is not true! We are social animals. We need each other. Social energetics (my own term) is a muscle, and when you don’t use it, it atrophies. Have you ever spent the whole day not speaking and involved in a project and when it’s time to talk to a person, you have trouble forming a coherent sentence? That’s what I’m talking about here. It’s ok. We can get through this! Next thing you know, you will be talking and laughing and needing to have some time to yourself to recharge from all the socializing! You will have balance! You will!

I wish psychologists, scientists, and “experts” would stop putting out all these scary stats without concentrating on the positive and the solutions! We don’t need to be scared about one more thing. I am here to tell you that making connections will be easy and that we are already connected! And if you do not have anyone close, look closely! There are trees, stars, squirrels, birds, (cockroaches in my case in my old studio that would greet me every Saturday night when it felt like everyone else was out on a date but me. Even the roaches (Herman and Harriette) were together and chose to include me in their escapades. Isn’t that nice of them?

On a broader societal level, in which way is loneliness harming our communities and society?

I have always thought that having a sense that you are alone is the greatest joy and opportunity for despots to control a society. When we are feeling alone, we feel powerless and resigned to misdeeds and mistreatment. This leads to a growing complacency. With complacency, things fall apart in our society; from creativity, to learning and adapting to new things, developing a beautiful future, health and well-being of our economy, and taking care of our homes and our greater home, the earth. We just don’t want to be bothered. This causes depression not just emotionally, but fiscally, when society declines in art, communication, and advancement of thought.

If you have a true friend on your side, you have so much more energy and you feel like you can create worlds! Nothing can stop you! You are brave to express your opinions and know you are supported should you get in trouble. With friends — not just superficial connections, but those who know and appreciate us for who we are — we can once again see each other’s humanity. Our society has been growing more fractured in recent decades and when you pay close attention to the words that are prevalent you will see a common theme of dehumanization that has been taking place. But if we are together, when we hear each other, when we truly see each other and feel each other, we will resonate with each other in a way that is compassionate. And when compassion exists, social, racial, and economic injustices cease. With compassion comes respect. With respect comes the knowing that all life is precious. We are precious. Our friendships are precious. Our friendships will transform our world.

The irony of having a loneliness epidemic is glaring. We are living in a time where more people are connected to each other than ever before in history. Our technology has the power to connect billions of people in one network, in a way that was never possible. Yet despite this, so many people are lonely. Why is this? Can you share 3 of the main reasons why we are facing a loneliness epidemic today? Please give a story or an example for each.

I do not like social media’s grasp on our society, but I also do not blame it for the loneliness epidemic AT ALL. The true problem lies deeper than that, and it began way before the .com era.

1. It starts with our families and the generations that have existed before today. It is the way we have children and immediately put them in daycare.

2. It is how our jobs have become so incredibly competitive and we are treated as disposable. We do not have time to spend with ourselves; we do not have the time to spend with our babies, or enough money to make this happen. Americans work so much! We are often too exhausted and left with no time to connect. To truly connect, we need comfort and peace and not feel stress and anxiety. But stress and anxiety is what most of us feel, with a major dose of insomnia from all the stress and work we’re doing. To truly be capable of connecting, we need time and space to feel and to process and to feel creativity sprout in us. If we don’t have these things, how are we supposed to have friends?! Don’t blame social media. I blame this crazy system we are servants to. Who are we working so much for if it’s not for our loved ones?! We work like machines and we have become machines and we are breaking.

3. We’re at full capacity. We don’t have a vessel that is capable of offering anything to anyone because we are overwhelmed. We aren’t able to converse and if we do, it is way too hard to understand each other because we are depleted and not heard ourselves. When we are in pain, it is impossible to help someone else’s pain. We need playtime. I am here to encourage people to come out and play! First we’re going to talk about all the things we’ve ignored; then we are going to be nourished by each other’s compassion. Then, we’ll play — that is when society can have the luxury of creating beautiful works of art from poetry to compassionate government structures to financial strength, to progress only our imaginations will conceive of when we are supported and loved.

Ok. it is not enough to talk about problems without offering possible solutions. In your experience, what are the 5 things each of us can do to help solve the Loneliness Epidemic. Please give a story or an example for each.

Ok, here goes: This is how we can flourish!

1. Change the way we work and share. The work week needs to be shorter. We as Americans work so much pay so much in taxes but we don’t have healthcare, dental care, child care, time to spend with family… We must support our families, especially mothers. I am always mistreated by pediatricians, supermarket clerks, fellow moms…let’s give each other more understanding. By sharing, I mean let’s become a village again and help each other through life. Talk about the taboos that make us uncomfortable. The best way to not let emotions build up and get stored in your body is to feel it completely for 90 seconds. The more comfortable we become with hardships, the less taboo they are and the more capacity we have to be there for one another.

2. Let’s stay together as a family (when the family is a healthy place to be — not an abusive setup, of course). Why do we need the big houses with everyone having their own separate room? Look at all the little big ways separations exist. Think about all the microscopic ways that we create distance in our lives and in our relationships starting with our own nuclear families. Let’s share meals together, talk together, sit and do nothing together and just be. It is that simple.

3. Learn to speak different languages. The more tools we have to communicate with, the easier it is to connect. When we learn a new language, our creativity and perspective on life and experiences grow. Plus we understand each other better as we relate through words.

4. Grow more trees in our communities. Nature is an antidepressant. Take notice of areas with trees and how you feel both physically and emotionally. Why is it that mostly peaceful and affluent neighborhoods have more trees no matter how much or how little square footage of living space exists in the area? Having a design concept that is conducive to fresh air, beauty, health and things set up for people to easily congregate is vital to ending the loneliness epidemic. I challenge architects and landscape architects to create structures that better structure our ability to see and move together instead of putting up blinders and dividers.

5. FLAT OUT SAY “I NEED A FRIEND”. The right person will hear you and will heed your call. So many times I have said “I need a friend” and the perfect person shows up like a superhero, and it’s never the person I thought would normally show up. It’s someone else that was the most brilliant one for the task at hand that I never imagined could or would help. Ask and it shall be given.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

Right now, I am creating a summit that is for peace, social, economic, and racial justice, guided by the art of friendship. They are community “get-togethers” that exist by being present for one another and creating a world that is highly advanced and compassionate. I call it a friendship summit. What it truly is, is a time and place for us to have the time and space that encompasses interconnectedness, food (breaking bread), healing, design, music, conversation, and respect. It is the getting back to the village where we support each other, one neighborhood connected by the next, all the way around the world.

We are blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂

Oh my goodness, I am so glad you asked and my list is long and it would be most amazing for these people to reach out to me. For obvious reasons having to do with tech and business, I want to team up with all the people of The Social Dilemma: (Tristan Harris, Tim Kendall, Jaron Lanier, Roger McNamee, Aza Raskin, Justin Rosenstein, Dr. Shoshana Zuboff, Jeff Seibert, and Sandy Parakilas). Keanu Reeves is someone I want to talk to and to have on our podcast because with all the heartache he has endured, he has remained so compassionate. I really want to work with Dr. Vivek Murthy. He is the one person who truly gets the loneliness epidemic and I want to work with him on an initiative to make our country friendlier. I also want to meet and work with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and get a closer sense of a compassionate leader who has also mastered yoga’s eagle pose. Ricky Gervais will be wonderful to speak with because I love how he brings up taboo subjects. If we all spoke freely about death for example (I am thinking of his show “After Life”), we would show up better for each other. I want to connect with Tyler Perry. He is a compassionate genius. If I could have tea with Oprah, I would probably faint but would get a hold of myself to not miss a word. ALSO: Dr. Ha Vinh Tho. Oh, please, whatever kind force is out there, please help to bring us together!

How can our readers follow you on social media?

Instagram: @befriendlyworld

Website: www.ourfriendlyworld.com

Thank you so much for these insights. This was so inspiring, and so important!


Fawn Anderson of ‘Our Friendly World’: 5 Things We Can Each Do To Help Solve The Loneliness… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

The Future Is Now: Tal Brown of Zone7 On How Their Technological Innovation Will Shake Up The…

The Future Is Now: Tal Brown of Zone7 On How Their Technological Innovation Will Shake Up The Sports Scene

Data security is always an important topic when deploying commercial machine learning tools. The issue is not the technology itself, it’s the disparity in best practices and regulation between regions. As the value of data has grown, some countries have excelled at allowing individuals to own their data and ensure their rights are protected. Businesses and their performers must make every effort to stay aligned on these processes and what qualifies as suitable data protection.

As a part of our series about cutting edge technological breakthroughs I had the pleasure of interviewing Tal Brown, CEO and Co-Founder of Zone7.

Tal has more than two decades’ experience across product development, technical leadership, and aligning technology with business requirements.

Having founded Zone7 in 2017, Tal develops and applies proprietary artificial intelligence to help athletes, coaches and medical teams forecast injury risk and attain peak performance. He has worked with professional and amateur teams across the EPL, MLB, MLS, NCAA, La Liga, Serie A, and the Olympics.

Tal began his career as a Big Data Engineer in the Israel Defense Force’s Intelligence Corps and later worked as a Consultant and Solutions Architect at Oracle. Before Zone7, Tal was Senior Director of Product Management at Salesforce, where he founded the organization’s first AI product team responsible for data science applications used by millions of sales professionals.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

Before starting Zone7 I was the first product manager at Salesforce to create enterprise tools with AI capability. As artificial intelligence proved its worth with sales professionals, I started asking myself about other fields where performers could benefit from true AI.

I worked closely with Eyal, who I’d go on to co-found Zone7 with. He had a similar passion for data science and was also working as a [researcher/analyst] in soccer at the time. As Eyal described the financial impact that injuries had on sports organizations, we realized machine learning had tremendous potential for injury prevention in sport. By forecasting risk and eliminating bias in decision-making, we could help athletes realize peak performance.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

Our very first pilot with an elite European football team was once to remember. We had scheduled a two-day workshop with the client to kick off our collaboration. Having spent the first day getting to know each other and connecting our platform to their data, we planned to make the second day a hands-on working session.

Physios from this team asked us to have the meeting after their morning training session. When we arrived, we opened up our app and presented the data. Notably, the app showed one player at risk of injury, with the recommendation that his sprinting volume be adjusted to account for this.

The room went silent.

We thought we had screwed up. The coaches began to have a heated argument among themselves in their local language, which I couldn’t understand. We waited patiently, expecting to show out the same way we came in. A few minutes later, however, we were informed that this very same player had just suffered an injury and was being assessed by the club doctor. Our concerns about rejection quickly gave way to relief and a real-time case study.

Can you tell us about the cutting-edge technological breakthrough that you are working on? How do you think that will help people?

Zone7 is a proprietary AI solution that standardizes disparate datasets, analyzes them to uncover patterns invisible to the human eye, and makes proactive recommendations to improve output, detect burnout risk and mitigate injuries. We call this approach ‘Predictive Guidance’.

Our strongest current application is among professional athletes. To date, we’ve logged more than [200 million hours] of athletic action and currently work with elite teams across the EPL, MLB, MLS, La Liga, Serie A, NCAA, the Olympics and professional cycling. This valuable reference data gives our users the best chance to recoup maximum value from performers.

How do you think this might change the world?

Longer term, we believe Predictive Guidance has potential to aid performers in other industries that provide vital services. As the pandemic took hold, we realized the great potential for application across frontline and healthcare provider workforces — supporting brave individuals who work long hours, in intense environments where failure to preempt fatigue carries elevated risk.

Keeping “Black Mirror” in mind can you see any potential drawbacks about this technology that people should think more deeply about?

Data security is always an important topic when deploying commercial machine learning tools. The issue is not the technology itself, it’s the disparity in best practices and regulation between regions. As the value of data has grown, some countries have excelled at allowing individuals to own their data and ensure their rights are protected. Businesses and their performers must make every effort to stay aligned on these processes and what qualifies as suitable data protection.

Was there a “tipping point” that led you to this breakthrough? Can you tell us that story?

Once we had reached a dozen or so clients, we saw a sizable uptick in the accuracy of Zone7’s risk calculation abilities, and thanks in part to the large volume of reference data now available to us.

On a client-to-client basis, we also see a tipping point when the user realizes our technology has adapted to their existing system and the first results start showing. Eventually, they are comfortable enough with the content we produce that they provide the green light to integrate across their entire stack. The more this happens, the more accurately we can interpret…helps calculate risk and recommendations,

What do you need to lead this technology to widespread adoption?

We’re on the way. Word is spreading throughout the sports industry and we’re having several promising conversations with world-renowned organizations. When organizations approach us to trial the platform, the results typically speak for themselves. Our conversion rate is over 90% and we’re fortunate to count several elite teams among our roster of active users.

What have you been doing to publicize this idea? Have you been using any innovative marketing strategies?

We’re seeing steady inbound interest from decision-makers at sports teams and organizations who are keen to learn more about a potential competitive advantage. We also have a handful of very strong case studies, some of which are available via our website. The pandemic’s heavy impact on competitive schedules, rest periods, training routines and injury lists has underscored the immediate need for preventative injury solutions.

On the content side, we recently launched the Zone7 podcast. Our team enjoys having candid discussions with other bright minds in sports, which is receiving great engagement. We also circulate a monthly newsletter with notable insights from our team and updates about the company.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

One individual I’m grateful to have met when I did was Jordi Cruyff. He was the first professional soccer manager who took a chance on us. Despite professing to know little about AI, he adopted the technology, saw the results firsthand and became an early investor. As a former player for the likes of FC Barcelona, Manchester United and the Netherlands, his name and reputation also carried a credibility that helped us uncover several promising new leads.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

While sports was an organic launch point for Zone7 because of the readily available data and direct economic impact of player participation, we see a much larger total addressable market that notably includes healthcare.

Roughly a month after the global pandemic took hold we reached an agreement with Israel’s largest health provider to deploy our technology across their ICU units, where we could monitor their staff for fatigue. We are also supporting clinical trials at Columbia. Over time, we hope to see Zone7 helping patients and providers alike.

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why.

  1. Surround yourself with people who know the ins and outs of fundraising. Their experience will speak volumes.
  2. Clarity is key. A great idea must be explainable in simple terms with clearly defined benefits.
  3. Move on from bad relationships. There’s nothing to be gained from holding resentment, especially when your concept is forward-looking by nature.
  4. Set realistic expectations. The road to realizing company growth is paved with mistakes. Embrace them, learn from them, and forge ahead.
  5. Don’t be too proud to ask for help. An entrepreneur has many hats but rarely do they have the time or knowledge to do everything solo.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I’ve always had a desire to create easy-access education opportunities for kids. The work that we’re doing in data science has a natural synergy with academia’s efforts to tackle the shortfall in next-gen STEM talent (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics). I would love to be a bigger part of that and it’s something we at Zone7 have our sights on longer-term.

What is your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? How that was relevant to you in your life?

“Leap, and the net will appear.” — John Burroughs. It was this mantra that helped us found and grow Zone7.

Some very well-known VCs read this column. If you had 60 seconds to make a pitch to a VC, what would you say? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂

Zone7 optimizes human performance and forecasts risk of injury/burnout using a proprietary form of artificial intelligence we call Predictive Guidance..

The solution is device agnostic and can make sense of whatever data an organization has available, increasing the value its users derive from other data collection tools and processes in their organization. Using machine learning, the platform can clean diverse health and performance datasets, analyze them to uncover important risk patterns invisible to the human eye, and make proactive recommendations to help decision-makers realize full value from peak performers .This helps organizations counter the risks associated with limited human capacity, biased interpretation, or “unclean” data.

To date, Zone7 has logged [more than 200 million hours of athletic action] as reference data for our algorithms, allowing an organization’s valuable performers to contribute at peak performance, for longer, with less time on the sidelines. Our clients include professional and amateur teams across the EPL, MLS, La Liga, Serie A, MLB, NCAA, the Olympics and professional cycling.

We see potential to apply Zone7 beyond sports, in critical situations, frontline services and other industries such as healthcare (patient and provider), security, manufacturing, insurance, and aerospace.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

You can reach us on LinkedIn, or find us on Twitter @Zone7AI or @Ta Brown.

Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational.


The Future Is Now: Tal Brown of Zone7 On How Their Technological Innovation Will Shake Up The… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.