Friday, October 31, 2008

Social Media Primer

I spend so much time on-line that I have grown into one of those people who thinks everyone on the planet understands and appreciates the power of social media. I'm deluding myself. Many people are not involved and know next to nothing on social media. So if you're looking to learn a bit more about social media, or know someone who's interested in learning more, here's the contents of my Social Media Primer, hot off the presses:

A Social Media Primer
(This list is by no means comprehensive of all the channels of social media, but it’s a good start)
October 31, 2008

Blog Search Engines:
A search engine that utilizes the power of the top five internet search engines. Also know as “metasearch”.

As the leading blog search engine and most comprehensive source of information on the blogosphere, Technorati indexes more than 1.5 million new blog posts in real time and introduces millions of readers to blog and social media content.

BlogCatalog is a social community for bloggers and one of the largest blog directories on the internet.

Google Blogsearch
Blog Search is Google’s search technology focused on blogs. Blog Search enables you to find out what people are saying on any subject of your choice. Your results include all blogs, not just those published through Blogger. The blog index is continually updated, so you'll always get the most accurate and up-to-date results. You can search not just for blogs written in English, but in French, Italian, German, Spanish, Korean, Brazilian Portuguese, Dutch, Russian, Japanese, Swedish, Malay, Polish, Thai, Indonesian, Tagalog, Turkish, Vietnamese and other languages as well.


Just released in BETA this week, this site strives to be a one-stop shop for news on a variety of social media platforms.

Blog Publishers that you can search:
Blogger (owned by Google)


Moveable Type




YouTube (owned by Google)
(video blogging)

Hulu (owned by NewsCorp. and NBC – being hailed as the new YouTube)

Every day, this diverse community shares information on everything from politics to parenting advice, to pop culture, to the environment and more. You’ll find Helium rich with quality content, different points-of-view, and expert insight.

Dailymotion is about finding new ways to see, share and engage your world through the power of online video. You can find - or upload - videos about your interests and hobbies, eyewitness accounts of recent news and distant places, and everything else from the strange to the spectacular.

Metacafe is one of the world's largest video sites, attracting more than 25 million unique viewers each month (according to comScore Media Metrix). They specialize in short-form original content - from new, emerging talents, and established Hollywood heavyweights alike.

Piczo empowers teens worldwide to creatively express themselves, build personal communities, and share ideas and experiences with their friends in a safe online environment. Since its launch less than three years ago, Piczo has grown to roughly 10 million monthly unique visitors and over a billion monthly page views solely through the viral efforts of loyal members. Rave reviews from these members claim that Piczo is unmatched in the control, ease-of-use, and flexibility it offers them when building their websites.

Piczo's customizable content, colorful graphics, glitter text, video, and photo tools spotlight member creativity without requiring technical skills. Members share their life stories with friends by designing their sites with multiple pages featuring photos, graphics, videos, music, comment boards, games, and more. Each site can be linked to other friends' sites and users can interact with them and their friends, and meet new people online. And, the "first of its kind" Piczo Zone allows members to share their customizable content with the rest of the Piczo Community.


Google video

Sharing Technologies
Delicious is a social bookmarking service that allows users to tag, save, manage, and share web pages from a centralized source. With emphasis on the power of the community, Delicious greatly improves how people discover, remember, and share on the Internet.

Everything on Digg — from news to videos to images — is submitted by the Digg community either directly on the site or by clicking on the Digg icon at the bottom of many news articles. Once something is submitted, other people see it and Digg what they like best. There’s also a conversation that happens around the content.


A relative newcomer to the scene of sharing technologies.


Caters mostly to the Tech community
Provides a way to pull a thread through a variety of different articles and platforms on a specific topic

Allows you to connect to others with interests similar to yours, or to create your own niche network


A mashup of a reader, bookmark bank, and a social network. You store URLs, tag them, and then are able to share them with the network

Social Networks


The largest social network of women bloggers


Linked In

This is a social network for bloggers

This is a social network of self-described “experts” and “thought leaders” in a variety of fields. Largely a community of writers.

Largest social network in Europe

The third largest social network in the U.S. behind Facebook and MySpace. Very young company, though growing quickly. Strong emphasis on Spanish-speaking countries and Hispanic US population. Recently featured in Fortune:

This is a network of social networks where you join niche networks (or start one) based on common interests. Recently featured in Fast Company:

Reader / Aggregator:
Readers and aggregators allow you to “bookmark” blogs you want to keep up with by subscribing to those blogs’ RSS feeds. The feeds populate your page in the reader and then you log into the reader to read the new posts on the blog you follow.



Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Mixed signals

Another update from my friend, John, the extremely talented graphic designer whom I spoke about in a post last month. He's still plugging away on his huge amount of work to get his projects off the screen and off the ground. It's slow going, but he's making progress. Or at least he was until today. And his story from today is a good example of why alignment matters. (Regardless of what John McCain says, I've never seen two mavericks make a good team.)

John has been working away on his enormous projects for several clients. On occasion he needs sign-off from his boss (let's call him Tom) and his boss's boss (let's call her Barb). Trouble is that those two aren't aligned on the artistic direction of John's projects. (I'm getting nervous just thinking about what's coming next.) So today, he discovered that Barb hadn't received some mission-critical information from Tom, who was conveniently out today - the day of the deadline. Ouch. So not only did Barb call John to find out the whereabouts of Tom, but she also gave him direction on his #1 project that was entirely contradictory to his Tom's direction from earlier this week. 

After a flurry of emails back and forth with Tom copied on them, Tom starts to reply and put in his two cents, arguing with Barb. John was hoping to back away slowly and leave Tom and Barb to fight it out. No such luck. So while John was working away all day under Barb's direction, Tom essentially ignored that work and did his own thing. In essence, John would have had a more productive day if he had stayed home and hid under his bed. (I'm not suggesting that that would have been a good idea - merely making the comparison to demonstrate what a complete waste of time all of John's work was today.) 

To add insult to injury, Tom then called John to walk through his (Tom's ideas) that he wants to present to Barb tomorrow morning with John's help. And then, when Barb cancelled tomorrow morning's meeting with Tom via email, Tom shouted a very loud and inappropriate expletive and proceeded to complain about Barb, wanting John's support. Good grief - Tom needs to watch the movie Saving Private Ryan where Tom Hanks says to his soldiers, "always remember to complain up."       

I had a bit of good counsel for John, after his long and weary day.  The line "self-preservation is a full-time occupation" kept running through my head as I listened to his story. The name of the game here is documentation, communication, and concentration. Keep track of everything that's happening so there is a clear record of sign-offs, communicate to all parties equally so everyone has the same information, and concentrate on getting the job done that needs to get done and that John has the ability to control. It's not easy to be Switzerland, but it John's case it may be the only way forward.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Make it easy for me to participate

See that blog post just below entitled, Root for Your City? I didn't write it - not a single word of it. A handful of clicks and it was posted for me. American Express ran a program called "Root for Your City". 8 cities across the country are competing for the largest share of 1 million tress to plant in their cities. By using my Amex cards (I am now up to three of them as of yesterday!) at participating stores and restaurants, I am contributing to the effort in my city.

I went to the site after receiving a customer email (1st click) and clicked on the button "" (2nd click). After arriving on the home page for the contest and learning a bit about it I clicked on the button "Spread the Word" (3rd click). There was a tab titled "Post to blog" (4th click). I checked the "Blogger" button (since my blog is hosted by Blogger), entered by username and password, clicked "sign-in", and then click "post" (5th, 6th, and 7th clicks). That's it. Done. Posted up to my blog with a link to the contest's site and a pretty picture. A clean, easy to follow, aesthetically-pleasing process. (It was so easy that I felt like I was visiting a site designed by Apple!) Now that is service.

This tiny event was a big lesson for me. In this day and age of messaging and the need for mass participation, the organizers of events, efforts, and campaigns need to make participation easy. Companies need advocates now more than ever. Give a customer a good experience and they're with you for life. This is the age of customer service, when finally customers are given their due as valuable, cherished members of a company. And the companies that will come out ahead when it is all said and done are those that not only call their customers kings and queens, but treat them like that as well.

Root for Your City

Help bring the largest share of a 1 million-dollar tree-planting grant to your city. You could make an amazing difference in your community simply by using any American Express® Card at participating businesses from Sept 22 to Oct 31, 2008.

Monday, October 27, 2008


After 36 hours in D.C. for our second 6-month club - a semi-annual get-together with my classmates from business school - I am compelled to think about friendship on the Amtrak train home.  The power of it, the necessity of it, and what it means to call someone my friend. 

I think of friendship mostly as an energy play. A friend gives me energy, makes my life a richer, larger experience. My friends are my teachers, my counselors, people I can celebrate with, cry with, laugh with. They expand my views and they help me conduct my life with grace. They spur my creativity and my ambition. 

My friends share my victories and help me bear my failures. They are an unfailing source of support and guidance. Their demographics vary as widely as their interests and geographies (and this is by design.) I am humbled by the abundance of friendship in my life. 

I've also been thinking about friendship in the context of these tough times we are now experiencing. We're only going to get through this difficult economy (and the last bitter months of the George Bush presidency) if we band together. This is the hour when our ability for fostering friendship will be tested. Anyone can be a friend in good times; it's those who can help us transform a difficult situation into a worthwhile experience that are truly worth their weight in gold. 

There is a lot of talk about hope these days and while hope is not a strategy, it is an effective tool. My friends give me hope that tomorrow will be better; that eventually, with persistent efforts, we will be stronger and wiser - together. That hope coupled with the powerful support friends provide is going to make me a better person and this world a better place to be.      

Saturday, October 25, 2008

How do you know when you're done?

For the first time on this blog, I am writing from my Blackberry. Now that the full internet is always in my pocket, I have no excuse for not writing everday on this blog. The formatting may not be pretty, but I hope to keep the wit and insight constant despite this very tiny keyboard. Luckily I have tiny fingers. What I would really love is a peripheral full-size foldable keyboard that plugs right into my Blackberry. Maybe I need to contact the innovation head honcho at Blackberry and make that request.Now onto the topic of the day: knowing when you're done.

With all of the demands placed on employees at work these days, it's easy to understand how they are staying at work longer, physically and or virtually. In this economy, endless preparation is the name of the game for many. However, similar to student exam preparation, there is a point of diminishing returns. It's similar to that old pithy line of "How can I ever miss you if you never go away?" Too much of a good thing is, well, no longer a good thing. This is true of almost everything in life, work included.

But with employees being pushed by managers in so many ways, how are we supposed to know when to call it quits? We could always do more, so how do we judge that fine line where more is less?

My dear friend, Ben, is a successful defense attorney. And because his expertise is criminal defense, he must be 100% prepared for every argument that could get thrown his way by the prosecution. Despite the fact that we recite the principle "innocent until proven guilty", we rarely live it. I mean did anyone for a single moment believe that the "masterminds" at Bear Stearns were innocent before tried? I certainly didn't, though I am a self-admitted hopeful cynic.

Ben has a very cool barometer of knowing when he's done prepping for a case. It's so good I considered stealing it as my own original thought for a very brief moment. Then I remembered I would be stealing from a highly-educated, best in class attorney who's truly one of the most brilliant people I have ever met. Despite his humility and generosity, stealing IP from him seems unwise. And on occassion he reads this blog, so I would surely be caught. So please consider him fully-credited for this idea: prepare until your nervousness gives way to bordem. That's the point at which all of your best thinking and lightbulb moments are exhausted.

So for today here is my own version of Letterman's top 10 list - the top signs that I'm bored (aka - how I know when I'm just over it all):
10.) I begin to think about when I'm going to eat next
9.) I begin making multiple to-do lists in my head that have nothing to do with what's in front of me
8.) I start humming audibly
7.) I start looking at my watch every 30 seconds
6.) I start thinking about how spot-on Tina Fey's impression of Sarah Palin is
5.) I begin to wonder about the opportunity cost of doing what's in front of me rather than doing something more "fun"
4.) I feel a nap coming on (even though I have chronic insomnia)
3.) Watching cartoons seems like a better use of my time
2.) Thinking I'd rather clean my bathroom than do the work in front of me.
1.) I realize I haven't been paying attention to anything that the person in front of me has said for the past 10 minutes.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

March of Dimes Petition for Preemies

My friends over at the March of Dimes have put together a campaign to address the health and well-being of the tiniest members of our communities. They put up a beautiful post on their website and I want to share it with all of you:

Petition for Preemies

My best friend just gave birth to her first child – a baby girl named Milana.  I can’t tell you how excited I am to share in my best friend’s happiness!  But to be honest, I’m also a little nervous. That’s because Milana was born prematurely, and babies who are born preterm face special health risks.

Milana isn’t alone.  In the U.S., 1 in 8 babies are born prematurely. In fact, more newborns die from premature birth than any other cause. That’s why I signed the March of Dimes Petition for Preemies.

The Petition for Preemies will help give all babies a healthy start by putting public officials – and all Americans – on notice that it’s time to focus on the growing problem of premature birth.

Show your support by joining thousands of other moms in signing thePetition for Preemies. If you’re a blogger, write a post about this issue or put our purple widget or button on your blog. Get information about how you can help more babies come into the world healthy.

Thankfully, Milana is home now and doing just fine.  Let’s help more moms have healthy babies!

Want to lend a hand in the effort? Sign the petition:

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Taking stock of what I've got

This month, Real Simple Magazine ran a column by author Merrill Markoe who wrote the books Walking In Circles Before Lying Down and The Psycho Ex Game. Hmmm...I don't recall ever meeting her though it appears that she has her finger on the pulse of my life. Most of my ex-boyfriends aren't psychos per say, though a few of them have turned out to be so odd in the end that I am left scratching my head, wondering what I ever saw in them. But I digress...

Merrill's column details the fires in Malibu, California last year when she had to nearly evacuate her home and grab a few precious belongings to pack in her car. She considers what the belongings she chose to save say about her and her values. She is a deeply witty, self-deprecating writer - my favorite kind! - and her column had me thinking about what I'd take with me if I could only pack up a carload of belongings.

There are the items that must go with me without a doubt - my phone, my Mac, my external hard drive, my digital camera, my IBM laptop (merely because that machine saw me through my two years of graduate school for which I am intensely grateful), my ipod, the jewelry box my mother gave me, a handful of photographs, particularly those of my grandmother and one of my brother, sister, and I when we are all little and playing in my grandmother's backyard. 

If there's room, I'd stash all of my books and take them with me though if I can only have a few, I'll take Me Talk Pretty One Day autographed by David Sedaris telling me that he's so proud of me (though I have no idea what for), Bird By Bird by Anne Lamott, Nelson Mandela's Long Walk to Freedom, Three Cups of Tea, my autographed copy of Moving to Higher Ground by Wynton Marsalis, Dreams of My Father by (Future President) Obama, Hotspots published by Conservation International because it was signed by all of my friends there, A Reason for Hope by Jane Goodall, Women Who Run with the Wolves, Orbiting the Giant Hairball from my former boss, Bob Giampietro, who taught me how to thrive in a corporate environment, 700 Sundays by Billy Crystal, and Yoga: Poetry of the Body because one of my very favorite essays, "Winter" by Nina Zolotow, is in there. No fiction book made the cut...hmmmm.....what does that say?

I'd love to bring along my grandmother's rocking chair and sewing machine though that may be a bit ambitious given their bulky size. I'd definitely grab the knit shawl my mom made for me for my birthday, the teddy bear I bought for my grandmother while I was in college (she sat on the couch watching TV with that teddy bear every day up until she passed away because she said it made her feel less lonely.) I'd take the heart-shaped ornament with the word "Sister" inscribed on it, given to me by my sister at her wedding.

My Snoopy Snowcone Machine, in the original box, is a must-have as is a framed painting of a woman dancing with a rose given to me by Kaye Ballard. I'd also snatch the two water colors I purchased in Prague just after September 11th on my first trip to Europe. My poster of Sunset Boulevard signed by Petula Clark needs to come with me, as does the watercolor I painted that is a replica of the last greeting card my grandmother sent to me before she passed away. 

Cruising into my kitchen, I'd snag my crockpot, deluxe blender / food processor, and two magnets that read "Be Nice or Leave. - Thank You" and "Good girls go to heaven. Bad girls go everywhere" (A classic!). Everything else can stay. 

Bathroom - not much I'd salvage in here except my Sonicare toothbrush, my Dr. Greenfingers First Aid Kit, the purple vase from my dear friend, Blair, and my birth control (that stuff is EXPENSIVE!)

On my way out the door, I'd grab my black leather jacket, the purse my mom made for me that earns me a multitude of compliments every time I use it, a scarf my friend, Amy, bought me in Paris, my favorite jeans, my lockbox of important papers, the Chinese silk robe given to me by Petula Clark (I've never worn it though it serves as a reminder to me of what a true class act that lady is), my Tibetan prayer beads that hang above my front door, my swimming goggles that I learned to swim in just after my 30th birthday, the tiny birdhouse wind chime my mom gave me when I was in college, and the Coach leather bag I take to work everyday. And three more pieces of art - one of orca whales that I purchased on a solo trip to Alaska, the cloth painting I purchased in Soweto, and the painting of a monster in the forest given to me by the Crayola Factory. If there's any more room, I'll grab my two diplomas - the very small one from Penn and the very large one from UVA. Oh, and my passport.       

If our most prized possessions are a reflection of our values, what does this jumbled list say about me? Well, clearly there are a number of strong women who have made a significant impact on my life, particularly my mom and my grandmother. I deeply value my travels and education, and want to be surrounded by reminders of those experiences. I care about the environment. Art is a source of inspiration for me. And when it comes to appearance, I care only about the bare essentials (meaning, I'm most concerned about my teeth. These suckers were expensive and paid for by my Uncle Tom when he footed the bill for my braces. I think of him every time I look at my teeth, which is many times a day!) Technology is a big part of my life, and my life is easily transportable. I value my career. 

When I look around my apartment at what would be left after all of my favorite possessions are gone, I see some furniture, clothes, some small appliances. Though not much else, and truly all of that stuff is easily replaced for a very small amount of money. I guess I have weeded the garden of my life, stripping away nearly everything that is not essential. For one thing, I live in a 400 square foot studio. Though more importantly, I did cut back significantly on my possessions after I graduate school because I could only afford to take two car loads worth of items I could carry myself. (Movers and moving more items than that was cost-prohibitive for a recently graduated student moving to New York City without a job offer in hand.) Everything else had to find a new home in Virginia. It was an exercise in taking away all the non-essentials so the essentials could speak, and be saved. 

Monday, October 20, 2008

Cupcakes for a Cause

That delightful time of year has arrived again: the leaves are changing, the air is crisp, and we can stuff our faces with the sweet, yummy goodness of cupcakes while doing some good in the world. The annual celebration of Cupcakes for a Cause kicked off today to benefit Cancercare for Kids. For the remainder of this week you can help the organization by picking up the goods at local bakeries around the country, all conveniently listed by state on the causes's website.

Watching your diet? No problem. For every e-cupcake you send through the site, $1 will be donated to the charity, up to a cap of $10,000. You have some controlled functionality to design your own virtual cupcake or choose from a selection of beautiful stock designs. I've been happily sending them out this evening to family and friends and it's almost as much fun as baking them myself.

So what are you waiting for? No time like the present to gobble up some cupcake goodness and help a worthwhile charity, all in one delicious bite.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Growing by Shrinking

We're in the midst of watching our economy contract. These are frightening times, uncertain times for many people. I was inspired by Nicholas Kristof's column this week as he attempted to find a bright spot in all the gloom that is filling our news channels and our own minds. I was flipping through Business Week and saw an ad for IBM with the following headline in bold type: "Sometimes Growing Starts With Shrinking". How can we connect Kristof's ideas and the IBM ad? 

Aside from our economy, I have been thinking about examples of shrink leading to growth. The ipod - making our music libraries physically shrinking from 100's or 1000's of albums, tapes, and CDs into one powerful device helped Apple find new life. The same can be said of many electronics such as cell phones and computers. 
Let's consider travel. There have been a myriad of articles that encourage travelers to select a few key cities for a vacation and take in all they have to offer rather than doing a whirlwind trip and only skimming the surface of many cities. It creates more powerful and lasting memories, not to mention providing for some relaxation - the whole purpose of many vacations. 

Another example that struck me was all of the research being done now on multi-tasking. By attempting to do many things at once, it turns out that we do all of them more poorly than we could if we focused on one at a time. I notice this all of the time at work as I'm trying to balance a whole host of projects and objectives. Some studies even show that a lack of focus caused by multi-tasking increases stress levels, worsening general health levels, and lowering IQs.    

Now consider our economy: Think about the benefit of shrinking our spending to increase our savings. Barry Schwartz talks about shrinking the number of options we consider as a means of being happier with the choices we make. And then one of my favorite mantras can bring an immeasurable amount of peace to your life: simplify, simplify, simplify.

All of this is meant to show that shrinking isn't always bad and can even be good for us if we're willing to put aside our belief that bigger and more always equals better. Sometimes doing and having less provides abundance in ways we never expected.   

Saturday, October 18, 2008

A Letter to My Younger Self

I just finished reading "What Now?" by Ann Pachett. It is her graduation speech to the students of Sarah Lawrence, her alma mater. She talks about crossroads and decisions and happy coincidences. It made me think about a book I read about two years ago called "What I Know Now: Letter to My Younger Self" where a variety of women write letters to themselves when they were younger.

I wrote my own letter to my younger self as part of a final project in business school for a leadership class. I realized I've never posted it to this blog, and I went back to read it today. Not only is it a letter to my younger self - it's a good reminder of how I should be living every day. The letter pertains to many of the principles we learned in the class, the main premise being that if you start every day with 94 out of 100 points, the way a gymnast starts every routine, how will you get to 100? This idea is adapted from Peter Vidmar's, part of the US Olympic gymnastics team in the 1980's, motivational speeches that he gives all over the world.

I hope you'll share your letter here as well.

"Dear Bella,
How are you going to get the other 6? Extend for 2. Take risks for another 2. Be creative to get to 100. Decide what about you remains rock solid and what changes you must make if you are to develop the potential you represent. What really matters?

Denial, passivity, collusion, and habits will try to obstruct your path to change. Work through these phases by trusting life, by trusting that when a door closes, a window opens. Change is about loss. It may be years before you understand why some losses are necessary in order to achieve greater wins down the road. Do not fear – help is on the way. Do not wait for trauma, hurt, or pain to make necessary changes; work toward clearly perceiving a better way.

Disappointment is not the fault of others; it is the result of your own premature cognitive commitment. Don’t be so quick to ignore or dismiss the logs and rocks. Understanding their motivations, or lack thereof, will hold the key to your growth.

Be wary of the boxes: those you put yourself in, those you put others in, those others put you in, and those you allow others to put you in. You must decide which boxes hold your truth.

What vision of the future will sustain you through the valleys of your life and then help you climb to the summits? You choose your energy level, enthusiasm, and sense of hopefulness. Trust is gained by behaving trustworthy.

Eliminate “but” from your vocabulary because everything that comes before it is a lie; replace it with the powerful word “and”.

People will tell you that you feel too much, trust too much, and believe in dreams too much. Smile at them and walk on - feeling, trusting, and believing. Because you feel, you think, and therefore you’re unabashedly, delightfully, and magically exactly who you’re meant to be.
Believing is seeing.


Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Blog Action Day

It's arrived - Blog Action Day 2008 when thousands of bloggers band together to talk about a single issue. This year, the issue is poverty. I do a lot of community service and one of my favorite places to serve, literally and figuratively, is the University Soup Kitchen. 

Started in New York City by professors at NYU, the University Soup Kitchen is on the Lower East Side and serves a hot meal with dignity and grace to anyone and everyone who comes in the door. It is an incredible effort and facility run entirely by volunteers, every Saturday of the year. In addition, donated groceries are bagged up for guests to take with them as they leave. 

Anyone can volunteer. And everyone in NYC who has the means and desire to volunteer to help nourish and support people who are in such dire need, should spend a Saturday afternoon with the incredible volunteers at the University Soup Kitchen. It's easy work, a great place to meet and work alongside other young people, and most importantly, it means the world to the people who look forward to that meal all week.  

Find out more information and sign up:

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Knowledge for free - courtesy of Apple

I might be a little late to the party on this one, though I am so excited I finally showed up. To iTunes U, that is. My friend, Janet, has made fun of me more than once about my addiction to school. I'm one of those people who takes notes at a museum exhibit - my friend, Steve, was glad to point out how completely weird this behavior is when we were at The Whitney several months ago. It's true. I am an education addict (read: nerd). I've always been this way and truly, I've learned to embrace my nerdiness with wild abandon. 

The economy is having a tough time and formal education isn't getting any cheaper. I was planning on taking some Spanish classes this winter, though at many colleges the cost is prohibitive, or at least I'd have to give up a substantial amount of money somewhere else in my budget to make those classes happen. In this economy, I'm a little worried about doing that. So what's a nerdy girl to do? Head over to iTunes U....

Now, you won't get a degree, the choice of schools is limited (for example, University of Virginia - my graduate school alma mater - does not participate. I am going to get to work on this right away, rest undergrad alma mater, UPenn, is on the list and I highly recommend it), and the class offerings are somewhat limited as well. However, every lecture, from every participating school, on every subject offered, is free. Yes, absolutely 100% FREE - no string attached. Click the "get" button right next to the lecture that interests you, and you'll be downloading like there's no tomorrow. A nerd's dream come true. 

I'm so excited about this that I'm now up 20 minutes past my bedtime....but with so much to learn, who has time to sleep? I'm so thrilled with Apple that I could hug Steve Jobs right this moment...let's hear it for endless curiosity!  

Monday, October 13, 2008

Getting quiet

I am a long-time subscriber to Yoga Journal. I read it cover to cover every month. One of my favorite sections is the 10 pose sequence that has a specific focus. This month, the focus is "Inviting Quiet". What can I say? I like a challenge.

I am a talker, a chatty Cathy in some circumstances. On the Myers-Briggs test, a couple of things stand out as truly odd. I am OFF THE CHARTS on extroversion and ambiguity. Give me a situation that is mired in ambiguity and deals with boatloads of people, and I'm as happy as a mouse in a cheese shop. 

I like engaging with people about 95% of my waking hours. And then in the other 5%, I hide away from the world. It's important to note that without that 5% of hiding away from all humanity, that other 95% of the time with them is far less enjoyable. So while this introspection is small in quantity, the quality is critical. Yoga generates this necessary high quality.

I think about this need for quiet, even in the loudest lives, as I make my way to work each morning. There is a very short walk from my office building to my subway line. It's not pretty, but I use it to center myself at the start and end of my day. It's my gateway between my working life and my personal life. It is especially important in this churning economy to spend some time getting quiet, calming down our nerves, and turning inward to remind ourselves of what's important. Getting quiet, at least for a short time, may be our only avenue through the noise all around us.   

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Ice Cream and a Helping Hand for Rwanda

The fabulous folks at Blue Marble Ice Cream have started up a non profit, Blue Marble Dreams. They are building an ice cream shop in Rwanda as a safe community gathering place. To make this dream come to life, they need our help. Here is the pitch posted on Daily Candy:

All funds raised by October 19 will be matched (they’re shooting for $20 grand). They also need research/development interns, consultants, and volunteers.

It’s not about saving the world. It’s not even about ice cream. It’s about hope. With a cherry on top.

Blue Marble, 420 Atlantic Avenue, between Bond and Nevins Streets, Boerum Hill (718-858-1100; 186 Underhill Avenue, at Sterling Place, Prospect Heights (718-399-6926). Donate online at"

Where to place our efforts

While in business school, I participated in the Innovation Challenge - a program that asks teams of business school students all over the world to solves a set of business challenges put forward by a handful of sponsor organizations. This year I was invited to be a judge in the competition and just completed the first round of judging. 

Someday, when I am old and wise (or at least old), I'd like to teach a class at a business school for one very simple reason. While I think our business schools may be teaching the fundamentals of how to value a bond and manage a P&L, they aren't teaching a skill that is so crucial to success that many assumed it was an ability that everyone has - being able to write clearly and concisely. This afternoon, I would have settled for written proposals for the Innovation Challenge that were at least free of typos, used correct grammar, and exhibited a grasp of basic English vocabulary. 

Of the 11 proposals I was asked to judge, 2 of them were well-done. The ideas and solutions put forward by 2 teams were innovative and creative with sound success metrics and a long-term vision. Beyond those feats, they were also well-written. The other 9 were awful. Truly awful. Forget about the solutions not being feasible or short-sighted. Several were so badly written that I could barely read them. Those 9 badly-written proposals have nothing to do with talent or education level. It has everything to do with care and concern, or lack thereof. 2 teams put together the best case they possibly could. 9 of them slapped together some sentences in record time and handed it in.  

I considered writing a long set of notes for each team, and then I considered that that wouldn't be fair to the 2 teams that put in so much of their own effort. So I wrote a paragraph for the 9 who didn't care about the project, and saved my lengthy responses and comments for those 2 teams who got their act together.

After I completed my evaluations, I thought about my work experience and my own business school education. No matter what company or set of circumstances are in place, there are always a few people in the pack who shine because they are concerned about the quality of their work and how their work reflects on them. As business leaders, or teachers or judges of a case competition, our role is not to dwell on the ones who don't put in the time or care or concern. That is a road to nowhere. It's important to place the emphasis on the ones who want to do well and will take the time to put together the best they have to offer. That best won't always be perfect - sometimes it won't even be any good. I'm happy to spend time helping those who want to help themselves rather than spending it on people who don't even care enough to run the spell check on their writing before they hand it in. 

Friday, October 10, 2008

Searching within, and weeding

I just returned from a lovely dinner with my friend, Brooke. We were talking about work, relationships, politics, the economy, Tina Fey's recent work - all the topics that are top of mind. And we talked about gardening, of sorts. 

I haven't had a garden in many years, though I still remember the back-breaking work of constant weeding. And despite the discomfort, that weeding is critical. Or lives are the same way. Weeding out pieces that don't support us being the best we can be, allowing those pieces that do support that cause to rise to the top. The weeding takes careful consideration, and a discerning eye. We need the proper tools and the will to repeat the job as often as necessary. It's a way of managing short-term situations for the good of the long-term goal. 

The weeding can be painful, arduous, and time-consuming though there is no other way to move upward and onward. Some times, we have to weed out the unnecessary and get smaller in order to flourish in the days to come. The key is to not get overwhelmed, to breathe deeply, and to commit to seeing the task through to completion. And above all, be patient.  

Tuesday, October 7, 2008


I'm in Arizona for the ATM, Debit, and Prepaid Conference. Please contain your excitement. There is actually some good information on offer. It's just packaged up by boring people in boring conference rooms. I've been a bit spoiled by innovation conferences like GEL where there are rooms full of fascinating characters. Weird, but fascinating, which is exactly just the right kind of fascinating for me. 

But enough about the conference. I'm really struck by Arizona. And not because it's "maverick-y" as Tina Fey (or is it Sarah Palin?) would say. As I was driving from the airport, I was reminded of the book Women Who Run with the Wolves. In the introduction, Clarissa Pinkola-Estes talks about how the life in the dessert seems small on the surface and yet is huge underneath. There are intricate root systems and creatures of dazzling diversity that live below ground. There is a whole ecosystem that survives and thrives away from the watch of the human eye. Pinkola-Estes talks about how many people, women in particular, have these huge wells of emotion and thought and concern that exist beyond any other person's grasp or understanding. 

The beauty of Arizona is stark. It's another world here, like nothing I have seen or experienced anywhere else. Here, everything feels and looks foreign. My boss was commenting today how the food, the art, the culture, the history, and the landscape are unlike those in any other state. And you might think that sounds a bit odd to be some place so foreign in our own country. Somehow though, in it's foreign-ness, it's opened me up to new possibilities, to new ways of seeing everything in a different light than I saw it just yesterday. My stress from the last few days is gone. Anxiety vanished. How did that happen?

I believe in that saying, "So often what's needed is a change of self and not a change of scene." But for me, a change of scene provokes a change in me that I desperately need and can't always ignite in my everyday living patterns. On occasion, our systems need a little shock and travel can do that for us, particularly to a place wholly unfamiliar. I needed to expand my mind to take in the new possibilities that my current tasks are providing. And I needed to get away from my computer screen, even for a little while, and not troll though my usual set of tasks. I guess the universe gave me exactly what I needed exactly at the time I needed it - Arizona.  

Moving forward from where you are

I've been really frustrated as of late by a project I just took over from a colleague. I have been dwelling on the phrase "At the beginning, we should have..." And you know what? It's not productive. It's actually counter-productive and it's wearing me down. I'm sick of hearing myself talk about how frustrated I am. Imagine how my friends and family feel?

I woke up a little yesterday after an email from my mom. My best friend from childhood just lost her 27 year old cousin to cancer. My very dear friend, Ken, just had to put his mom into hospice. I have friends that are losing their jobs thanks to this financial crisis we're now in, and they don't know when they'll be seeing a paycheck again. And I'm whining, literally whining, from my comfy couch in my comfy apartment after a day of work at a great company with a great brand. At the moment, I can't stand myself. As my friend Kelly says, "I need to give myself a "cut it out." "

By being so stuck on what other people should have done or should have considered,etc., I'm not moving forward. I'm treading water and quite frankly doing a lousy job of it. Now ,to be fair to myself, as my mother would ask me to be, I want to make sure these learnings are captured and put to good use in the very-near future. Yep, there were definitely mistakes that were made at the start of this project 6 months ago. And we're paying a big price tag, literally and figuratively. No doubt about it. But I can't change those mistakes. They've been made and we have to go from where we are. I've got the project now and no matter what the earlier decisions, I need to keep driving forward, eyes on the prize - which is straight ahead, not in the rearview mirror. 

I find an area that needs improvement, I jot it down, and I keep moving. I have to keep moving. My whining and internal negativity is weighing me down, in a time when I cannot afford the extra mental pounds. I need to get this project out the door so I can move on to other projects where I will be able to start from the beginning and draw on the learnings from this current project. 

We all learn by doing, and in the doing, we screw up now and then. It happens to all of us, regardless of intelligence or experience or motivation. It's all part of the process, and if you don't let the process play out, you are doomed to remain in it like a hamster in a wheel. And who wants to keep treading the same ground again and again when there are so many places to see?! 

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Keep Calm and Carry On

My friend, Monika, graciously hosts group dinners at her home; a small group of us are hoping to make this a regular event with each of us taking turns with the hosting duties. Yesterday, I went over to Monika's and we were taking turns trading stories about work when I noticed a poster she just had framed. It's reprint of a WWII British propaganda poster that reads "Keep Calm and Carry On". I figured if the British could keep their cool during such tumultuous times, I could certainly do the same. 

At the moment I am feel a fair amount of anxiety, more than I have felt in a long time. A lot to do and not enough time to do it. All day today I've been working, getting things in order, and I have been concentrating on my anxiety trying to figure out how to get it to dissipate. It really is like this knot in the very pit of my stomach, and it's casing my muscles to ache, especially in my shoulders and neck. So I sat for a few minutes on my couch, and concentrated on just breathing, just being. And remarkably I felt better despite that I hadn't gotten any further along than I was 5 minutes before.      

I realized how much time and energy I was spending being frustrated and irritated. How much effort I was putting into my disappointment. And it was clouding my ability to see this tremendous opportunity for growth and change that was being laid at my feet. Challenging situation, yes. Impossible to get through, of course not. It's a moment when I am rising to my potential and then some. And that is something to be grateful for, if only I can remember to "Keep Calm and Carry On". I just ordered my poster. Get yours at: