Obsessed with start-ups, coffee, and online marketing.

That about sums me up.
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Dec 10

Authenticity is a Huge Deal

Jack Welch said that. You know who else said that? Anyone who knows anything. The reality is “authenticity is a huge deal.” It’s kind of the whole deal in a lot of ways. Over the past decade of startups and the chaos of the storm I have come to whisper that sentence (and at times scream it) over and over and over.

It’s easy to forget. It’s easy to get caught up in the “what’s the best way to say something” or “what will get you what you want right now.” You can tell yourself “it’s just a temporary front” or “this is what we have to do to get through this.” I get it. These sentences feel so real at the time. It’s hard for you to take a step away from whatever you’re working through and realize…

There is no excuse. Authenticity is a huge deal.

It’s also not easy, but it’s necessary for good living. For kindness. For heart.

I’ve been told I “tell it as it is” and at times that has caused trouble. I’ve been harsh, or too upfront at times. My bar seems too high, my transparency too much. People want me to sugar coat it, or lie for the better of the moment. God I wish I could. I wish I could look you in the face and tell you it’s okay to sell out, or okay to lie to them for the better of the company, or it’s okay you are misleading someone. But it’s not. It never will be.

We expect more. Life does. The whole damn human race expects you to be authentic. We demand it of you.

Every year as we wrap up another calendar year you can feel the world start to reflect – “am I living the life I was meant to live? what can I do better?” No matter what your tangible answer is (go after my real dream, leave them for someone who appreciates me, spend more time with friends and family, take better care of myself, etc.), the true north of it all is – be authentic. To yourself, to your dreams, to what you — and only you — can offer this world.

I think about this stuff way too much, in fact I wonder sometimes if my idealism is slowly killing me. But just when I am wavering I am reminded – “authenticity is a huge deal.” I’d rather be authentic and struggle then be inauthentic and cruise through life. Cruising is overrated. No one remembers cruising. Ain’t nothing stunning in still water. It’s the ripples and the waves that capture us in their rhythms.

Anyway. Ramble and reminder for you all as we begin to wrap up the year and kick off a new one…

Authenticity is a huge deal. If in doubt, follow it home.

 

Oct 06

Life Bitch Slap #7: Be the Plot Twist

Today was a day. A real day. You may have noticed I haven’t written in a while, as I’ve been busy jumping all in with my new team at Porch. In just under three months we’ve seen insane growth, solved really hard problems and made a pretty big promise to the world that I couldn’t be more excited to explore and execute on.

But things have also been a bit crazy. With any new job comes a new schedule and new challenges and adjustments and rhythms. None of it unsolvable but all of it is very real. New perspectives meet with others and hard conversations and big questions are asked. It’s both what is exciting and exhausting about taking this startup road.

One of our co-founders had this great quote the other day. He said, “Lots of people say it’s a marathon, not a sprint. But I don’t believe that. If it was a marathon, I’d be going a lot slower right now. It’s more like a series of sprints, and we are just at the beginning of one.” I loved that. It so perfectly sums up the last few months and what I hope to take on for the upcoming years — it’s like this series of sprints, all of them full of new challenges, each of them bigger and faster than the last.

So today was a one of those “real days” and at the end of it I found myself turning to an old friend…a video I’ve watched dozens of times at this point. It’s a video done by an agency out of Portland explaining their approach to beautiful marketing. You can watch it here. Every single time I watch it I get chills, because I believe it. I believe in that approach to authentic, beautiful, valuable storytelling. No matter how challenging or long a day is in marketing or startups for me, I can turn to that video and I’m reminded why I’m the luckiest lady in the world.

Tonight as I was watching it, I was bitchslapped by a sentence. It happens at 2:37 in the video where they state: “you’re like the plot twist.”

As marketers and storytellers, we are just that. We are the inciting incidents in the story of a company or a product or a brand. We take the storyline and we find the “ah-ha” moment and we find the medium to share it with the masses. We don’t create it, we help uncover it and then we find new and honest ways to help others stumble upon it. So it can shake up their day. So it can take their day from ordinary to extraordinary.

I couldn’t help but think today – what if I took that motto and applied it to life in general? The definition of plot twist is: “A common practice in narration used to keep the interest of an audience, usually surprising them with a revelation.” What if we all approached our days with these goals- to keep it interesting and serve the audience. To keep surprise and delight alive. To help others, through conversation and connection, to grow in revelation. That would some worthy goals.

I started the “Life Bitch Slap” series because they seemed rare…those moments when you are stopped in your track by a thought or a person or a moment (like how we should all be more thankful or that you knew what you were doing). Ironically, they have increased in tempo for me over the past couple of years. I feel shocked by life much more frequently than before. Snap let’s be honest…like all the time. Hell, I kind of enjoy these days. It’s a forcing function to stay humbled and true in many ways.

Today was definitely one of those humbling days, where you are reminded it really is a series of sprints in a long and exciting story. And we all have the opportunity to be the plot twist. We can choose to go along with the storyline as a passive character or we can be the inciting incident and participate in it fully. All in sort of living. Yes please.

Life Bitch Slap #7: Be the plot twist friend.

Mar 25

A Beautiful Impact

I get asked all the time… “what drives you?” I never really know what to say. I feel like over the years a million things have driven me in startups and marketing and life. I didn’t give the question that much time. The irony, of course, being that I have spent so many hours thinking about questions that really are far less important. Stressing over why I said that one thing, or acted that one time. It all comes back to what motivates us.

The past six months I have had the honor of working with one of Seattle’s most amazing professional coaches – Stacey Sargent, CEO of Connect Growth and Development, Author of a fantastic book on how we all handle our inner critics and brilliant woman all around. The funny thing is – she’d smack me if she saw I called her a professional coach. She adheres to “whole-person intelligence” coaching and believes it’s about helping us bring our life back into work. It’s so up my alley. I couldn’t agree more.

I don’t have work life balance. Never have. I’ve helped build 6 startups, four effectively succeeded, one failed, and one is in the middle of an exciting adventure. I’m a tech advisor, a TechStars mentor, a professor at UW. I’m launching a shopping app, I blog for Entrepreneur.com, MarketingLand, and here. I have been talking, learning, teaching, and doing marketing and tech for over a decade. I’ve traveled the world teaching hundreds of thousands of marketers how to do great marketing. I’m not married, I don’t have kids. Heck, I just got a betta fish, and I have to co-own it, because I have a hard time remembering to feed it. I don’t do balance. 

Or as Stacey has shown me…perhaps I do my balance. And perhaps it is perfectly in balance.

For the past five months we’ve met every other week to work through what I would call “hard stuff.” We talked through my inner critics, my mistakes, my regrets, my weaknesses. We also worked through my strengths, my superpowers, and exercises that showed me just how intense those two camps fight with each other. We worked through what I love about what I do, and where I want to end up. What do I want from all of this? What makes me truly happy?

It all made for a lot of intense sessions of self-reflection, a lot of late nights of reading, and writing, and pushing myself to get at the core of it all. It might sound new-age to you, or cheesy, or even a waste of time, but I can honestly say…working with Stacey has been the best thing I’ve done for myself professionally, hell possibly even personally.

After half a year of us working together, a few huge things came out of it (and a million smaller things). Big things include;

  • I know my core values. I have six core values (on itttyyy bittty notecards) I now carry around with me. I value “passion, acheivement, family, helping others, creativity and humor” more than I value most things. They steer me. They anchor me. They helps me identify when I feel off course.
  • I know where I am easily derailed. Aka, I know why I screwed up so much. Or at least I have some good theories. The first few years of my career were driven by pure ambition. I was very competitive, and not always that empathetic, and I acknowledge that now.  During that time I strengthened some muscles and not others. I now know what I need to work on and where I need to level up.  I can correct for it faster. Especially since the ambition is still so prevalent (and will always be a part of me). There is beauty in a team that is mutually ambitious and working with each other toward a common goal. That excites me.
  • I have words I am comfortable defining myself by. Eeekkk! Okay…here I go. I am an entrepreneur, a business woman, a storyteller, a marketer, a mentor. I am grounded, maternal, and an artist. I’m just gonna throw down on this — most women (and some men) have a hard time screaming “I AM AN ENTREPRENEURIAL BUSINESSWOMAN…AND I AM GREAT AT WHAT I DO!” So we hide it. We blush. We deflect when someone compliments us, and rarely do we own it. I am owning these words. I am these things. I work hard for them.
  • I have a mantra. We did this great exercise where I got to invite 6 business people to dinner. Any 6 in the world. Then we talked through why them, what would I ask them, what advice would they give me. The common thread between my six people were that they: challenged the status quo, empowered other people, were building a legacy, were driven & focused, and they worked their asses off. When it came down to the collective advice they gave me, I concluded they (in my story at least) said this: “Stop worrying and JUST GO!”  … I mean for real people, why don’t we all just stop worrying and JUST FREAKING GO?!

So those are some of the takeaways that really stood out. But the biggest success after all of this was that I had finally nailed down what really motivates me. I could identify the two words that feel so “me” that I can honestly say I wake up every morning, and work late into the night with this on my mind. I take opportunities based on these words, I pass on others because of these words. These two words are me.

I want to have a “beautiful impact” on this world. A beautiful impact. I want to build companies and brands that want to have a beautiful impact on the world. I want to work with investors that believe in investing in a beautiful impact. I hire people that work hard and build things. I believe in the power of design, and imagery. The visual has always been key to the experiences I’ve built and sold. I love beautiful people. Like really beautiful people – inside and out. Honest, real, full of flaws, that are making a difference. “Beautiful” to me means you have the power to stop someone in their tracks with a moment so real that it encourages a deep breath, a thankful breath…for that singular experience. That experience could be between people in a community, between a consumer and a product, or a brand and a customer, or two colleagues building something together. It could be felt when you see a photo or read a story. Moments of beautiful impact are rare, but to me…it’s what this is all about.

As Stacey pointed out with every superpower comes the other side…it’s called the “light” and the “shadows.” The light of such a goal is pretty obvious. But the shadows include – lack of patience for those mailing it in, a need to move fast and go hard that can cannibalize others. It can be intimidating, my obsession for progress can come off as inauthentic (because what crazy person could care that much about a homepage layout? #raiseshand). I have a high bar for the beautiful which can cause friction with fans of MVPs, baseline experiences, and uber lean approaches. To have a beautiful impact you often have to be bold, outside the box, and you have to often follow your intuition. You have to trust the consumer, hear what they need, put them first. You have to aspire to delight them at every corner…sometimes at the detriment of short-term revenue. This is hard, and frankly…not right for every company. It’s not the goal of every team. With the light, comes the dark.

Aug 12

Busy Moments

I wandered Pinterest tonight for a quote to get up that speaks to how I’m feeling lately…because I am too busy to write a whole post. I then wandered Pinterest, unsuccessfully, for over an hour. What the hell?! That one didn’t quite work out as planned.

Nothing jumped out. Or rather all of them did. Everything seems to resonate these days. Quotes about leadership and resilience and priorities. Quotes about forgiveness and love and being scared.

Quotes about being bold. I’m not sure if it’s because I feel bold these days, or because I’m so inspired by bold friends — ones that chose to leave jobs and wander the U.S. and write, ones that uprooted their lives to start a new adventure in a new state, ones that handed in the easy gig for the opportunity to be challenged. It’s been a hell of a summer that’s for sure.

It’s amazing what a season can bring. One season that is full of busy moments. Moments that push us to our limits…ones that push us into wandering images hoping one speaks loudly enough to sum us up. To make sense of the noise. I did come across this one…

…and I couldn’t help but think…my days are so packed full of busy, challenging, amazing moments. I’m kind of in love with it.

Sure…I bitch about how tired I am. My to-do list is out of control. I haven’t been at inbox zero in four days. My apartment is a mess. I miss yoga. And running. And sleep. And crossing things off my freaking list.

But my cup runneth over. With moments. Great ones. I’m thankful for that.

I’m also thankful for Pinterest which gave me a chance to get lost among the words. One of my favorite things. Hope your Monday was a lovely one.

 

Jun 15

Happy Father’s Day Dad…You Are One Hell of a Man.

Dear Dad,

I wish I could say there was a million things I wanted to say to you, but it simply isn’t the case. You’ve always appreciated honesty. You and I have been able to share every story, every question, every fear…always. I’ve said it all (okay, okay…maybe the wine helped, but whatever). We’ve said it all. Thank goodness for that.pic of dad I

I thought to myself – what’s left for him to know? He knows I love him. He knows I’m thankful for him. He knows that I consider him to be the most amazing father, and that he really is my best friend in this bizarre world.

He is the one that understood why I traveled to a different coast. He was the one that encouraged me to wander, and do startups, and explore. He gets that I put more pressure on myself than the world, and he loves me anyway. He slows me down, and reminds me just how lucky I am…just when I need reminding. So what’s left to say? Continue reading →

Jun 11

What I Did with a Month Off & What It Taught Me

Well that was interesting. A month off from work that is. As some of you know I finished my last day at SEOmoz Moz, back on May 15th, and I am kicking off the new gig at BigDoor, another Seattle startup, this Wed June 12th. Okay so it’s not exactly a month but let’s roll with it for our purposes here. 

So what did I do?

snack time on the beach

A few things—some more productive than others. Big things include spending a week in Kauai…by myself, traveling to Duluth, MN to keynote my first ever conference, and heading back to Vermont to enjoy over a week with the family. In between that I did a lot of pilates, running, sleeping in, and wine sipping. I called friends I’ve neglected for too long, I read a lot, and listened to some great music. 

Other random things include:

  • Staring out a window for half an hour…watching a squirrel. True story.
  • Played cribbage with my pops for the first time in half a decade. Best two out of three actually. If you MUST know…he won.
  • Painted my nails like 10 times in 30ish days. No really. Strange I know.
  • Got a massage/spa day in three different times in four weeks. Particularly gluttonous. 
  • Did a cartwheel (okay maybe a few) in my living room. I don’t know – it just felt right at the time.
  • I Vined for the first time ever. And the second, and third. Let’s be real – I’m hooked.
  • I read a book to my nephews before bed for the first time in years. I also was there to tuck them in three different nights. Goodnight kisses and all. #lovethemsomuch 

I also did a little work in there:

  • Loaded up over 20 post drafts up, expect some good ones coming your way.
  • I kicked off my stint with Entrepreneur’s Team Digital, and we’ve since published two posts. Honored to be contributing with such a crew of amazing people.
  • Went back and forth with my dev team on my ISITaYES app- which had its final build in TestFlight go out yesterday. Holy crap people, its almost time to launch.
  • I may, or may not, have done a ton of competitive analysis, and industry mapping in my new company’s vertical – customer loyalty and engagement– just don’t tell my new boss. I was supposed to be “recharging” and off the grid. Shhhh.
  • I revamped my daily feeds, killed a bunch of daily mailers I get (fine…I kept Gilt & Ideeli, stop judging me!), and enveloped myself in my favorite blogs again.
  • I watched SEOmoz launch into Moz, and took a deep breath of pride, and wished my old team the best of luck on this new chapter. They are going to kill it.
  • I keynoted my first ever conference –Zenith Social Media Summit in Duluth. I was a bag of nerves if we are getting honest up in here, but it went amazingly, and I’m really thankful for the day. Subsequently, I was asked to keynote two more shows this year. Wowzers. #stoked

Then what?

After travel, random things, and some work…the only other thing in there was the purpose of the break itself – the recharging. I did a lot of that. I ate a lot of whole foods, I slept a great deal, I laughed a lot. I practiced gratitude meditation (a new fave of mine) and I hugged a lot of people (sorry if this got weird for anyone). Continue reading →

May 13

Life Bitch Slap #6: “Be Thankful”

It’s been a crazy two months as I finish up my tenure at SEOmoz. I’ve met with dozens of entrepreneurs and had more coffee meetings than I thought humanly possible in that amount of time. I’ve talked about big ideas, following dreams, and getting after it. I’ve been inspired to say the least.

During all of that I’ve watched as my team at SEOmoz nears the big launch we have been working on for a year. It will be, in many ways, a new beginning for our awesome company, and I’ve been lucky to see it through. I’ve been fortunate to see all those hours come to fruition, and truly couldn’t be prouder of what is about to go live. The team has worked so hard, and we’ve built something pretty special. I’ve been honored to work with that team to say the least.

I’ve also spent the last two months asking myself what I really want, and perhaps more importantly what I don’t want from the next move. I’ve weighed a lot of opinions from very smart people. I feel like I learned more about myself in the last two months, while asking myself hard questions like who do I want to work for and around? What industry excites me? What do I want my day to day to look like? How big or small a team do I want to join? It’s been enlightening to say the least.

The best part is through all of this I was some what of a hot mess. Okay, okay…quite the hot mess. I was here and there and all over the place. I would wake up in the middle of the night and wonder if this leap was a crazy one, I’d roll into weekends tired and weighing all the offers and options. Settled was not a word I can say I felt the past two months. Somehow I managed to turn these amazing opportunities into something to stress over rather than something to embrace and be thankful for. 

What the whattttt.

I was lucky enough to grab coffee with Andy Sack, a local entrepreneur and VC, and he brought up this idea of “serendipitous clarity” and how if you just open yourself up to it, it will find its way to you. Things will make sense. I love this idea. I’m a planner. I’m Type A. I calculate and spreadsheet the hell out of my life. But I am also a dreamer, a creative, a wanderer in many ways.

My moment of serendipitous clarity over the past few weeks came unexpectedly about a week ago. I’m not sure it’s exactly what Andy had in mind, but I certainly think it had the impact he spoke to. A moment that made me go “whoa. yes. be thankful.” Continue reading →