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

That about sums me up.
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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 →

Feb 24

Life Bitch Slap #5: “Stop Choosing to Be Small”

It’s a choice. How big or small do you choose to be in this life. It’s not something that is done to you, or something that someone else decides. It is entirely within your control. Which is why, it is so confusing that many of us consciously chooses to be small.

We do.

The other day I was having this great conversation with a very powerful, and amazing woman. We were talking about leading women. Who are they? What do they do? How do they stand out? The conversation turned to the mistakes we make, as women. The patterns we fall into make us smaller than we are. The conversation turned to non-verbals. I was saying how I watched this fantastic TED talk that talks about how our body language shapes who we are. Watch it. Seriously.

In it, Amy Cuddy talks about how we must make ourselves bigger. We must exaggerate our motions, and passionately express ourselves — even when we are scared to death. It’s a muscle you strengthen, and then eventually one day you wake up and you are…in fact…bigger. Not “I ate four dozen cupcakes bigger” but “I can do this, I can do everything I ever wanted” bigger.

This friend of mine talked about how she can’t stand it when people cover their hands up in meetings with their sleeves. It’s like they are shrinking into a ball and retreating into their sweater, shirt, or coat. All of this talk got me thinking — how much do we do that makes us smaller? Why do we choose to be small?

Then it hit me…because we think we are. Damn it. Bitch slapped. It’s because somewhere along the way we stopped choosing to live larger than life. Continue reading →