Making Room For The Good
Apr 2014 01

If we’re being honest, I waited too long. But hard things are hard to do. I’d seen it coming for weeks if not months. But the excuses were plentiful. I was busy. It wasn’t that bad. I was probably the only who’d even noticed. Maybe it would stop. This was my first time and maybe there was something that I didn’t know.

But, this evening, I finally did it.

I pulled all the weeds in my backyard and the flower beds.

And while I put my lower back through a new exercise regime, some thoughts occurred to me about weeds.

- They’re there because we let them be.  We see them popping up and could stop them immediately, but we don’t. We let them grow because “it’s not that bad.” Yet.

- They blend in and aren’t that different from what is supposed to be there. They’re not that bad, we can let them stay a little while longer right? We’ll get to them.

- The longer they stay, the deeper they’re rooted. If we’d taken care of them right when they first showed up, it wouldn’t have been a big deal, they’d barely established their place. Now they’ve got an entire root system.

- They’re choking out the good that is supposed to be in their place. They grow faster and bigger and have an easier time showing growth. But, the longer they stay, the more space and resources they’re taking from every else around them.

- When we do get ride of them, they leave a mark. If we go for the whole root system, they’re gonna leave a bare spot in the yard. It is going to be obvious to anyone looking that something use to be there.

- We won’t get all of them the first time around. No matter how thorough we are, there will be some that come back that we’ll have to deal with again and again.

And whether the weeds we’re pulling are in the backyard or in our life, everyone has them. But, not everyone is willing to living with them. And not everyone who wants to do something about them will. But, when you do, even through it will leave a mark and you’ll get your hands dirty, you’re making room for the good that can grow in their place.

And that’s worth the pain.

Wonder and Connection
Feb 2014 18
In October, we learned that Annie Pontrelli was diagnosed with brain cancer. Because of what kind it was, she knew before any of us would even consider it that she didn’t have long and that she wanted to make it count. She sprung into action as the planner, the uniter, and the encourager that she has been for her entire life. She wrote to Annie incredible emails filled with wisdom and one of the lines that jumped out and stayed with me was this:
“Sharpen your sense of wonder and connection.”
She truly lived a life with a full heart and curious mind. And not just that, but she brought people along with her on that journey and invited others to explore with her. Whether it was the latest exhibit at the Met or returning to deep Brooklyn to show others the best Italian Bakery, everyone was invited. She never let her work get in the way of her life. She surrounded her daughter with friends and asked them to be teachers. Adriana, at the age of nine, has had so many voices sharing their story and has a network of people invested in her and caring about her unlike anyone else.
Annie was a part of our NYC story from the very beginning. She was a voice of encouragement when we friend to move here and failed. She was a cheerleader when we finally did arrive and was one of the first to hike up the 66 steps to our Village walk up to survey our precious 300 sq feet that we called home. She never tired of asking about our jobs or our travels. Her curiosity and generosity made for an incredible combination. As she was asking questions, she was ever so subtly sharing advice. It never felt like a lecture or anything other than a loving conversation. She was so smart that it elevated every single interaction and everyone around her to be their very best.
We know Brooklyn, all parts, better because of Annie. We know NYC, all parts, better because of Annie. We know ourselves, all parts, better because of Annie. We know what it looks like to live life, all parts, with a sharpened sense of wonder and connection because of Annie.

Unplugging
Sep 2013 02

Every time I think life can’t spin any faster, it does. There are some amazing things happening right now that I can’t wait to share, but the culmination of all of them happening so closely together has lead me to need this holiday weekend more than ever to find the bottom of my email inbox and more importantly time to slow down, take a breath, and unplug.

After Waze was acquired by Google in June of this year, Annie and I completely unplugged in Kiawah, SC. It was four full days of no email or social media for me and it was incredible. I found some incredibly clarity during that time and will look back on that trip as a turning point for some big things to come.  The luxury of that length of time to slow down wasn’t available to me this weekend, but the choice to treat this holiday like one was.  I knew I had meetings this morning, but committed to spending three hours offline and with my phone on a different floor of the apartment.  I made an ask this morning for any reading that had inspired folks over the past couple months and was incredibly grateful for the amazing responses both on Facebook and on Twitter.

I intentionally didn’t offer parameters around my requests as I was hoping for things further outside my normal strike zone of nonfiction business books. From books of the Bible to cyber thriller fiction, TED Talks and Royal Society for the Arts videos, I found my mind exploring thoughts not directly related to a single thing I am working on right now, and yet applications and take aways that helped me punch through a couple mental road blocks I’d been hung up on.

I wrote about the value of slowing down to stay sharp for Forbes last year HERE and full endorse the wisdom in the story of the lumberjacks. And while most of the time it is much easier said than done, today it was done and I am even more ready for a huge month ahead.

Learning… Up In The Air
Mar 2013 02

The more I travel, the more I realize I don’t know. From my first trip involving a Passport stamp to Peru in 1998 to this past week’s 4 cities in 3 days jaunt, I learn a lot on the when I’m on the road.  In 2010 and 2011, at the height of the Gowalla adventure, I did over 250,000 miles in the air (unfortunately not all on the same airline – start-up life.) In 2012, I was more grounded in NYC with my work. But already in 2013, I’ve been on the road for 15 days and hit 12 cities.

When on the road, the circumstances lend themselves to learning. The disruption in the normal schedule lead to unexpected downtime and distance from the usual default time fillers.  When I leave for a trip I usually have at least two week’s worth of Economist to catch up on and a book that remains only partial consumed because I am really good at falling asleep midparagraph when I try and read in the evenings at home.

I also learn from those that I meet will traveling that I wouldn’t otherwise see in my New York bubble of interactions. Between airports and rental car counters and conference tables, life on the road puts you in close proximity to all kinds of people. And let’s not even begin to dissect the irrational closeness of sleeping on a red-eye flight from SFO to JFK next to a big burly man in 26B.

As I look forward to the rest of 2013 and beyond, my work with Waze is going to keep my frequent flyer status feed and my carry-on packing skills sharp. But hopefully, it will also continue to lend itself to being the routine busting classroom that I have come to appreciate when I’m up in the air.

I’m after ME
Jan 2013 27

Annie and I went to the Whitney Museum this afternoon and worked our way through some fascinating exhibits and permanent installments. There was one painting that, for reasons not apparent to me in the moment, really jumped out at me in the room dedicated to artist Edward Hopper.

Edward Hopper, Early Sunday Morning, 1930

What really caught my eye in the descriptor next to the paining was the phrase “I’m after ME.” It was buried in this sentence, “Asked once what he was trying to achieve on a painting, he answered, “I’m after ME.” His aim was not to record outward appearances but to use his observations of the external world as vehicles through which to portray his inner life.” (Learn more about the artist and this work HERE) As I read that, I wondered if the same wan’t true in the “art” that I create. Now, I don’t actually think about my writing and blogging as art, but it is the most consistent and public place that I share my thoughts and inspirations.

A friend of mine who is a reporter for a major news station shared this today on her Facebook wall: “I write entirely to find out what I’m thinking, what I’m looking at, what I see and what it means. What I want and what I fear.” This quote by Joan Didion is exactly where I was going with my curiosity about Edward Hopper’s pursuit of “ME.” My writing, both in my personal notebooks and in public forums like this or Forbes, are as much about understanding what I understand about my world as it is sharing that understanding with anyone else.

So here’s to that discovery and the revelations that come along with it.