Even Oprah’s Doing It

Giving thanks is a major part of this blog. And, Oprah is on a similar mission to promote worldwide gratitude with her “Thank You Game.” Click the picture below to find out more information!

I hope everyone is having an inspiration filled Thursday!

~Thankful

The Now

“ The present is never our goal: the past and present are our means: the future alone is our goal. Thus, we never live but we hope to live; and always hoping to be happy, it is inevitable that we will never be so.”

– Blaise Pascal

As someone with high ambitions and who’s encouraged/inspired by people pursuing their own dreams, I was recently reminded how important it is to be present. We’re all familiar with the 1, 5 and 10 year plans. And, I’m sure I’m not the only one who’s had conversations with friends that start out with phrases like, “I’m working on,” or “I hope to,” or “My plan is.” We’re all working towards goals. I can only speak for myself when I say, my energy, towards achieving any goal, is cyclical. There are times when I’m extremely aggressive and optimistic, times when I decide to pace myself, and other times when I need a quick break. I’m pretty good at self-starting, but every once in a while, I just need to take a breather.

We’re all encouraged to be driven. So driven sometimes, that even when we accomplish a task, we immediately refocus on the next goal. You know the deal – you congratulate yourself for finishing a business proposal, but not for too long, because in 5 minutes, it’s time to start hustling to bring that proposal to fruition. Similarly, it’s easy to become anxious when you don’t feel as though you’re headed to any destination at all. When I was finishing college, my peers would fearfully say , “It’s time for the real world.” I couldn’t help but wonder, what do you think you’ve been doing these past 4 (or 5) years? You’ve been living. To me, the next step was just a transition. It was no more or less real than anything that preceded. This was the first time I noticed people devaluing their current experience.

Recently, I realized that one of my plans might not work out as intended. I laid out a roadmap and followed directions, but I may not reach my final destination – at least, not on schedule. All of this has served as a reminder that I stay present. I have to be sure, that no matter what step I’m on, I’m enjoying and see value in my journey. Because, even though you have a 5 year plan, you’re 5th year may not be exact. You’ll still be disappointed if your goal gets rerouted, but enjoying the steps along the way will make your journey that much sweeter.

So, keep hustling, but I hope that you are all enjoying your journeys.

“You must live in the present, launch yourself on every wave, find your eternity in each moment. Fools stand on their island of opportunities and look toward another land. There is no other land; there is no other life but this.”

– Henry David Thoreau

~Thankful

A Little Daily Inspiration: Justin Forsett, Wale Forrester, Wendell Hunter and ShowerPill

 

Recently, I read a New York Times Op Ed article, which discussed how student athletes were, often, less deserving of their college admission. As a former college athlete, I was enraged. So much so that I wrote a response. It was a long rant about the amazing capabilities of athletes, especially considering that, in addition to attending class, they devote nearly forty hours a week to their sport. Some even have to add a part-time job in the mix.

You hear plenty of people downplay the intellectual capacity of athletes. I’m happy to say that today’s daily inspiration comes from three former Cal Football players. Justin Forsett, Wale Forrester and Wendell Hunter all attended the University of California, Berkeley. Justin was a running back, Wale was a defensive back, and Wendell Hunter was a line backer. Justin continues to play in the NFL. Wendell, a former member of the Buffalo Bills, is now an ER technician, and Wale became a firefighter. Little did any of them know, that years after meeting each other, they’d create their own product, ShowerPill.

ShowerPill, a portable body wipe for use when you can’t reach a shower, definitely has good creative karma. While in college, Wale contracted Bacterial Meningitis. He and his teammates became increasingly concerned about hygiene. Justin, Wale and Wendell saw this as an opportunity to create a product that provided a valuable service and could save lives. Thus, the ShowerPill came to be.

 
They’ve found a way to merge their talents, resources and team working skills to form a company that’s on the rise. Thankfully, I got the chance to ask Justin a few questions about the trio’s experience starting a new business.

 

Q&A


You’re used to being a part of a team, how has this carried over to your business?

 

Playing on a team has shaped the way that we run our company. Accountability, attention to detail, execution and passion are concepts that proved to be essential in the team sport atmosphere. Now, these are proving to be equally important in the business world.  I think that being on a team develops your interpersonal relationship skills and also enables you to display a certain level of focus that is unique to the world of competitive athletics.

 

How supportive has the NFL been as far as encouraging entrepreneurship among its athletes?

The NFL has been extremely supportive.  Players and team officials are some of ShowerPill’s best customers

 



 

Once you all had the idea, what was your next step?

 

We researched to see if there was another product like ours on the market. Then we began to search for manufacturers that would be able to make this wipe.

What’s been the most difficult aspect of the startup?

 

Money and time. In a startup you either run out of time, or you run out of money. It has been difficult for us to take advantage of every opportunity because of money, and it has been impossible to capitalize off of other opportunities because of our lack of staff. So, we have to be extremely strategic in how we use both of those precious resources. (time and money)

What has been the main concern of buyers when purchasing a new product?

 

Their main concern has been our production capabilities. They want to be sure that we’re capable of sustainable production.

What’s the best advice you’d give someone looking to start their own company?

 

Just do it. You can spend years researching, praying and planning. Until you do it, it won’t get done.

 

Philanthropy is an important part of your life. How does this fit into ShowerPill’s corporate DNA?  

 

At ShowerPill we have instilled a culture of charity. Every member working for our company has a separate community service project that they are working on. It’s not a company policy, it’s more so our company culture.

I am thankful for my wife, my family, friends, and business partners that support me in everything I do. I am blessed!

 

Thank you, Justin! I’ll be keeping a few ShowerPills on hand for emergency post-workout meetings. Go Bears!

For more info on ShowerPill:

Website: www.showerpill.com

Twitter: @ShowerPill

Good luck to everyone reading, as you continue to push forward implementing your ideas.

“People underestimate their capacity for change. There is never a right time to do a difficult thing. A leader’s job is to help people have vision of their potential”

– John Porter

~Thankful

A Little Daily Inspiration: Maja Ruznic

 

“Money can’t buy you happiness.” Sadly, it wasn’t long ago that my response to that idiom was, “Well that must be something rich people say.” From the start, we’re taught that there’s value in the things that earn us money. I’ve shared my belief, in What Do You Do?, that people are much more than their professions. The ideal, however, is that an individual is able to make a living doing what they love. This Friday’s dose of inspiration comes straight from a woman who’s forged a career out of her passion for art.

When I reached out to Bay Area Artist, Maja Ruznic, I did so because I was totally inspired by her story. Born in Bosnia & Hercegovina in 1983, Maja and her mother came to the United States as refugees in 1992. Maja went on to receive two degrees from UC Berkeley and compete as a member of Cal’s Track and Field Team. All the while, she continued to explore her love for art. Maja describes her most recent drawings and paintings as that of,

” – People, objects and memories of experiences that evoke a sense of failure and trigger a sense of psychological unease that echoes my childhood refugee experience. In documenting these people, objects and events with highly editorialized and projected-upon personae, I am simultaneously preserving them and destroying who they actually are.” (Find an extended version of her artistic statement here)

Her passion and talent have garnered her much success and she was recently awarded the 2012 cover of New American Paintings. I’m drawn to telling and exploring the stories of people who have the courage to acknowledge and pursue what they love. In interviewing Maja, she impressed me even more. I was amazed and pleased to find that, beyond her overcoming the struggles of being a refugee to go on and receive a diploma from a prestigious institution, her current professional success as an artist was never fueled by the promise of financial return. She’s done what she has for the love of her work and nothing more. Perhaps that’s why she’s found such a warm welcome in the artistic community. Maja never asked what the work could do for her, she’s constantly creating and innovating to see what she can give back. As such, her paintings and drawings are as honest,  nuanced and compelling as their author.

Thankfully, I got the chance to ask Maja about her work and sources of inspiration:

Q&A


When did you realize that art was your passion?

I remember being obsessed with drawing ever since I was 6 years old.  I used to be more worried about my art class projects in middle school than my math exams and always knew that this was a bit unusual.  There was a strong urgency to draw, to record things, people and events around me.  I suppose it was from a very early age—this urgency to capture what was happening around me.  Aside from painting and drawing, I was always very interested in dance, music, and theater—creative languages that elevate life to some extent.

Her Face Said It All
mixed media on paper
17"x15"
2012

Bastard II
oil on wood panel
6"x6"
2009

Was there ever a doubt in your mind that you’d be able to professionally pursue your artistic work?  If so, how did you work beyond this?

 

My desire to paint was never driven by the belief that I would ever make a living as an artist.  I love to paint and draw—this was always true and that love has brought me to where I am today.  I studied Social Welfare (Psychology emphasis) and Art at UC Berkeley and wanted to work with children upon graduation.  Art was always something I did for fun. 

After graduating from Cal, however, the need to push my ideas stood in the way of becoming a Social Worker, so I started working on a portfolio.  I kept myself financially afloat by taking on odd jobs and working up to 7 days a week.  I had a corporate job for a brief moment, thinking that the financial stability would make my life better.  I quit after just one week, knowing that it was not something I was meant to do.  I went back to doing retail and teaching as much as I could.  Despite the drastic decline in my monthly income, I was much happier—and this happiness allowed me to continue making art.  There have definitely been moments where I felt that I was perhaps wasting my time—but this is mainly because I was comparing my life with my friends’.  Many of them were getting married and started buying houses.  Perhaps there was something wrong with me, I thought.  Going to the California College of the Arts, however, was a transformative experience.  I realized that my life would be dedicated to ideas, images and aesthetics and the traditional comforts no longer concerned me.  This realization in itself brought great relief.

Not Sexy Feelin' Like A Mother
mixed media on paper
15"x11"
2012

Make Up to Hide Large Pores
mixed media on paper
24"x17"
2012

Where do you go/what do you do when you’re in need of inspiration?

 

I pay close attention to everything that is around me.  I never know what will trigger a set of ideas.  It could be something a friend says, or something I hear on the bus.  It could be a limp I notice in a stranger’s walk or a color I see on a building.  For the most part, I am interested in personifying emotions, thoughts and feelings—things that don’t have a physical form but can be intensely felt.

 

In what way has your work helped you confront the complexities and realities of your experience as a refugee?

I started painting and drawing before the war.  I was about eight years old when the war started and I began drawing when I was about 6 years old.  Mark making (I’ll call it that and not differentiate between painting and drawing) was something that brought me great joy and, in retrospect, I see how this creative outlet was psychologically very nurturing.  I don’t remember making pictures about the events that were happening around me (in a journal-entry type of way), but the act of making marks on paper and creating pictures was extremely transformative and cathartic.

My work has become a way through which I attempt to de-tangle my childhood and its impact on my adult life.  Today, painting and drawing are tools through which I speak about things that are difficult to express with words. There is magic in this process—in the discovery of new ways of communicating with others.

 

Do you have any advice for aspiring painters?

Stay curious, question everything and start forming your own theories!  The most challenging aspect of being an artist can be to stay inspired and the best way to do this is by surrounding yourself with positive people.  Listen to your intuition–if something feels important, it probably is!  What new symbols can you give to the art world?

 


 

I am thankful for the continual love and support I receive from my mother.  She has always been my biggest support and always encouraged me to keep making work.  I was always amazed at this, given the fact that we are refugees and immigrants and that an artistic career can seem like a self-indulgent endeavor.  I am grateful for the sense of curiosity she has instilled in me ever since I was a little kid.  I also feel very blessed to have found the sport of long distance running in middle school.  My track coaches have played the roles of surrogate parents; Coach Ken Block in middle school, Victor Diaz in high school and Tony Sandoval in college.  Having never met my biological father, these three men have been positive role models and tremendous sources of inspiration.

Thank you, Maja, for being so open and willing to share you experiences! It’s inspiring to see someone courageously pursuing their passion.

“Inspiration exists, but it has to find you working” – Pablo Picasso

For information about Maja’s upcoming exhibitions, check out her website: www.ontheedgeofreason.com

~Thankful

Second, Third and Fourth Loves

Sometimes, I feel as though I’m cheating. The majority of the inspiration for my posts come from conversations with friends and personal experiences. But, alas, I can’t seem to help this.

I’m a firm believer that, the luckiest people are able to make a living doing what they love. In a previous post, Are You in Love?, I calculated that, in a traditional full-time job, assuming that you aren’t doing any work outside of the office (ha!), one spends 145,600 hours, in a lifetime, at work. So, you’d better love what you’re doing! Otherwise, you could have a gnawing feeling inside.

I brought this up recently to a friend and they said something really interesting: “Well, at some point in everyone’s life, there’s a time where the dream dies and you have to find another path to pursue.” This person went on to explain that, whether you’re an athlete, or the head of a company, there’s a point at which you’re no longer at full capacity. You’re forced to retire and find another way to spend your time. They said that this could come early in your career — or later. But, eventually, we are all forced to accept and adapt to change.

At first I found this notion really negative. But then, I considered that I was looking at their comment from the wrong angle. No doubt, every one of us has to make changes in life and we don’t always perceive them as being for the better. My grandmother absolutely loved working. She almost went stir crazy after retiring. So much of her identity was tied up in work. And, thankfully, she enjoyed it. So, my grandmother, who was the Assistant State Director of the Department of Human Services, took a job at a bank. She was 70 years old. Her tasks weren’t at all the same, but she thoroughly enjoyed her new role.

My friend’s comment served as the ultimate reminder for me that, I am not solely what I do. We must remain cognizant of our many interests. Hopefully, when the time comes to give up our first love, we can start devoting energy to our second, third and fourth loves.

~Thankful

The Quest For a Million Thanks!

Creative Karma

Create or Consume?


Instagram, the phenom of an app, was started from the seed of an idea. One day, Kevin Systrom decided to take his passion for photography and make it useful for other consumers. And, while this ultimately made him a billion dollars, at its inception, the idea was really simple: he took something he loved and used it to enhance a positive aspect of our society, the desire to document our lives and become increasingly connected.

We are given options: create something that adds value to our lives and the lives of others, or to sit back and simply consume. The latter requires little to no effort, while the former requires an idea and bravery.

Each and every one of us are filled to the brim with plans and ideas. The difficulty sometimes lies in activation. Ideas are very personal. From the start, they are only conscious to the individual. They become progressively more public as the creator erases self-doubt and becomes more firmly rooted in the power of their idea. Some decide to wait for the validation of  others, and some plow forward and trust that their passion will be enough. I am convinced that those who move forward without validation become the most successful.

Now, if you have an idea and you’re brave enough to fail, consider one more thing: how will you affect other people? This applies to anyone who has plans to pursue their passion, whether that be music, filmmaking, medicine, law or environmental policy. Step outside of yourself and consider your creative karma. Whatever you choose to create, your work will have an expansive reach. And, assuming that you want to have a positive impact, be sure that your idea has the potential to do so. If not in the best interest of others, then perhaps consider that what you create will come back to you.

If you’re looking for a little inspiration as you take a chance on your ideas:

Robert Krulwich 2011 Berkeley School of Journalism Commencement Speech: here

Fast Company: The Dirty Little Secret of Overnight Successes: here

~Thankful

A Conversation

Good morning! The following conversation has been transcribed per my friend’s request.

FriendAh! Your mom was right. I never should have taken this full-time job. I’m over it. I’m ready to just do what I love. 

Me: I mean, it’s not like you’re sitting on your ass. Be patient and have faith in your hard work. Nothing is immediate. Trust that the decisions you’re making today will lead you to doing the thing that makes you happy… Oh snap– I should take my advice.

Friend: Can you blog this tomorrow, so we can remember it forever?

I hope that you all are working hard and being patient. Strangely, it’s easy to do the first but quite hard to do the second.

Happy Monday all!

~Thankful 

Think Before You Tweet: Using Social Media For Good

It’s difficult to remember a time when I didn’t have Internet access. I had my first AOL screenname, sweetb113, at 13. Little did I realize that my connectivity was increasing exponentially. I had the ability to instantly keep in touch with everyone, from my friends in Lyndhurst, Ohio, to my pen pal in Pittsburgh, PA. From then on, my social medial usage matured from Facebook to WordPress to Twitter. And, while I haven’t quite grasped this whole Tumblr thing, I’m learning.

When Facebook released company data for their IPO, they said that they had 845 million monthly active users, 250 million photos uploaded per day, 100 billion friendships and 2 billion likes and comments per day. All of this made me realize how important it is to consider what you’re sharing. Our community has evolved to encompass more than just whom we see everyday.

Currently, I have 1,573 Facebook friends. I’d love to say that I know every one of them, but I’m sure that I’ve only met some once. Regardless, their statuses bombard my senses every time I sign on Facebook. I’ve read articles or seen photos that have been shared 4 times over. Often, I’m not even a ‘friend’ of the original poster. I’ve read stories that make me want to do everything from engage, laugh or cry. I enjoy the statuses, pictures and stories that add value to my life. Consequently, I’m secretly disappointed by those that have no value at all. *

Social media has given everyone the opportunity to share stories. Storytelling is no longer reserved for musicians, filmmakers or writers. It’s quite simple to share what you’d like. However, I encourage people to use this evolving platform for good. I believe that this increased access imparts an increased responsibility to create content with a positive influence. Now, this isn’t to say that every status should aim to teach people something. It could be as simple as making someone laugh or even think.

I must admit, that I’m able to piece together little bits about people’s personalities based on what they choose to share. It’s easy to tell when someone’s arrogant, selfless, introverted, outgoing or optimistic. So, even if you disagree with my assertion that you have a responsibility when sharing, consider, at least, that you are branding yourself.

I’m thankful for those who share stories, pictures and experiences that contribute positively to our evolving ‘community.’

~Thankful

Happy Easter and Passover to those recognizing the holidays!


*My secret is out.