Wednesday, December 23, 2009

All Growed Up

I’ve had a very busy month. This generally happens to most people in December, as it is filled with shopping, travel, wrapping up at work, packing and holiday partying it up. In my frenzied-ness, I’ve put off many of the normal day-to-day duties like grocery shopping, car washes and laundry – my clothes, sheets, blankets and towels have been dying for bath for a good three weeks now. Yikes.

And since I am leaving tomorrow for Christmas with mom, I had no choice but to spend my last night in town hunkered down at the neighborhood Laundromat to get it done. I’m personally laundering 12 loads while watching the Idol holiday special on the 19” TV and chatting with the attendant – yes, this is the glamorous life.

The smart thing to do would have been to take my clothes to the dry cleaner to have them fluffed and folded. I considered this, but decided that I didn’t want my dry cleaner checking out my underwear – not all of them are as cute as I would like to imagine. So in vanity, I sacrificed an entire evening to retain the safety of someone not knowing that I occasionally wear stretched-out pink cotton briefs.

So here is what I’ve taken away from this experience: if you own underwear that you don’t want others to see, get rid of them. It feels like a very grown-up thing to do. And as I’ve been thinking more about my list of New Year’s resolutions, some other mature to do’s have been on my mind as well. They include:

Wooden Hangers
A friend of mine swears that one should only have a closet full of wooden hangers. They are the best accessory to properly maintain your clothes – and their presence is a daily reminder that you are taking care of the things you own. Since my closet is half-filled with dry-cleaner wire hangers, it will probably cost me a fortune to check this one off the list – but probably well worth the investment.

Earthquake Kit
I live in Los Angeles and an earthquake at some point is inevitable. The responsible thing for us Angelenos to do is be prepared with “kit” that includes an emergency action plan, cash, water and canned goods. My ex always included a motorcycle in this plan (for driving through the desert to safety, of course), but I think I will be okay with a pair of old tennis shoes in the trunk of my car. And for those of you not in Los Angeles, this plan seems necessary for any of other run-of-the-mill natural disasters or emergencies.

How/When to Say No
I am a people pleaser by nature and I love being helpful. So I often say “Yes!” when someone asks me if I can help with something. But I am starting to get the sense that saying no is not only okay to do, but it is often quite necessary. And my gut seems to confirm this idea: almost every time I do something that I really don’t want to be doing, I get an overwhelming feeling of being unsettled – probably recognizing that I am prioritizing my life around someone else’s needs. So when someone asks me, “Can you ____________?” I am going to play a game called: Is this something that is important to me to help out with? And if the answer is no, I am going to try really hard to vocalize that.

Cash Savings
For years, I have been listening to Suze Orman advise women that they should have eight months of living expenses squirreled away in a liquid savings account. I am not a huge saver, so every time I read it I thought, “How in the world would I be able to save that much money?” Well, I’ve determined that it is eventually possible and in this economic environment, it’s probably a good idea. Knowing me, I will probably end up spending it on a trip to Italy, but at least I will have proven to myself that I am able to save.

So on my short list of resolutions, I’ve decided I’m saying no to obligation, multiple loads of laundry, wire hangers and being unprepared for an emergency. And yes to a very grown up New Year. I hope you will too!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Dream a little dream...

I recently had a dream about a life that wasn’t mine.

It was quite nice and featured a wonderfully loving relationship with a really great man – the kind of man that women really do dream about: handsome, successful, loving, funny, smart, completely connected. There was giddy fun, meals accentuated with great wine and long chats. I felt safe, loved and challenged.

And then I woke up. And I spent the day mourning the life I had a quick glimpse of.

And now that dream has really got me thinking. For years I’ve enjoyed my independence and my almost selfish regard for crafting a life that allows me to do what I want when I want. I’ve always been slightly skeptical of marriage and not 100% sure that I would have children, and I've never truly understood women who have singular intentions to achieve these things -certainly there are more important life goals like crafting a fulfilling career, exciting travel, sleeping in on the weekends, nights out, and fun men in the wings.

Don’t get me wrong: I really do like my life. It’s full and flexible and self-reliant. It includes close friends and a cat and a successful business. But now something has shifted slightly - and makes me think I’m ready to take a chance that will add something new. My Dream Dictionary says that “to dream of love/loving/being loved suggests … that you have a need to bring more of what characterized that relationship into your waking life.”

I think Jungian theory may be right on this one.

Surely one dream wont completely change my mentality; but that experience, coupled with the realization that I’m turning 30 this year, that it’s been almost three years since my last serious relationship and that the majority of my friends are coupled and procreating, has got me thinking about the future – and speculating that I might be ready to find that person to share it with.

It’s an exciting proposition. And with any luck he will also love sleeping late on Sundays, good food and wine, Oregon football, neurotic cats – and me.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

The Way to Eat

Throughout my life, I have been on many diets – or eating plans as I prefer to call them – trying to find the most efficient and pleasant way to balance one of my favorite things, eating, with the ever-pressing need to maintain a healthy body and svelte-ish figure.

It started in high school when I became a vegetarian. Then after college and the requisite weight gain I became a calorie counter and lost 40 pounds over two years. From there I went dairy-free and then moved into the most Draconian of them all: raw. This last eating plan (which I actually really enjoyed) lasted a mere six-weeks and ended dramatically when my doctor told me I was anemic.

At that point, I think I’d had enough calorie counting, food choice monitoring and Erewhon-shopping, and fell into the much easier and far more exciting All-American eating plan called “I’m going to eat whatever I want!” Which was super fun and liberating – until the eventual realization that I’d gained 10 pounds eating our All-American shit. I also felt pretty crappy.

After that wake up call, I quickly sprang into action – headed back to the gym, ate and drank less and monitored my calories. But the most exciting outcome was that I realized I needed to become more connected to the whole practice of eating once and for all.

It was during my raw-foods period that I really began to think more thoughtfully about food: what exactly it is, where it comes from, and how it’s produced. As with anything I'm interested in, I dove in head first, doing a lot of reading and research.

I became familiar with philosophies of the “real food” movement gurus including Michael Pollan (In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto and The Omnivore’s Dilemma), Eric Schlosser (Food, Inc.), Alice Waters (Food Activist and Owner of Chez Panisse) and Bill Niman (Sustainable Rancher and Owner of BN Ranch), and tuned in to more mainstream media reports about organics, the slow food movement, and “eating green” by reducing meat intake.

And so I learned what constitutes high-fructose corn syrup (cheap, Government-subsidized corn in a super-sweet liquid form) and its contribution to modern day nutrition (its empty calories make us fat and increase our sugar cravings); how the chicken breast arrived on my salad (an unfortunate chick endures a horrible life at a cramped slaughterhouse, is pumped with hormones and fed a diet it would not eat in nature, is then inhumanely plucked, killed and butchered and packaged and shipped all across the country in a semi-truck); how food producers easily dupe us into thinking that food products - like GoGurt and Kraft Singles – are actually real food (FDA regulations no longer require them to label foods as “imitation” if they are chemically altered); and the negative side effects of food dyes and additives (Red Food Dye #40 may contribute to hyperactivity, restlessness, and attention problems in some children).

Um... no thank you.

When you really think about the myriad of non-natural things that make up the food we put into our bodies, it really starts sounding quite awful – and certainly can’t be healthy. Fifty years of food innovation and chemistry have created a separation of what is food and what is a slick combination of chemicals, dyes and preservatives. It can only take an industry so far, and for this now-educated eater, it has gone far enough.

So I am reverting back to the “retro” eating plan employed by anyone born before 1950 – one that comes from our earth (not a lab!) and offers nutrients, complex flavors and useful fuel for the body.

And it looks like this:

  • Eat only unmodified, whole foods that are grown on this earth; and combination foods that have very short ingredients lists that are understandable and recognizable. As Michael Pollan says, "Don't eat anything that can't rot.")
  • Eat fewer servings of meat and fish. When possible, these meats should come from farms and ranches that use sustainable methods, use no hormones or antibiotics, feed animals their natural diets, and treat animals with dignity.
  • Eat foods with no artificial flavors, colors, preservatives or derivatives – this includes most fast food, processed food, any unnaturally colored food and high fructose corn syrup.

This “diet” is the most natural – and responsible – of all, and really it’s not that hard to do. It is basically reverting back to the native diet of our ancestors; the way people have been eating for generations before we were blessed with food chemistry and its cheap and abundant offspring.

And because the "bad" stuff gets ruled out and is replaced with the more satisfying, healthy stuff, this idea works as a natural weight-management tool as well.

So although I will miss the convenience of grab-and-go food, Splenda in my coffee, and Diet Coke and Baked Lays with my Subway 6" Veggie, I am more excited to be fueling my body with the real things it craves.

This realization has also put an end to my twelve-year "eating plan” experiments: turns out all I need to do is eat like a normal human.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Change Your Perspective, Change Your Business Life

As I’ve mentioned before, I love traveling for work. I feel a distinct sense of purpose and freedom: I get to be out of the office, but I’m also taking care of necessary business. It is also my favorite time to catch up on business reading – and many of the ideas I come across when 33,000 feet up seem to sink in more deeply than when perused on the couch.

Case in point: four years ago, on an American flight from LAX-NYC, I was reading this article in Entrepreneur when I had the idea that became my second business. I launched The Modern Concierge a year later and I remember that moment of insight as if it were yesterday (and to this day, I always choose a window seat on all flights).

Today I was thrilled to have a similar experience. On another American flight, I was reading Inc. (November issue), and came to the recurring segment, “The Way I Work,” this month featuring Jason Fried, founder of 37Signals. The three-page article, as told to Liz Welch, outlined his typical workday and overall work philosophy - and rocked my world.

Fried describes the way he works as “less is more,” without implying that “more is better.” He neither believes in the necessity of a 40-hour workweek, nor knows how many hours his employees actually work. And he doesn’t seem to care – as long as the work gets done. I had a moment of pure connection with his way of thinking - and it filled me with as much excitement as the moment I had my new business idea years before.

From the day I began working at age 16, I’ve correlated hours spent at the office to levels of perceived productivity. And my brain’s been stuck in that outdated paradigm ever since. Even as a business owner – which one would suspect comes with a certain level of flexibility?! - I never truly altered my idea about what a workday should, or could, look like.

And now, with a glimpse of how someone else manages his time and business, which intuitively feels more natural and resourceful (and has successful outcomes!), I am empowered to try something fresh. Implementing this “new” philosophy may just be the change I’ve been craving – and will hopefully more fully connect me to my job, my company and my life.

So, once again thanks to a business magazine, I've found my new business idea for the year. And I have a sense that this one may actually be more successful and longer lasting that the last – plus come with the added bonus of making me more efficient with my time overall.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Old Flames

For the last two weeks Los Angeles has been surrounded by terrible forest fires. More than 155,000 acres have burned with thousands of firefighters from all over the west coast working around the clock to protect our communities. And those brave men and women are slowly, but surely, making progress.

It is not a pleasant scenario. But for me, the fire season always triggers a trip down relationship memory lane – reminding me of the men who have been an integral part of my life and the role they have played in shaping who I have become.

And mostly because my first love – and possibly the first guy to love me – is a firefighter. He is married and still lives in the town we grew up in; and we haven’t been in touch for a long time. But I was there when he decided to devote his career to fighting fires, and without fail, when a big fire erupts in Southern California, I turn my thoughts to him and wonder how he is doing, who he has grown up to become, and if he might be just around the corner, fighting the fires that threaten the city I now call home.

Since I am still single, it is often easier to remember all of the nonsense that happens during years of dating. But tonight, while looking at the full plume of smoke hovering on the horizon, I have sweet thoughts of the 15 years of men - beginning with the firefighter - who have been a part of my life.

None of these guys was the “the one” for me, but much of what I know about loving another and what that involves, I learned from them. What they have given me in life experience, friendship, and lessons learned is invaluable for recognizing the right one when he comes along. A small part of each of them is intrinsic to who I have become and how I approach dating – and no matter the circumstance of how it ended, they all have a special place in my heart.

So wherever my old friend is tonight – whether back home in Vegas or over the hill fighting the Station Fire that has consumed LA, I wish him – and the others - well and take a moment to be thankful for all they have contributed to my life.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Who Needs a "Regular" Job?

I am sitting in the middle of Bryant Park in New York City writing this blog post – really channeling my inner Carrie Bradshaw – when I realize that this place is packed, and it’s Thursday at 2:30pm. Too late for the lunch crowd, too cloudy for the tourists. Who are all these people? What are they doing? And shouldn’t they be at work?

This is the same feeling I have when I get out of my office on a weekday and cruise by Santa Monica beach, visit The Grove, or get stuck in traffic. How it is that so many people are out in the world, rather than sitting behind their computer at the office?

While it’s possible that these folks may be enjoying a personal day, traveling to a meeting, or running errands during a lunch break, I think it's more likely confirmation of my inkling that not many people in LA work “regular jobs.”

Of course a “regular job” is the kind that I’ve had my entire life – and generally includes driving to an office building at the same time every morning and working in front of a computer for 8-10 hours a day, five days a week.

Certainly there are many people who have jobs like this – probably the majority of the workforce - but when I think of the lives of my friends who don’t – the actors, musicians, moms, writers, trainers, etc – I often feel slightly envious of what seems to be a glamorous and carefree living. No schedules! Sleeping in! Something new every day! A regular job seems bland and rigid in comparison.

So as I sit here writing, wondering what life would be like if I could sit everyday in a sunny park in a far away city and make a living, I consulted a few friends who have “not regular” jobs to see if it’s all it’s cracked up to be. From what I can gather, there are three major downsides:

  • A Severe or Nil Schedule: Many of these professions include a schedule that has a furious work schedule – up to 16 hours a day – and then…. nothing. Insane work hours highlighted by periods of none.
  • Not Steady Income: A fluctuating work schedule lends to an erratic revenue stream – making loads of money punctuated by making none. This means that you must be a good saver or financial strategist on order to maintain a steady lifestyle year-round.
  • Self Discipline Needed: When the confines of being responsible to others and collaborating as a team are removed, all that is left to rely on your success is…. You! Without a sincere and directed amount of willpower, success is harder to achieve. And as I think more about it, this trait is probably the main difference between my freelance friends who are successful and those who are just getting by.

I have self-discipline – but really only in bursts – and I’m not a great saver. I also need to share my successes and struggles, for which I rely on my co-workers and business partners, who reside in my office building.

So while it would be great to sleep in every day, head to the beach on a whim, or work furiously at 3 am, I feel that I might be better suited for a “regular” job. Now, more than ever, the conventional routine of people relying on me, an office desk to coordinate from and a bi-monthly paycheck seem rather reassuring. But hopefully one day I will be in a position where I can comfortably embrace some of the more enchanting aspects of a free-lancing lifestyle.

Thank god I am getting some experience “working” here in Bryant Park.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

I Own a Cat...

I have been warned repeatedly by my friends not to talk/write about my cat. This advice has surfaced often in conversations pertaining to first dates, facebook profiles and framed photos on my office desk.

However, this month’s Oprah magazine - devoted to humans’ love for animals – featured several articles about people talking about their pets. This included a brief article by senior editor and fellow cat owner, Jessica Winter, who owns a cat that looks and acts much like my darling Peaches.

So if Oprah and her senior editor can espouse their love for their pets, I feel I can buck the wisdom of my friends and take a moment to express my deep affection for my darling Peaches.

Especially since I am the most unlikely person to love a cat.

I grew up severely allergic to the two cats that took up residence in our home – both rescues that recognized my aversion to their place in my house and treated me accordingly. But my mom and sister loved them – and they needed good homes! - so really I had no choice. I blamed them for just about everything including my perpetual stuffy nose, the occasional smell of cat pee, and not being able to wear black.

I thought I would forever be “not a cat person” - until two summers ago – and three months to day that my ex-boyfriend moved out of my apartment - when a gorgeous little kitty began camping out in my apartment complex.

I was struck by her size – so small, but not a kitten – and her beauty: she is truly the prettiest cat I had ever seen. The entire apartment complex was taken with her and everyone tried to take her in. But she had a little issue getting along with other animals – she actually tried to attack them- and as the only non-pet owner, she obviously considered me her last hope for a good home.

She arrived at my porch, hungry and meowing, and being the over-nurturing person that I am, I fed her tuna – everyone needs to eat! – and wished her all the best at finding a home. But a couple nights later, feeling a little lonely, I left the door open and left our relationship to fate. Two minutes later she was sitting on my couch purring uncontrollably – and she’s been there ever since.

She hasn’t been the easiest cat to love – in addition to a fierce attitude, she has liver and heart conditions that require two daily medications and annual EKGs, she pees in the plants when she’s mad, and refuses to be held for more than a few seconds. But when I come home, she greets me at the door with a loud hello, sits with me while I eat dinner and brings a presence to my house that makes it feel like a home.

So although I sometimes wish that Peaches would conform to the traditional cat roles of curling up in my lap, playing nicely with other pets and sleeping for most of the day, I actually appreciate her more because she refuses to do so. She lives and loves in her own terms.

Which kind of reminds me of someone else I know... funny how animals seem to find owners of the same breed.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Supporting Prop 8: Poor Business Practice?

This week the California Supreme Court upheld Proposition 8, a state constitutional ban on same-sex marriage that was decided by voters last November in the California general election. Not only does this sadly remind me that not all Californians share equal rights, but it also creates an interesting discussion surrounding workplace diversity.

The Yes on Prop 8 Campaign (favoring a ban on same-sex marriages) raised more than $38 million in campaign contributions, and of that, more than $7.2 million was donated by businesses (which I defined as a donation made by an organization that employs workers) from a variety of professions including lawyers, dentists, construction companies, even a preschool.

The fact that almost one-fifth of the campaign was funded by business dollars made me wonder:
when an employer publicly asserts his or her position on a certain issue – especially a fiercely debated one with religious underpinnings such as Prop 8 – is that considered workplace discrimination? Or just poor business practices?

Contributions to political campaigns in California are very public statements about one’s position on an issue. Due to donor disclosure laws enacted by California’s Political Reform Act of 1974, all contributions of more than $100 are made public - and information including the donor’s name, address, company and industry are required to process the payment. So for a business to donate money to a political campaign, its owners must feel strongly about the issue – as they must be willing to deal with the ramifications that could come with it.

Many businesses including the Manchester Grand Hyatt, the famous El Coyote restaurant in Hollywood and Urban Outfitters, learned this the hard way by being placed on widely-circulated boycott lists and experiencing deteriorating public images – with the hotelier hiring a crisis management consultant and the restaurant manager holding a press conference.

By contrast, companies who publicly opposed Proposition 8 – including public utilities company PG&E, which donated $250,000, and Apple, which donated $100,000 (and was among the first California companies to offer equal rights and benefits employees’ same-sex partners) - are seen as industry leaders that value equality for their employees and customers. Both companies noted that their donations were made as part of their overall commitment to diversity, which they see as essential to workplace morale, innovative ideas and a strong bottom-line.

Publicly supporting a law that limits the rights of a specific group does not qualify as job discrimination – but when workplace tolerance is violated, not only do employees suffer, but in the long run, so does the company.

In essence, it’s bad for business.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Real Estate: A Measure of Success?

I rent. And I like it.

When my AC needs a new HEPA filter, or when the neighbor's sprinkler repeatedly ruins my car wash – both of which happened this week – I don’t have to deal with it. I make a call and it’s someone else’s job to fix it. Not to mention that at any moment, I can move!

However, over the years, I’ve had a nagging sense that because I own a business, I should own a home. My two business partners own their residences and my 22-year old employee just made an offer on a condo. And many of my entrepreneur friends and corporate executive-types own homes – and we all live in Los Angeles, one of the most expensive real estate markets in the country.

Owning real estate exudes fiscal responsibility, maturity and realizing the American Dream. Really a measure of how well you’ve made it in the world. Does this mean I have not?

And is this concept still true? In this time of decreased home values, massive foreclosures and borrowing more than we can afford, is owning real estate as sexy as it used to be?

Most people I know are still on the ownership bandwagon:

“Real estate is still the best investment you will ever make.”

“Renting is like throwing money down the drain.”

“I’m in Escrow!” (heard three times this week)


But last weekend I spoke to someone who's on my side of the fence. A successful set decorator for feature films, she has owned a home for a few years. She bought in an “up and coming” area – which fortunately came up as hip – and isn’t upside down in her mortgage or in over her head. But finances aside, she brought up a point that hit home for me; one that went beyond status and into obligation.

“As a single woman, owning a home is that much more of a commitment. You only have your self and your income or savings to rely on. If the plumbing goes out, or the tree falls over, I am the only one around to take care of it. And this additional responsibility can be overwhelming at times.”

She knew her house was a great investment and she truly loved her home, but she often wondered if owning continued to be the right choice for her. And it made me feel so much better: Who wants to be responsible when the pipes need to be snaked, the weeds need to be plucked and the termites take up residence? Certainly not me. At this point, I feel I have enough on my plate in remembering to leave a key for the housekeeper, water my plants and check the mail (note to self: remember to do these things asap).

It has taken me three years of contemplation, an economic downturn and one late night chat with a friend to realize that owning real estate is not the powerful gauge of achievement that I once obsessed over. For some it is a smart choice, and for others not so much. So I will continue to own my business and rent my home.

And hopefully, one day soon, the truly important things in life – like being kind, honest, and gracious with your time and talents - will be the first things I/we think of when contemplating the measure of success.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Call Me Crazy: I Love Business Travel

I love to travel for business. I enjoy visiting new places, returning to favorite cities like New York and DC, and meeting with clients I don't see very often. But I think what I like most about business travel is the opportunity to experience quality alone time.

This love affair began in my early 20’s with my first out-of-state event. The gala was in Washington, DC and required three LA staff to oversee the project. My orders were to meet my two co-workers at the venue at noon on the day of the event - and how I got there, where I stayed and what I did with the rest of my time was up to me. These two particular co-workers (now my business partners) had very particular travel preferences – certain habits, airlines, hotels, friends to visit – and they figured that I too had my own.

I didn’t. So for my first business trip, I was left to fend for myself. At the time it seemed a little scary, but now I realize what a gift I'd been given.

My travel planning wasn't stellar – I chose the worst airport and airline, stayed in the wrong part of town and didn't understand the metro - but I had a fantastic time in the city by myself. I flew alone, ate alone, and made my own schedule. Besides the actual "work" part of the trip, no one knew me, cared what I was doing, or was expecting anything from me. I could do whatever I wanted - and it was liberating.

This week I traveled back to DC to oversee that same annual gala – and celebrate the sixth anniversary of my first business trip. Years later, still fending for myself, I continue to love the freedom that comes with traveling alone – and I eventually created my own travel preferences. My favorite rule: don’t make any specific plans. I leave my schedule open so I can partake in whatever suits my mood: stay in and order room service and a movie, go to a concert, visit a museum, indulge in Restaurant Week.

My sixth annual trip turned out to be one of my favorites. Nothing extraordinary happened – I worked a flawless event, ate a great meal, had an intriguing conversation with an international architect and met an up-and-coming DC chef - but it reminded me of how much I love to travel by myself and how thankful I am that my job – and my clients – afford me this opportunity.

If you haven’t experienced traveling solo – for business or for pleasure – I expressly recommend it. It’s kind of like living by yourself: everyone should try it at least once in their lives to really understand who you are when alone.

My recent trip also leads me to an update of an earlier post: Miles, Points & Perks. After an amazing stay at the Hotel Palomar (a Kimpton property) and hassle-free, enjoyable flights on Alaska Airlines, I’ve decided to end my six year relationship with American Airlines and Hilton Hotels.

The benefits of their “Loyalty Programs” just no longer perk me up. I've decided that I am willing to give up a free flight, a free hotel night and occasional upgrades for better service, free wi-fi, L’occitane products, hipper digs and a concierge who helped me enjoy my stay.

Because traveling solo is an adventure right? And staying with the same airlines and hotels has not only become disappointing, but also far too predictable.

Happy Travels!

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Relative Productivity

So…it’s been two weeks since my last post – and yesterday, finally, I was truly feeling on board with my new mentality – and moving forward on the aforementioned journey. I was having one of those days where I was really on – I was embarking on a weekend without any plans and I woke up early (highly unusual on a Saturday), went to multiple markets to purchase healthy groceries for a week’s worth of meals, hiked Beachwood canyon and ran a work errand –hooray!

Then I arrived home from my industrious day, and was on my way to further productivity – reading a new business book – when I caught the beginning of “Almost Famous” and poured myself a glass of wine. It was 5pm.

Now, I was really into my movie and my Shiraz – and I was remembering how great movies can be and how cool it is that I can enjoy a Saturday night home alone. And by the time I knew it, I had finished the bottle, moved on to Sex and The City reruns, and sent uncertain texts to girlfriends. By 9pm. How did it go downhill so quickly?

I am mildly shocked about this quick turn of events – how did I go from completely on-track to, “Could this be a problem?” in four hours time?

My friends were incredibly supportive – who hasn’t been drunk at home alone at one time or another? – but I knew it wasn’t an evening of good decision making when I saw the reaction of Peaches, my darling, but brutally honest housemate (cat). She had no mercy – just an exasperated look (seriously?!) and a retreat to the bedroom.

So I follow her – it is now 10pm and I’m about sober. I get into bed and pick up last week’s Time magazine, and flip to Get Rich Slow by Josh Quittner, an article that seems to corroborate my last blog about starting a new venture in this new era – “launching now will make your company stronger later.” And then remember who I am and what I’m supposed to be doing. And I go to bed dreaming of writing, running a company and being fabulous.

So what is the moral of this story? That I’m okay with spending a weekend alone? That I'm kinda on the right track and getting closer to achieving my new intentions? That I shouldn’t start drinking so early in the day?

What I do know is that today I woke up early, had brunch, read the Sunday Times, hit the Farmer’s Market, hiked, saw a movie, cooked for a neighbor, and wrote this week’s blog. Not too bad on the productivity level.

I’m not sure if these activities hit any landmarks on the "new journey" roadmap. But I do feel good. And I did notice that there’s a New Moon in the sky tonight… which means that anything is possible for the upcoming week. Fingers crossed.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Recipe for Success in this New Era

I am embarking on a new project – and I’ve been having a hard time getting motivated to begin. I know where I want to go and have a general roadmap for the journey, but I haven’t been able to take the first steps.

There are three easy answers for this problem: I don’t really want to do this project; I don’t think I will succeed at it; or I’m comfortable enough in my current situation that I don’t want to spend the time necessary to make it fly.

While there may be a little truth in each of those scenarios, I’m almost certain that it is something greater – something intrinsically linked to our new “American” reality - that is keeping me from moving…

Obviously there has been a huge shift in the past few months regarding business and future prospects in general. Credit is tight (or unavailable), businesses are cutting costs (mine included), and there is a general feeling of economic uncertainty for the near future.

As a member of Gen Y, I essentially grew up in the “Age of Excess” – blissfully cruising along, solidly set in the reality of what Kurt Andersen, in his brilliant Time essay The End of Excess: Is this Crisis Good for America?, calls “magical thinking.” I was raised not only to expect Victoria’s Secret underwear and Starbucks coffee, but also taught that I could achieve anything I put my mind to – and the resources I would need to make that happen would somehow be available.

I launched two businesses during this “magical time” – and although both took great amounts of time, skill and entrepreneurial zest, I was lucky to be blessed with access to easy credit, companies willing to spend on services like event planning and personal concierge services, and Web 2.0, which allowed instant credibility by having a pretty website and an online presence.

Now things have shifted, and the environment has changed to an unfamiliar landscape – one that I haven’t encountered in all of my 20-something years. I think what I’ve inherently been aware of is that launching a new venture in this more practical world will take a little more persistence, loads of creativity, and a lot more effort… and I think that is where my inertia truly lies.

Smarter planning, saving rather than spending, old-fashioned hard work: Boo. But I have a sense that success achieved in this new era may be sweeter than in times past. And so I will take the first step.

And I will be taking it knowing that this time around will be a little bit different – moving into more of an “artisan-enterpriser and less prospector-speculator,” as Andersen advises. However, I still intend to imbibe on small doses of that “magical thinking” I grew up on. I agree it’s a belief system that got most of us into this mess, but as a bit of a dreamer myself, I also know that I need a little of it to carry on with a positive outlook. And this time around I will be sure to pepper in heavy doses of pragmatism and calculated risk.

Maybe this is the updated recipe for success in this new era.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Miles, Points and Perks

I have a very special relationship with my American Express card, Hilton Hotels and American Airlines. They all give me points (at least one per dollar spent!), which I frequently redeem for free flights, hotel nights and Lakers tickets.

I selected brands and began collecting points five years ago - and I've become so tied to their promises of free hotel nights and roundtrip tickets that I’m incapable of trying cute new boutique hotels, flying the hip upstart airlines, and using a Visa card for business purchases. What if I don’t make my status this year?!?

These psychological wonders – aptly named Loyalty Programs - began in 1981 with the launch of the American Airlines AAdvantage program and have gained steam over the last few decades as companies realized the fiscal benefit of retaining current customers to the cost of wooing new ones. According to Jonathan Barsky, a consultant for the hospitality industry, in 2007, 37% of guests said that the loyalty program was a key factor in deciding where to stay. Not a shabby statistic.

But that ever-steady number began to decline in the first nine months of 2008.

Could this down-turn be attributed to cost-cutting measures that resulted in decreased service, added blackout dates, and fewer perks? Or an outcome of a slowing economy? Yes.

But I also think part of it may be due to a new generation of younger, savvier consumers who expect more from their brands and are willing to pay for an experience that is important to them. Many of these brands don’t have the old-school loyalty programs we have become accustomed to – and that’s probably what adds to their appeal.

Now that there’s been a nationwide shift in saving vs. spending, maybe the added benefits of traditional loyalty programs seem more important - fiscally, a free breakfast might outweigh the desire to sleep in a room with solvent-free paint.

As I begin planning my spring travel season, I wonder… should I stick to the comforts of priority boarding, first class upgrades and free nights at the Hilton? Or do I venture off for an exciting personal experience at a trendy hotel via an airline that offers a healthy food choices and internet access? What are you planning to do this year?

Either way, I know I will be charging it to my American Express card, whose Membership Rewards program only seems to get better with age - and gets me great seats to see the Lakers.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Fight, Fight, Fight

I have a weakness for romantic comedies. Actually I love them and will watch them over and over again on Sunday afternoons.

One of my favorites is “You’ve Got Mail” – a late 90’s Nora Ephron classic starring Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks, who play NYC business owners who are unlikely opponents in the highly competitive world of book shops.

Unbeknownst to them, the two protagonists share an insightful and supportive relationship via email and swap business advice online. One of the classic bits of advice from Tom to Meg: “Go to the Mattresses,” since, “It’s not personal, it’s business.”

In this fight-or-flight business climate, many small business owners are going to the mattresses in an effort to save their beds. When perhaps what they should be focusing on is how they can make their business relations more personal.

I think that a major saving grace for many small businesses over the next year will be in the ability to develop the “personal” side of operations. Positive relationships with clients, vendors and investors have always been good business, but in this downsizing economy it is so much more important to stay close. And as a pretty likeable gal who strongly trusts the value of personal relationships, I can’t help but hope this predisposition will be helpful for my business.

This belief was further confirmed this week when I talked - on the phone! – to three individuals who are crucial to the wellbeing of my business. After chit-chatting about this and that before delving in to issues of relevance, all the conversations ended with some added-bonus for my company: crucial advice for a bid proposal, the continuation of much-appreciated free services, and an almost-done deal.

What I’ve always known, but just acutely realized, is that when people like you, they will go the extra step – or mile – to help you succeed. And in this fragile business climate, it can make or break a small business.

I would like to think that if “You’ve Got Mail” was released in 2009, the Tom-to-Meg advice would be something like, “It’s business – make it personal.” And of course that would come right before they realize they are in love with each other.

I say let’s leave going to the mattresses for more exciting things – like good sex and sleeping in on Sundays.

Sunday, February 22, 2009


They say that Life is what happens while you’re busy making other plans… and it recently occurred to me that my life is happening through and alongside my business.

I became a business owner when I was 23 years old, and so much of my “growing up” intersected with the expansion of my business. On both the personal side of my life, and on the business side, I was learning lessons of financial responsibility, how to cultivate and maintain relationships, and the importance of enjoying the things you do with your time.

But what I’ve also realized is that when my personal life becomes bumpy, or my business life overly stressful (or vice-versa), the other “life” is impacted - sometimes severely - and over the past five years it’s happened with enough regularity that it seems to be a phenomena I can't overlook.

Many bloggers and workplace experts (myself included at one time), talk about the importance of balancing work and life, which BNet defines as, “the equilibrium between the amount of time and effort somebody devotes to work and that given to other aspects of life.” But what is it called when work and life are so interconnected that aspects of one most often affect the other?

Are others also experiencing this co-mingling of work and life? Is there any advice or opinions on this inter-connectedness? And does someone have a definition for it?

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Here I Go...

There are three great pieces of advice I hear again and again… Do what you love. Write what you know. Why not blog?

What I know about is business – and I’m lucky enough to love most of what comes along with owning one. I also have a lot of thoughts about being an entrepreneur, and I learned how to write in J-School, so... here comes the blog.

At the age of 28, I’ve now been working for myself longer than I’ve worked for someone else – and I love the challenge, excitement and responsibility of owning a small business. Five years ago, I became an owner of my first company, BDI Events and two years later launched The Modern Concierge. Depending on the day, I serve as the CEO, COO, CFO, marketing director, HR manager, Fedex package signer, sales executive, board member and event planner. I also aim for a social life, and occasionally get to the gym.

Now I will add blogger to my list of roles – and I will publicly publish my thoughts and experiences about the business of entrepreneurship, and whatever else comes to mind. I hope you will follow my adventures– and share your thoughts, advice, and struggles. Here we go!

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