Getting Comfortable With Wrong.

This monologue is the introduction to my talk on design at LevelUpCon.

It was the summer of 2004 and I was at a crossroads between accepting my dream internship as a graphic designer at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City or accepting a full time job as a graphic designer in Washington, D.C. at…. FOX Architects. I remember this moment like it was yesterday and I was terrified that I was going to make the wrong choice.

I had just packed up everything I owned, living through four of the best years of my life at RIT, and I was sitting at my parents’ kitchen table in Coopersburg, Pennsylvania. Putting it mildly, I was at an all time low (at the age of 21 with two job opportunities in front of me). I put my head down on the cold tile tabletop and closed my eyes. I began to imagine what my life might look like if I followed my then “dream” and many questions ensued: What are the chances the MET would hire me full-time after my internship was done? How would I like living with my parents and riding a bus one-and-a-half hours into and out of the city each day? Why is college over? How did four years go by so fast? Why me?

I wasn’t getting any closer to a decision.

All my life I knew I was going to be an artist. I studied artists. I painted like artists. I drew like artists. I read books about artists. I hung out with artists. I lived at art museums. I worked at an art museum. I even created a binder that had a page for each art museum in the United States and the MET was page number one. I had done everything I needed to do to be considered by the “mecca” of all art museums, and they accepted me.

My decision seems to have had an obvious choice, but it wasn’t obvious to me at the time. From a very young age, my parents taught me, my brother and my sister that we need to consider what was “reasonable” in order to ensure a financially secure future. So I wondered, was a low paying internship at my dream job, reasonable? A full-time job at a no-name architecture firm, on the other hand, was reasonable… right?

So I packed up my blue 1996 Honda Civic with manual transmission and moved to Northern Virginia on June 17, 2004. No other date is burned into my mind like that one.

I look back ten years later and try to soothe my inner artist. She thinks I made the biggest mistake of my life – it was the wrong choice. A complete failure. But the truth is: I am not unhappy with anything that has transpired over the last decade. In fact, I consider myself incredibly lucky that I now own my own business where I enjoy working with hand-selected clients all while making a very comfortable living. Deep down in the pit of my stomach I know I settled, but does that mean I made the wrong decision?

We put so much pressure on making the wrong choice that sometimes we forget to consider what it is that we really want. It’s nothing short of fear, worry and doubt. We worry we won’t be good enough, we fear for our financial security and we doubt the choices we’ve made. It’s possible to stand in this paralyzing mental framework of wrong and compare our decisions to what could have been instead of having the strength to imagine what will be, no matter how we choose.

My dear friend Debbie Millman recently produced a visual essay, Fail Safe, in which she tells a similar story about having the courage to fail. Her conclusion really resonated with me:

In the grand scheme of life, maybe (just maybe) it is not about knowing or not knowing, choosing or not choosing. Perhaps what is truly known can’t be described or articulated by creativity or logic, science or art—but perhaps by the most authentic and meaningful combination of the two: poetry. As Robert Frost once wrote, “A poem beings as a lump in the throat, sense of wrong, a homesickness, a love sickness. It’s never a thought to begin with.”

It’s really really scary to follow your dreams, no matter if you do or if you don’t. You will fail at something at some point along your journey. When you do:

Pick yourself up.

Dust yourself off.

Check your blind spot, and then have the courage to get back in the damn game. We’re waiting for you.

#hxd2013scholars Response for HxD 2013

This post is in response to Mad*Pow‘s sponsored conference pass giveaway to this year’s Healthcare Experience Design Conference at the end of March. Those interested in participating were given a list of six questions and were asked to answer one and write an amazingly articulate two paragraph response. Below is the question I chose and my idea/response. Thanks Mad*Pow!

Question #3:
If you were given $1 million and one year to improve the health outcomes in your community, what would you do?

I’d create a traveling social good incubator & internship program.
Located just outside of our nations capitol, my community (Reston, Virginia) is both incredibly dense (56K people within 17.4 square miles) and culturally very diverse. It would be short sighted for me to sit at my desk by myself and decide what type of healthy programs or initiatives my community needs to succeed, so with that I would use a million dollars to begin a traveling incubator staffed by 5 recent graduates (either from local universities or originally from the area) and mentored by myself and 2 other advisers. I would solicit applications from students interested in a year-long internship to lead the charge. It’s important to keep the incubator as diverse as our community so it would be required that no two students have the same degree. Each student would have graduated with a four-year degree from one of the following: political science / medical science / design / software development / business & communications.  Advisers would have a minimum of 20 years of business experience in one of the aforementioned fields. Having both a mix of backgrounds and age groups will provide the incubator with a diverse strategy for thinking and solving problems. This will be our core team.

Our goal would be to use the first three months of the year to understand our community. We will literally drive through town (in our RV) to watch, listen and learn from our community. We will need to set up interviews across age groups and cultures to find out what’s existing and missing. By the end of the third month we will have determined the most pressing need and can define our program. We’ll use March and April to solicit local volunteers and schools to participate in the execution of our goal, with final program deliverables determined by the core team. While our interns are working I will develop a plan with our advisers to begin to establish partnerships with local businesses. Being a diverse and dense area also means that there are a lot of local businesses that could become potential partners (both for communication and fundraising strategies). From there we’ll use April through June to develop all aspects of the program, be it events to mobile applications. In July we’ll soft launch our initiative and work out any kinks, allowing us to officially launch in August. By September we should be able to calculate some results which we will use to raise revenue and more partners for the incubator’s second year. Ideally this isn’t a once and done traveling incubator. Hopefully it’s something that lives on and changes with the needs of our community for many many years to come.

Money breakdown (estimated):
Students would be paid $40K, advisers would offer their time gratis = ($200K)
RV costs + gas & maintenance = ($200K)
Supplies / Equipment (computers, etc) = ($50K)
The determined Initiative = ($400K)
Remaining for overages & reinvestment the following year = ($150K)

Is Hope Enough?

I became one of those “crazy people on a bicycle that rode in a huge group and annoyed motorists” in 2010. I needed a new hobby that was slightly more dangerous than running on the sidewalk and wasn’t as hard on my knees. Admittedly, I never seriously watched the Tour de France until 2010 therefore missing Lance in his true heyday (hey, I was in high school!), but I did watch the highlight videos on YouTube. I used them as inspiration before my training rides. I’d get up two hours before my big Saturday rides, eat a carb-loaded breakfast and I’d watch videos of Lance crush his opponents on big climbs during the tour. These were my two favorites:

Everyone was in awe of Lance. He became a household name and put cycling on the map. Runners started trading their sneakers for carbon coated road shoes and yellow bands became the new tennis bracelet. Everyone was drinking a cup of the Lance Kool-Aid. Lance gave us hope. He inspired us to ride on and nobody can deny that.

And now he’s a liar, a cheat and a thief. Even after aggressively denying that he doped for years he came clean to Oprah last week saying he used performance enhancing drugs from 1998-2005.

So when the initial news came out about Lance again this summer I was angry, but not at Lance. I was mad at everyone else but him. I made up any excuse I could to defend him. I was mad at the critics and the UCI for waiting so long. They were dealing with doping that dated back to 1999 – 2005. It was 2012! I was mad at my friends who claimed Lance was a cheater. I became hostile when anyone around me started bad mouthing Lance. I didn’t understand why they had to be so vocal against the guy I admired so much.

And that’s when I realized it. He gave me hope and that is enough. He inspired me to ride my bike for thousands of miles, train and raise money for two-day endurance rides but most importantly he suggested that anything was possible with determination and that meant something to me. Of course I’m disappointed that he lied. He built his entire empire on top of an enormous and hurtful calumny. And now comes the fallout where so many people are discouraged because of his lie. That breaks my heart, but I’ve chosen to see how he positively impacted my fitness and be glad. If you were a Lance fanboy (or girl) I feel your pain. I have the same yellow apparel and yes, there is a part of me that wants to burn it, but I challenge you to stand taller. Be glad for the hope he ignited in your rides and your fights against cancer and admit that, at the time, it was enough. It’s okay if he’s no longer your hero, he’s not mine either. You can stop defending him, I will too. And once you we do, a weight will be lifted and that chip on our shoulder will begin to heal.

So now what? I need a new hero and I see something really exciting in Evelyn Stevens.

180 miles TO. END. CANCER.

To be quite frank, I’m so sick and tired of cancer. I hate it. I hate how it takes away my friends and loved ones. I hate how it affects healthy young people. I hate how it selfishly takes away memories and years. This is why I’ve decided to ride 180 miles again this year in an effort to raise $2,200 for cancer research.

Last year I rode 180 miles with Team Speranza to celebrate the life and memory of a dear family friend, Phil Krause. Here are some images from that ride in 2011:

Phil was a selfless light. He brought laughter, love and hope to everyone around him. He was my Uncle’s best friend. He was my Cousin’s Godfather. He was a brother and a dear friend. He was my mentor.

Phil taught me many things, but the one thing that he always reminded me to do was to ENJOY every single moment of my life. He told me to revel in it and marvel at it. He always told me to use all of my talents to make each day better than the last one.

Pelotonia 11 was such a memorable experience. I enjoyed every single solitary moment of it. Pelotonia 11 was the fruition of everything Phil taught me about enjoying life, and I can’t imagine not riding Pelotonia 12 in his memory for another year.

I hope you can support me through messages, donations and love! Here is a link to my rider profile for more information on making a donation. I plan to write more consistently this year about my training and progress as Pelotonia 12 approaches. Stay tuned for updates! Thank you for your support!

Sad UP. Confident Jawbone.

I was more excited for that Jawbone UP then I really should have been. Now, don’t get me wrong. I didn’t really think it was going to be the answer to a more active lifestyle, but I was excited to track my progress, patterns and use it to my fitness advantage.

A mere three days after my upbeat and optimistic blog post, my UP vibrated and died. No more tracking. No more patters. No more movement alerts. Seriously? Yep. I should have just gotten the FITBIT. Maybe I still will.

Then, after tweeting about my broken and sad-faced UP, a friend of mine sent me this link. Too ironic right? That never happens to me. The article states:

Jawbone has released an announcement that it will offer a no-questions-asked refund policy on the UP in order to win back customer confidence.

I submitted my information and yesterday I got my refund in the mail. Nope, they weren’t kidding.

I’m not sure if this has really changed my opinion of the UP. After all, I did buy it from the Apple store and I’m sure they would have taken it back.

Overall thoughts: The data it collected was interesting, but not ground breaking. Again, the sleep data was by far the most interesting but not necessary. It didn’t help me sleep better, in fact I probably slept worse knowing it was tracking me ALL NIGHT LONG. The feature that allows you to compete against other people was motivating. I was waiting for my sister to get one and the day she did mine stopped working. Hilarious.

Overall great idea — I’m anxious to see what they come out with as an adaption to the UP. Will I buy it? Maybe. I haven’t lost my confidence in Jawbone.

Finding your truth and the F word.

I was surfing my TED subscription on YouTube and came across Gabrielle Bernstein‘s TEDxFiDiWomen Talk. I can’t recall how I heard of Bernstein, but she’s a motivational speaker and author of Add More Ing to Your Life: A Hip Guide to Happiness . She also has a YouTube channel that I subscribe to and quite enjoy. She posts short vlogs on recent thoughts or just general words of motivation.

Her TED Talk below put me in a good mood yesterday and convinced me that I need to start living beyond my wildest dreams, every day.

26 Days of UP by Jawbone

Yeah so Hi. It’s been a while since my last post on my favorite smoothies. I’ve started and stopped several posts until NOW.

Yesterday I purchased the UP by Jawbone and I am officially IN LOVE. UP is a new device created to track daily activities, specifically: eating, sleeping and movement to inspire healthier lifestyles. The device itself is a bracelet that you wear 24 hours a day. It collects data on steps, workouts and food intake during the day and sleep patterns at night. I really like the bracelet because it’s both stylish (IMO) and comfortable. I forget I’m wearing it!

So far the most interesting data collected is while I’m sleeping. It tracks how often I wake up and whether I’m getting light or deep sleep. IT’S CRAZY! The first night I slept horribly — probably because I was anxious to get the reading as soon as I woke. This is what the reading looked like on my first day:

The other really cool feature is that you can set it as an alarm clock – a silent alarm clock that vibrates to gently wake you. The technology is designed to intelligently wake you at the ideal moment in your natural sleep cycle just before your desired wake time. This might be the best feature.

The active data is interesting – not sure how accurate it is though. I wore it to the gym today where I did cardio for over an hour – a mix of running, step and latter work. It couldn’t accurately calculate my steps on a machine, but it did calculate my time on the treadmill.

Another very cool feature is the movement reminder. Set an interval of time (I set mine at an hour) and your UP wristband will vibrate on your wrist to remind you to move when you’ve been inactive for too long. This could also be my favorite feature.

The food log is, eh OK. It tracks food with images you take with your phone, which is a great reminder but it can’t accurately tabulate calories through those images (that would be cool!). I wouldn’t suggest getting the UP solely to track food intake since the data collected isn’t giving a reading of anything useful if you are trying to count calories.

I’m anxious to use UP steadily for the remainder of the month of December. I’ll report back in January with a more accurate review once I’ve used it daily for 26 more days.

Protein-Packed Smoothielicious Recipes

After surviving an awful stomach bug a few weeks ago, I still don’t have my appetite back. No complaints however, I’m still showing off my goal weight – booyah!

The only thing that I have had an absolutely overwhelming craving for are smoothies – BUT not just any smoothie – POWER PROTEIN SMOOTHIES. That’s right people – I can jam pack anywhere from 20 – 30 grams of protein into one cup of smoothie awesomeness. I am also getting a full serving (sometimes two) of the fruits and vegetables that my body craves. These smoothies fill me up, increase my protein intake for the day, AND pump me silly with vitamins and antioxidants.

Lots of you have asked me for some healthy smoothie recipes. Here are a few that I suggest. Just dump all the ingredients into your mixer and blend until smooth! Comment below – let me know what you think of them!

Spring Cleaning Smoothie via Eat Clean Diet
Don’t let the color turn you off – this smoothie packs 14g of protein and a whole lot of flavor. Try it for breakfast on the go!

• 1 tsp / 5 ml Spirulina powder
• 1 serving hemp protein powder (or any kind of protein powder you prefer)
• 1 Tbsp / 15 ml coarsely ground flaxseed
• 1/4 cup / 60 ml dry oatmeal
• 1/2 banana
• 1/3 cup / 80 ml applesauce
• 1/2 tsp / 2 1/2 ml vanilla
• Handful of ice cubes
• 1 kiwi, peeled and sliced (Optional: save 1 or 2 slices for garnish)
• 1/3 cup / 80 ml low-fat plain yogurt
• 1/2 cup / 120 ml milk of your choice
• Juice of 1/2 orange

Tropical Tango Smoothie via Oxygen Magazine
If you like Pina Coladas and getting caught in the rain you’ll LOVE this healthier rendition.

• 1/2 cup mango, sliced
• 1/2 cup pineapple chunks
• 1 cup non-fat vanilla soy milk
• 1 tablespoon honey
• 2 ice cubes
Optional – Top this smoothie with 2 teaspoons almonds, sliced.

Cake-like Vanilla Blackberry Smoothie via the Clean Eating Club Online
Who doesn’t cake? Celebrate your hard workout at the gym this morning with this as your afternoon treat!

• 1 cup Light Silk Soymilk
• 1 scoop vanilla flavored protein powder
• 1/4 c. frozen blackberries (sub any frozen fruit you prefer)
• 1 tbs. wheat germ
• 1 tbs. ground flax seed

The Purple Protein Shake from the Feb 2011 Issue of Oxygen Magazine
This is my new FAVE! If you want to ward off the flu or dodge that cold which has been floating around your office – this shake is definitely for you. Mangoes are a real boost to your immune system with a superior blend of vitamins A, C and E!

• 1/4 cup frozen blueberries
• 1/4 cup frozen mango pieces
• 1/4 cup frozen cherries
• 1/2 cup sugar free & fat free yogurt (plain or vanilla)
• 1 tsp honey
• 1 scoop of vanilla whey protein powder
• 1 tsp flaxseed oil

I met Gabrielle Bonheur tonight.

Breathtakingly gorgeous, Coco Before Chanel was an amazing look at the life of Gabrielle Bonheur “Coco” Chanel, the pioneering French fashion designer who’s menswear-inspired fashions with expensive simplicity make her one of the most important figures in the fashion industry, ever.

The film began as the quiet young Coco, at the age of 12 years, was dropped at the orphanage of Aubazine where she learned the trade of a seamstress. After six years in the orphanage she left and continued her work as a seamstress by day and a cabaret singer by night. She performed in clubs where the regulars called her “coco” after the songs she used to sing: Vous n’auriez pas vu Coco?

Chanel was a determined young woman. She was tough, hard working, dedicated to her craft and terribly ambitious. While living as a mistress with Étienne Balsan, a French textile heir, she continued her work in the tailoring shop then began designing hats as a hobby. She designed many hats for Balsan’s friend — the theater actress Gabrielle Dorziat which helped her gain recognition as a designer. Her hobby soon turned into a deep interest, a passion that took her to Paris and opened her eyes to the world of fashion.

After becoming a licensed hat maker (modiste) in 1910, Chanel opened a boutique at 21 rue Cambon, Paris named Chanel Modes. She continued to design luxurious hats for Gabrielle Dorziat until the love of her life, Captain Arthur Edward ‘Boy’ Capel, whom she met through Balsan, died it a tragic car accident. The film portrayed Chanel’s devastation as life changing, fully propelling her fashion design. She spent her days and all hours of the night developing her ideas into a career as a fashion designer.

The film’s cinematography was sensational. Each frame was gracefully articulate in color, composition, lighting. Here are a few frames in sequential order.











Watch the trailer and submerse yourself in Coco.