adventure, New York City, technology, travel

Leap: Unplug and Play

This morning I am happily unplugging from my devices and taking a field trip up to City Island, a tiny fishing village in the Bronx.

Did your face just crinkle in confusion? You read that right – a small bucolic fishing village is nestled into the shoreline of the Bronx. I’ve been fascinated by its existence for several years and I finally blocked out the time for a visit. My friend, Moya, is joining me for the adventure.

I’ll be taking pictures and noting points of interest that we find during our day of meandering. Tomorrow you’ll have the full scoop. Get out there and enjoy your Sunday!

choices, courage, creativity, strengths

Leap: Be One of the Best People

“The best people possess a feeling for beauty, the courage to take risks, the discipline to tell the truth, the capacity for sacrifice.” ~ Ernest Hemingway, American author

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about the colorful characters that comprise my life, thinking of friendships and relationships old and new, past and present. When I consider the ones who truly inspire me, whose mere presence lifts me up to new heights, their qualities match those from the Hemingway quote above.

They are the ones who have a real sense of design, and not necessarily design of products, services, events, and the like, but a sense of design for life.

They are the ones who courageously step out of the fray to do something good and important, not just for themselves, but for the world as a whole.

They are people who tell the truth with grace and dignity, even when it’s hard to hear, who stand for something and stand up for others who need support. They are also people who recognize that if you lift others as you rise, rather than put others down, that everyone rises together faster and with greater ease.

They are people who give up a bit today – whether that bit is money or a fancy title or praise or that pesky bit of ego – for the sake of building something greater than themselves. They understand that to win in the long-run often requires some kind of loss in the short-term.

These are the people I admire, the people who inspire me to keep being the best version of me every day. They are people who recognize that we may not always succeed, but that we always have the option to try and try again. They are my heroes.


Leap: Kindness Multiplies

From Pinterest

“A single act of kindness throws out roots in all directions, and the roots spring up and make new trees. The greatest work that kindness does to others is that it makes them kind themselves.” ~ Amelia Earhart

Kindness has the ability to change hearts. And once you change someone’s heart, you can begin to change someone’s mind.

They will open up in beautiful and unexpected ways. They will begin to feel empowered and support the dreams and hopes of others. They will see that despite all of the tough circumstances in the world, there is light. No matter how difficult today is, someone with a kind heart will always work to make tomorrow better.

creativity, risk, Sesame Street, strengths, time, work, worry

Leap: Turning Fear Into Fuel

20120926-133112.jpg“Worry does not empty tomorrow of its sorrow; it empties today of its strength.” – Connie ten Boom, Dutch writer

People are worried about me. Some are afraid I am not making enough money. Some are sending me job descriptions just in case I’ve realized freelance work isn’t for me and I’d like to go back to working in a corporate office the way I was 3 months ago. I appreciate their concern and always answer these concerns the same way. I tell them I am just fine, not to allay their fears, but because I truly am fine. This is the life I wanted and it’s working.

Yesterday, I secured a wonderful contract through June 2013 with the Joan Ganz Cooney Center (JGCC) at Sesame Street to work on their National STEM Video Game Challenge. The JGCC is a digital media research lab within Sesame. (You can get more info on the program here – Pursuing my passion for tech that improves the world wouldn’t have been possible on this scale if I hadn’t taken a chance to go out on my own.

Yes, I still have to hustle. Yes, I am still working on lining up some additional assignments so that I can fully cover all of my expenses and not dig into my savings, but perhaps begin to add to those savings again. (If you can help on those fronts, I’m all ears!) I have all the tools I need to make this happen. I’ve been preparing for it all my life, and I know deep down that this is the path I want and need to take. I spent years acting on a plan to make this happen.

We can worry about tomorrow. We can let fear and anxiety stop us from doing just about everything. They are tough hurdles to clear, but if we are to ever doing anything extraordinary with our time, we have to go on in spite of fear. We have to gather our worries and burn them up to generate fuel for the work we are meant to do.


Leap: Fight Boredom; Seek Beauty

“Nobody is bored when he is trying to make something that is beautiful, or to discover something that is true.” – William Inge

Engagement and inspiration are the greatest motivators on Earth. With them, we persevere through difficult times, we rise to meet every challenge, we persist even in the face of probably defeat. They help us understand that we are a part of something greater, that we are part and parcel to a grander plan.

Today, consider the beauty of your work. Discover some new layer of truth. And if beauty and truth are not immediately apparent on the surface, dig deeper. Find them – in the work itself, the people around you, the cause your are supporting, in you as you learn, grow, and evolve as a result of the work. No matter what you’re doing today, beauty and truth are lying in wait for you somewhere. Shine a little light on them and watch how they begin to take root in you.


Africa, philanthropy, social change, social entrepreneurship, social media, technology, thankful

Leap: Day #3 of Mashable’s Social Good Summit Wraps Up With Inspiring Calls to Action

This year’s Social Good Summit was full of examples of people fusing their passion for a cause with their expertise in technology. Thankfully all of the sessions are available online if you need a healthy dose energy and motivation. Here are my favorite highlights from yesterday’s events:

Making It Real
Nicholas Kristof, Pulitzer Prize winning journalist and co-author with his wife, Sheryl WuDunn, of the book Half the Sky, delivered one of the most-anticipated and talked-about conversations about their partnership with Games for Change. Kristof and WuDunn have dedicated their lives and careers to covering social cause issues in the most ravaged parts of the world. To raise societal consciousness, they have co-developed a set of Facebook games to help others understand the impossible choices and desperate circumstances of marginalized populations. Their book has also been expanded into a mini-series that will air on October 1st and 2nd on PBS. Details here:

Empowerment Through Low-Tech Solutions
Anthony Lake and Clay Shirky made the case for low-tech two-way communication over high-tech one-way communication. They highlighted u-report, an initiative in Uganda, that is empowering local communities to take responsibility for their health by disseminating information and results of programs through mobile SMS service. To date, u-report has 147,000+ users that are spreading information and local data about health topics such as vaccinations, sex education, and breast-feeding. This program fits the principle that, “Ideas must be aggregated for impact,” said Shirky. “Go where the people are. Tech in the field needs to be low-tech to be widely accessible.” Follow the conversation on this topic on Twitter, hashtag #Promise4Children, and come together for child survival by visiting

It Took a Village to Get the Lady to the Harbor
The crowdfunding discussions rehashed a lot of the facts and figures on their impressive impact that have been surfaced over the last few years. There’s no doubt that tech has vastly improved the efficiency and speed of crowdfunding. In all of our tech crazed eyes, we forget that crowdfunding is an ancient concept. For centuries, people have been banding together to do good work in their communities. My favorite example comes from New York Harbor. When France gave the Statue of Liberty to America, they forgot to create a pedestal. The people of New York, rallied together by Pulitzer, the publisher who ran a small print publication that would become the New York Times, pooled their funding to construct the pedestal. Over 100,000 people gave an average of $0.89 each to make it happen. Thanks to Danae Ringelmann, Co-Founder, Indiegogo, for reminding us of this historic act of generosity that demonstrates the power of community.

Of Food and Music
Angelique Kidjo is a world-renowned singer and songwriter. Originally from Benin, she is a Goodwill Ambassador for UNICEF, and never one to back down in the face of adversity, she spends a lot of her time advocating for women and girls around the globe. Anthony Lake shared the stage with her and explained that simple basic nutrition information is a tool that is incredibly effective and drastically underutilized in development work. He went on to detail the condition of Stunting that affects 160 million children worldwide. If children do not receive proper nutrition (not quantity but quality and variety of food) by age 2, they will suffer from permanent cognitive impairments. Getting help to these children in the earliest days of their lives is critical to building a peaceful, productive world.

In honor of the work of UNICEF, Angelique sang a gorgeous impromptu spiritual for all of us. I have no idea what she was saying, but I felt her emotion in every syllable and she brought tears to my eyes. For the first time in 3 days, the auditorium went completely silent except for her voice.

Everyone’s an Idea Person
So, you’re an idea person who wants to stretch the boundaries of human impact? The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has thrown down the gauntlet. Get your idea down, send it in, and they’ll evaluate it for funding – $100K for a pilot with the potential of $1M to gain leverage and grow it. Visit for more information.

Audacious Ideas Get Support
The Global Fund and Wikipedia called on all of us to get creative with our mission statements. If Wikipedia had called people together to write a series of articles on any given topic, the reaction would have been mild at best. Instead, Founder Jimmy Wales put together a far grander vision – “to create a free encyclopedia for every person in every language.” It’s an enormous, unfathomable goal, and impossibility excites people to get involved. Who doesn’t love to be the underdog and triumph?

Transfer this kind of thinking to the issue of HIV / AIDS and you understand why The Global Fund has the audacity to dream of a world free of HIV in our lifetime. As they pointed out, we have eradicated diseases before. Small Pox is an excellent example. So why couldn’t we do the same thing with HIV / AIDS?

Reuniting Families Torn Apart
The Danish NGO Refugees United has partnered with Ericsson to reunite refugees separated by war. They have developed an online and mobile platform that creates profiles of refugees and then runs these profiles through a series of algorithms to match people to family members. They’ve engaged with 200,000 people to-date, mostly in Sub-saharan Africa. In 3 years, they want to grow the platform to 1 million people. Find out how to be a part of the solution at

Now What?
Conferences like the Social Good Summit fire people up in the moment, but what happens when they get back to their everyday lives. How do we keep this goodness going? Here’s my advice: go through the agenda from this year’s Social Good Summit, identify the cause you care about, and then connect with the people from the Summit who are involved with that cause.

Email them, follow their blogs and social media channels, send a card, or heck, send a carrier pigeon. Do what you can to reach out and build a bridge to someone who cares about the issues you care about. Build something together for the good of the world. In the words of Timothy Leary, “Find the others.”

election, government, justice, politics, writing

Leap: Like and Share The 47% Facebook Page

I am bowled over by the support I have received since recording a Youtube video in response to Mitt Romney’s 47% comment. Many people wrote to me to share their own stories of success that began with receiving assistance from the government to better their lives. I am moved and inspired by their words and actions.

Fresh off the Social Good Summit and Clinton Global Initiative gatherings, I wanted to do something more to help people share their stories and to illustrate the humanity behind the 47% statistic. Too often numbers are tossed around without the context of the narrative that gives them meaning and purpose. Behind that 47% figure are people who are trying to make the very best of use of their time, energy, and talent. They need our help and encouragement. Let’s help them to have a voice in this conversation.

Visit The 47% Facebook page to lend your support with a Like and to share your own story of success, hope, and gratitude. Together, we can help government to realize the good it can do by investing in all of its people.

creativity, design, social change, social entrepreneurship, technology

Leap: Day 2 of the Social Good Summit and Day 1 of Clinton Global Initiative

If you’re looking for a bit (or a tidal wave) of inspiration, head on over to the livestreams of the Social Good Summit and the Clinton Global Initiative. You can watch the sessions and participate in the conversations through Twitter with the hashtags #SGSGlobal and #CGI2012.

Here are my favorite highlights of the day:

Government is Worthy of Our Innovative Spirit
UN Ambassador Susan Rice spoke eloquently and passionately about public education, technology, government, and the need to serve. Every sentence had a nugget of wisdom in it, and the one that impressed me the most was her argument that we cannot give up on government as inefficient and hopeless because there are things that government can do that no other entity can do. She used herself as an example – as an African-American woman, she has the right to vote in this country because of government. She reminded all of us that government can and should provide opportunity for everyone within its reach.

A Lack of Secrets is a Blessing
Sol Adler, Executive Director of 92Y, gave a concise and powerful contemplation with these two questions: What would the world have been like in 1939 if we had Twitter? How many more relatives would I have been able to know if we actually knew what was happening in Europe? (Most of Mr. Adler’s family perished in the holocaust.)

He introduced Wlodzimierz Cimoszewicz, Former Prime Minister of Poland, who explained that our world now is suffering from atrocities that are as grim as the holocaust and that technology has the ability to end that. If we can raise awareness and encourage action to support peace and understanding, then we will be able to truly be able to create a better world.

Unemployment Is a Flaw of the System, Not the People
I’ve heard Muhammad Yunus speak a number of times before and he never fails to impress and inspire. His life mission is to alleviate poverty through opportunity, and this is within our grasp if we can harness the collective creative power of people through technology. His message is clear, “Concentrate on building businesses to solve social problems. Human creativity is limitless.”

Designing for Impact
The Clinton Initiative took the definition of design and expanded it exponentially to serve as its theme for this year’s event. President Clinton kicked off the event with this poignant sentiment – “We live to prove the cooperation works better than conflict. We act with far great impact when we rely on one another’s strength.” And in that spirit the conversation turned to the subject of design.

Tim Brown of IDEO elegantly explained that all designers, no matter what they are designing, no matter if they have formal training or not, begin with the same question: “How can I be helpful in this situation?” And they find that answer in the field. They roll up their sleeves and work. “Design is learning by doing, not just thinking.”

The conversations continue today and tomorrow for both events. Check out their websites for more details. Talk soon.

adventure, social change, society, technology

Leap: Social Good Summit Day #1 Highlights

We need to create our own solutions. Technology gives us a way to rise up and speak for ourselves.” ~ TMS “Teddy” Ruge, Co-Founder, Project Diaspora

TMS created the rally cry of the passionate individuals who are coming together from all over the world for the Social Good Summit. The first day of the event brought a giant wave of excitement and possibility for the use of technology to solve the world’s greatest social challenges. From health to education to environmental conservation, enthusiastic and insightful individuals across the globe are banding together with others to conceive of solutions and bring them to life.

Data is only useful when applied for the public good
With election season upon us, we’re bombarded by sparring matches, claims of past actions, and future promises. Here’s my biggest question: Where is the innovation in government? And today I got my answer.

In Washington, Todd Park, U.S. CTO and Assistant to the President for Tech, is leading the passionate charge by unlocking previously unusable data and making it downloadable by third parties who use it to build, in his words, “awesomeness”.  The federal government is hosting hackathons to ignite and unite appliers, people who want to take that data and build something that helps others.

The innovations coming from these hackathons are incredible and you can take a look at the examples at My favorite example is iTriage, a mobile app and website that gives users the ability to plug int their symptoms and their location, and find out the closest place for them to receive the right care at the right time. The results: it’s saving lives, creating jobs, and improving healthcare delivery, all from publicly available data filtered for individual use.

Women and girls get a voice and advocate
Jill Sheffield of Women Deliver made the case that supporting women and girls around the globe isn’t just the right thing to do, but the smart thing to do. Globally, we lose $15B of productivity every year because of unwanted pregnancies and pregnancy complications. Nearly all of this expense can be eliminated by utilizing technology to teach reproductive education to the 3 billion young people around the world who are under 25.

If women can’t plan their fertility, then they can’t plan their lives. How they plan their lives affects how the world evolves. By making women and girls the center of the development conversation, we can craft policies, programs, and actions to alleviate poverty more effectively.

Google Earth to the rescue
If a picture is worth a thousand words and knowledge is power, then Google Earth is the greatest powerhouse for social change ever created. Rebecca Moore brilliantly and expertly illustrated how Google Earth is being used to remove land mines, help indigenous tribes protect the rain forests, stop dangerous mountain top mining, and end genocide. It is used to influence policy, empower local communities, and raise philanthropic funds on a global scale.

If you thought Google was just for search, think again. It’s fast becoming a synonym for conscience, safety, peace, preservation, and community. In Rebecca’s words, “It’s going to be a great adventure.” More info at Google Earth Engine.

Tomorrow the Summit will kick off at 1pm Eastern. View the livestream here and follow the conversation on Twitter with the hashtag #SGSGlobal.

creativity, writing

Leap: The Joy of Free Writing

“To think creatively, we must be able to look afresh at what we normally take for granted.” ~ George Kneller

This week, I attended two one-hour classes at the Gotham Writer’s Workshop, one on essay and opinion writing and one on children’s writing. In both classes, we did free writing exercises in which we have a topic in mind, put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard), and write continuously until the instructor says “stop”.

I hadn’t practiced this technique in quite a while. Initially, I thought it was the stuff of high school writing classes. As I got into it, I found that it was incredibly helpful as it revealed ideas, opinions, and interests I never knew I had. It was also very liberating; it made me fearless.

At the start of the opinion and essay class, the instructor had us write down 6 topics that interest us. One of mine was tea and I chose that as my free writing topic. When I began, I had no idea what aspect of tea truly interested me but it became apparent very quickly. Below is the result that I hope to craft into a few different pieces in the coming weeks. This is the raw free writing copy without any edits:

Why is tea so comforting?
Is it the warmth or the body of the tea? Is it the loving kindness that it’s brewed with? Is it because it gives us time for reflection because we cannot simply hit go and have it be made like we can with coffee?

We have to actually open up the canister, fill up the tea soaker, boil the water, pour the water, and wait for just the right amount of time to get the right flavor

Tea demands all of our attention. It helps to focus us. We concentrate with tea in a way that we don’t concentrate in many other points in our lives. I also always think about the eyes that saw the leaves were just ripe, the hands that picked the ripe leaves and lovingly placed them in a basket. Tea leaves are picked by hand, not by machine. I think about the hands and eyes that roasted the tea, bagged it, packed it into a truck, and then drove it to a store or market. I think about the hands that placed it on a shelf, that rung up the order I purchased. So many hands come together to deliver a cup of tea. Dozens, maybe hundreds. Someone planted that tea plant, tended to it with water and soil, and sun. It took time to make, and I honor that time by taking time to brew it and drink it.

There’s a lot of introspection in tea, there’s a lot to ponder. I think I need another cup.

The is no end to the variety of tea, what type of leaf, how it’s roasted, what goes into it. There are so many grades and tea has such a history. Kingdoms have risen and fallen by its cup. It is amazing to think that at one point it was such a luxury, the beverage of kings and royalty, and now here I am in my humble apartment, sipping away, as if it’s just some choice I made from a supermarket, as if drinking it is just consequential, as if anyone could have it.

I think about free trade.

Have you ever tried free writing? Give it a shot:
1.) Think of a general topic
2.) Get out your pen and paper
3.) Set a timer for 5 minutes
4.) Go! And don’t stop writing until the timer goes off. Be completely free with your stream of consciousness. Forget all of the rules about writing and just get it all out. Write down anything that comes into your mind on the topic. You may be surprised at the results!

**Minor editorial note** This weekend I will be live blogging the Social Good Summit. On Saturday, Sunday, and Monday, those live blogs will take the place of my regularly scheduled posts. Hope you enjoy the conversation! For more details, click here.