Exactly two months ago, I decided to try to make ACanofCoke.com, my online college- and career-readiness service, a reality. This week I scheduled meetings with 3 NYC public high school principals to talk about doing a pilot with their students this summer and fall. It took emailing 398 principals to get this response. Hey if it’s a numbers game, then I’m ready to play.
The mission of this idea matters so much to me that I’m not bothered by the rejection. I could look at this as ~1% of the schools I emailed are interested or I could see it as ~99% aren’t. I’m going with the former.
Rejection is a part of business, art, and life. We will be rejected far more often than we are accepted – at least that’s been my experience and the experience of just about everyone I know. It’s not the amount of failure we endure, but the persistence and passion that matter most. As Babe Ruth once said, “It’s tough to beat someone who never gives up.” Keep going.
You never forget your first time. Picture this. The year is 2007. A young Italian woman makes her way to the lower east side of Manhattan onto a small, dark, and empty street. She meets a man who leads her through a flimsy, unmarked door into a small, steamy room. Immediately, she’s intoxicated by the wild activity, the joyful chattering, and the slurping.
And so began my love affair with ramen. That woman was me. The man was my friend, Michael. The door led to Minca, still my very favorite ramen I’ve ever had. The steam and wild activity came from the open kitchen, if you can even call it that. It really felt more like a giant stove with gargantuan metal pots of bubbling broth, and that was just fine with me. The slurping emanated from the giddy guests packed into a tiny dining area, and grateful just to have a place to take in the goodness from their piping hot bowls.
Since then, Michael and I have had many bowls of ramen together. He’s my ramen guru, alerting me to the latest and greatest on the art of ramen scene. He and his wonderful wife, Min, are two of my favorite dining companions. They’ve introduced me to all kinds of new foods, mostly Japanese, Korean, and Chinese, and I have happily taken it all in. I keep threatening to go visit them in China, and eventually I’m going to make good on that. I plan to eat my way through that country and enjoy every second of it!
I will admit that when Michael first asked if I wanted to go have ramen, I started laughing. “You mean those 25 cent packets of crunchy noodles with a salty flavor packet wrapped in cellophane?” I asked. Michael laughed. He said something akin to “you don’t know what you’re missing.” And he was right.
That bowl of ramen at Minca was heavenly. I was struck by the number of hours it takes just to prepare that rich and flavorful broth. I learned to appreciate the just right chewy bite of the noodles cooked perfectly to the second. And then there are all the toppings. I could go on and on, but I’d never do it justice with words. Ramen must be experienced to fully appreciate its value. To slurp it is to love it. It’s the most comforting of comfort foods.
I wrinkled by nose on Sunday when I read in the New York Times Cooking section about how to make the perfect bowl of instant ramen. “Instant ramen?” I croaked. Phineas looked over at me from his bed with an equally disapproving expression. “Look, it’s bone broth or nothing,” I said to him. He nodded approvingly and went back to snoozing. But, was I missing something? I mean, if Chef Roy Choi tells me how to make perfect instant ramen in the New York Times, then who am I to tell him he’s wrong without at least trying it?
I was at the grocery store yesterday to pick up a couple of items, and I passed by those sad-looking instant ramen packets. I picked one up, chuckled to myself the way one does when they think they know better, and put it back. Instant ramen. Ha! No way. I got to the checkout lane and at the last second doubled back. I just kept thinking about that instant ramen. Maybe it was worth a try. So I picked up the package again and decided to put Roy Choi to the test.
I’m gad I did. I used his simple recipe with a poached egg and butter. I further doctored mine using pepper jack cheese instead of American, a few dashes of hot sauce, soy sauce, and sesame oil, and topped it with a little thyme and tarragon. The result was something far different from the instant ramen I grabbed off the shelf of my grocery store. It was transformed into something delicious and satisfying that far exceeded my expectations. Not anything like Minca but certainly a fine lunch. And Phineas, my little sous chef, concurred so it must be true. Roy Choi, you win. I’m sorry I ever doubted you.
Yesterday was a wonderful day! My publisher and I set a launch date for my book, Emerson Page and Where the Light Enters. On November 1, 2017, Emerson’s story will be released to the world exactly three years after I started writing the first draft as part of National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). Thumbkin Prints, an imprint of Possibilities Publishing Co., and I are planning fun giveaways, exclusive content, and fun events as pub day approaches. To stay in-the-know, take a second to sign up for my email list at https://goo.gl/forms/GwZKMm8gR3zhFVGJ2. I promise no spam, only goodness!
“You don’t have a right to the cards you believe you should have been dealt. You have an obligation to play the hell out of the ones you’re holding.” ~Cheryl Strayed
My friend, Joi, posted this quote a few weeks ago and it was exactly the message I needed. Some of us are born with a great talent. Others of us are born into great fortunate. And still others are blessed with creativity, a strong work ethic, and / or a desire to do something that makes the world a better place in some way. Too often we focus on the piece(s) we don’t have instead of the gifts we do have.
We all need something. If we’re meant to have it, it’ll show up. I believe that. I’ve seen it happen in my own life and in the lives of others. In the meantime, our job is to work like hell to do the best we can with what we’ve got. That’s what I’ll be doing this week on a number of fronts.
What are you working on?
This article is a good primer on the many struggles that women face in the workplace, with one glaring omission: 50% of all workplace bullying is between a female boss and a female employee. I have been on the ugly receiving end of that scenario several times. It’s awful. And it has to stop.
Women, we must support and encourage one another just as much as we seek to right the horrible wrongs of sexual harassment. A healthy workplace will not be created if we just focus on gender disparity in all its hideous forms. For every O’Reilly, there are many more acts of micro-aggression that over time do just as much damage. This is not an issue of men vs. women. This is a human issue, and everyone needs to be a part of solving it. O’Reilly and others like him got away with his behavior for so long because too many people, men and women, looked the other way because they weren’t directly impacted.
The workplace too often lacks empathy, compassion, and true collaboration. That plays out in wage and promotion disparity, diverse representation at every level of a company, in products and product marketing, and in daily team dynamics. To solve problems in the workplace and in the world, we need to stand side-by-side, men and women, roll up our sleeves, and solve problems together.
In-fighting and aggression in any form doesn’t solve anything; it makes everything worse for everyone—employees, employers, companies, shareholders, and customers. When we go to work tomorrow, let’s not think about how we’ll get even or get our fair share. Let’s take action to make the environment better for all people. Let’s raise the tide.
A week from now, I’ll be in Charlottesville at my 10th reunion with my dear Darden MBA friends. Those two years were joyful and difficult. They were filled with learning and challenges and triumphs. I was sometimes disappointed and sometimes elated. I failed and succeeded in equal amounts. I worked my tail off every single day. And the greatest thing I received there was not a degree but the amazing relationships I formed. We started that journey as classmates, students, professors, and staff members. Two years later, we were friends. And that is priceless. Can’t wait to give all of you a hug in a week!
I’m in my next round of edits with my publisher and we’re putting together the marketing plan. The cover art and illustrations are in progress. The question I most often get, of course, is “what is the book about?” Here’s a short, draft synopsis:
Thirteen-year-old Emerson wants to know who killed her mother, Nora, and why. Nora was a gifted anthropologist well known for her research on ancient cultures and languages. Five years ago, Nora was found dead on the steps of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. “We’ve never seen anything like it,” the NYPD’s spokesperson said. “Life has gone out of her with no explanation.” And with that, the police gave up their search for answers.
But Emerson didn’t. Her journey to discover the answers about her mother’s death takes her deep below the street of New York City on a dangerous adventure into a secret world of books where the very existence of human imagination is at stake. She must survive and thrive a battery of mental, emotional, and physical challenges if she is to fulfill her destiny, protect everyone she loves, and continue her mother’s legacy. If Emerson fails, human creativity and imagination will cease to exist.
Time is running out. A dangerous threat looms large and too close to home as Emerson must choose between fulfilling the last promise she made to her mother and ensuring that the human capacity for creativity is preserved forever. Will she defy her mother’s final wish or sacrifice the only living family she has left?
“Let it all go. See what stays.” ~Unknown
Sometimes we spend so much time and energy hanging on to thing, to dreams, to ideas, and to people that we forget why we’re doing it. We can lose ourselves in that process. I think it’s a good practice to take stock of the different areas of our lives. What do we value? What adds meaning to our lives? What weighs us down? What’s missing? The big questions aren’t easy to ask, or answer, but they’re always worth it.
Yesterday I turned down an opportunity for a new job. A great job. A job with a wonderful mission that matches my skill sets and would be the next step on the technology-based product development path I’ve been on for almost a decade. I’ve now done this several times in the past month.
“Why?” you might be asking. The opportunities were great, but not great for me. Sometimes the culture wasn’t right. Other times the team wasn’t right. Often the communication wasn’t right, or non-existent. And most importantly, that path isn’t the one I want to be on anymore. It’s been a great decade. I’ve learned a ton, so much more than I ever thought I’d learn when I started down this road. I’m glad I took this journey, and I’m glad it’s over. Like a good long hike, my body’s tired but my mind is clear and my heart is full. The view is spectacular, and now I’m ready to take another road on another adventure.
That adventure has to be heavily focused on writing, communication, and relationship-building. It has to take full advantage of the business skills I’ve spent a considerable amount of time and money to hone. It has to be brimming with creativity and the mission of the work has to be to build a better world. I think that these kinds of opportunities will be with a socially driven for-profit company or a nonprofit. And as far as location, I’m looking at New York, Philadelphia, and D.C. I’ve spent my life in this Northeast Amtrak corridor. I’ve gone to school here. The majority of my close friends and contacts are in and around those cities. Nearly all of my past employers are based here. I am by all accounts an east coaster, and proud of it. I’m a New Yorker at heart, and I always will be. Once you know exactly who you, you can’t be anyone else. Authenticity and integrity are everything.
I talked to my friend, Chris, yesterday. We talked about how important it is to align who we are with what we do as the key criteria to a happy career. You can only play a role for so long. Eventually, you walk off the stage, you take off the costume and the makeup, and all you’re left with is the person in the mirror. Bare-faced—scars, imperfections, and all. Now that’s the person I listen to. The heart and the gut I follow belong to her. And her time is now. So is yours.
“Life has been your art. You have set yourself to music. Your days are your sonnets.” ~Oscar Wilde
Yesterday I was clipping along on my book edits and looking at cover art. At the end of the day, I fully realized just how lucky I am to have this time to see a goal I’ve been working to accomplish for years come to fruition. So much of what I’ve been through in my life is packed into this book, in subtle and not-so-subtle ways. I turned over every stone. I left it all out there on the page, just like an athlete leaves the best of their abilities out on the field. And no matter what happens, I’m proud of that effort. I’m prouder of that effort than I am of anything else I’ve done in my life. Oscar Wilde’s right. My life has been my art, specifically it’s been this book.