General troublemaking, Tech

Are we living life, or watching it?

Lately I have become more acutely aware of how much time I, and others around me, spend experiencing the world around them through the lens of a phone camera, live tweets and Facebook statuses. Which has led me to wonder how much of the experiences we partake in are for ourselves, and how much is for the display to the world of how great our life is. I found myself thinking:

Are memories as enjoyable if they aren’t shared– physically or digitally– with others?

In an age of Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat and more (all platforms I use regularly!), I find myself and my peers seeking the perfect shot, the most beautiful representation of any moment. But are these moments really beautiful, or are we portraying them in a way that makes others seem that way? Are we partaking in activities just to put on display that we have done so? And when we find ourselves in a  truly memorable experience, are we really enjoying that sunrise, delicious meal, inspiring speaker, or adorable puppy or are we spending so much time trying to capture their beauty that we miss out on it altogether?

It’s a true concern of mine. Am I living my life, or watching it go by? Am I seeking to impress others to see what I see, or living my life so it’s something I am proud to display? And are those special moments becoming increasingly less special unless we can share them with others? While photography is a love and passion of mine, that doesn’t mean it has to be for all to see.

I have been toying with the idea going on an Instagram vacation. It’s laughable that that’s a challenging decision, to stop my publicly visible life for a month or two in order to really live it. Yet it’s hard in the digital age to not fall into the pit of social media, of displaying your every action– correction, every enjoyable, beautiful, impressive action– to all your closest friends and frienemies that can see your accounts.

As I type this, I decide I will partake in this experiment. Sorry folks, my Instagram is now on hiatus. See ya in 2015– who is with me?

General troublemaking, Professional Growth, Social Innovation

How a $55 Job Changed My Life

Two years ago I was in a job I was really unsatisfied in– I felt like the passionate person I was was being underutilized. Looking for a little extra cash and the ability to be exposed to new things, I signed up to be a TaskRabbit, a service where people can request others to do jobs for them— everything from grocery shopping to data entry to installing light fixtures. I did a few research jobs, and then came across some postings from General Assembly, a hub for entrepreneurs in NY, looking for people to help with events. Interested in the work they did, I put a few offers on their events and eventually got one to help set up and ensure there was enough beer out at a “tech night” event. It paid $55 for the three hour event— and a lot more in the long run.

In a weird, unbeknownst to me, foreshadowing, the event was a workshop from IDEO for Columbia MBA students on design thinking for startups (design thinking is the backbone of PresenTense’s curriculum). I thought it was incredibly interesting, and started to do some research on GA’s website about classes they offered to the public. I came across a series on Building High Impact Nonprofits and Social Enterprises and signed up immediately, as someone who has always considered starting my own non-profit. I didn’t even know what a social enterprise was. This was April 2012.

I took the class and learned a lot (also was exposed to many things I never even heard of before that excited me). When the organizer of the class, Shana Dressler, invited students to help her on a project she was working on to write a book about how to start social impact business, I jumped on the chance. A few weeks after I started the class at GA, I saw the job posting for PresenTense and decided that this was a direction I was excited and passionate about. I applied and cited my newly-gained “experience” including the class at the GA and my work on Shana’s team.

I accepted my position at PresenTense, an accelerator for social impact businesses, in June 2012. I continued to work with Shana and an amazing group of ladies on what became the Social Good Guides for almost a year, gaining tons of exposure in the social enterprise field. Two years after taking the class at GA, I am now heavily engrained in the social entrepreneurship space, and am passionate about the field. I couldn’t imagine a better field to me, nor one I would relate to more. Heck, I even think one day (maybe not so far away) I will be a founder myself.

(cue infomercial voice) But wait, there’s more! Because of my job at PresenTense I have been exposed to many different people, organizations, and projects, and made some pretty great friends as well. One of them is my dear friend Meredith, who, upon our meeting under PT auspices we realized we were quite similar (and even were wearing the same outfit when we met!), graciously introduced me to many of her friends, and invited me to join her book club. My friendship with Meredith, and participation in the Book Club, have opened me to a ton of new people, experiences, and like-minded individuals who are eager to take the world (and cause trouble!) like I am. Thanks, Meredith!

If you are trying to keep track, my $55 TaskRabbit job led me to: take classes in a new field, work on a project to empower social entrepreneurs, my job at PresenTense, lots of new friends and business connections, my book club, and I am sure more to come. Oh and did I mention I am ridiculously happy in this field working with some of the most inspiring people I’ve ever encountered? I think all that proves a pretty decent return on investment.

Okay cool, Sara, you are thinking. What’s your point? How do I strike gold with an odd job? Here’s what I want for you to take away, troublemakers:

  1. Everything in life is an opportunity, but only IF you choose to see it that way. My job from TaskRabbit was just to ensure a bar was stocked and to set up chairs, but I leveraged it beyond face value.
  2. You never know where opportunities will lead. Keep an open mind. Did I think signing up for TaskRabbit would lead me to a new career direction and a brand new awesome group of friends? No way!
  3. Take risks. I knew nothing about anyone in the Social Good Guides group, or much about the topic at hand, but it seemed like an opportunity to work with interesting people on an interesting subject.
  4. Put yourself in situations where you will be exposed to things that excite you, and where you will meet likeminded people. This is where the magic happens, even if you aren’t “qualified” in that field.
  5. Everything happens for a reason. I truly, deeply believe that. But sometimes you have to be a week, a year, or ten years removed to see what the reason was.
General troublemaking, Healthy Living

What I learned from a month of just being me

On December 31, I was running around like a lunatic. Doing my nails, finishing up work, writing down my resolutions and texting people to figure out plans, all in hopes of starting 2014 right. 2014, I decided, would be my year. 2012 was one of the most tumultuous of my life, 2013 was a year of recovery and growth, and 2014 was devoted to achieving extraordinary things. I was determined, and I was determined to wrap up all of the loose ends of 2013 on December 31 so that nothing could hold me back and I could start the year off running.

I woke up on January 1 feeling great. Ready to take on the world. So I did. I started gathering recipes and making plans for my Whole30 challenge that I was to start the next day. I went to two different grocery stores to get my ingredients, and prepped for hours. And I was off. Ready to take on the world, one Larabar at a time.

I also started making a plan to take on 2014. First were my resolutions:

  1. Hone my skills in branding and graphic design
  2. Continue to buy at most one item of clothing/shoes/accessory per month
  3. Make my bed every day
  4. 1second everyday video
  5. Do one thing I would never have expected myself to do
  6. Make a new recipe 1x/week
  7. Start a blog, update it at least 1x/week (oh, hey!)
  8. Take on a task or project that I am scared about/challenges me
  9. Be financially confident
  10. Try on no more than two outfits in the morning, put away clothes at night

Then the things to always keep in mind:

  1. Open myself to new experiences
  2. Be mindful of what I eat, how I treat my body, how I treat others and how I treat the world
  3. Put out in the world what I want to get back
  4. Invest in mutually beneficial relationships
  5. There is no such thing as “should”
  6. Do things that make me happy, avoid the others whenever possible (recognizing that it’s not always possible)

I reminded myself of all these things for a month, and proved to myself that I am capable of taking on the world. I trained with my personal trainer, stuck out all 30 days of the Whole30 (okay fine, I have three more meals!), cooked dozens of meals, kept organized with my work schedule and personal schedule, contributed as a member of a startup team, had a weeklong successful work trip to Miami, didn’t have a sip of alcohol (because of the Whole30!), took a Skillshare class, found a new office for my team, and took on my first branding client. I made sure to keep in touch with friends and to filter out the energy I didn’t need around me. I avoided dating so that I could focus on myself and what makes me happy without the distraction of adjusting to someone else’s needs. I spent time with family. I booked a trip to Peru for April. I started implementing Friday “personal workdays” where I can focus on tasks and projects I am working on outside of my job description (I am fortunate to work a four-day work week at my day job!). Overall, I got things done.

January was one of the most productive and empowering months of my life, and I believe it was all about the framing. I went into 2014 with a positive, can-do, ready to take on the world attitude. And that’s what I did. I believe you can do the same if you set goals and actually believe you can.

I can’t wait to see what’s in store for the next 11 for me and all you troublemakers. Let’s make 2014 a year of productivity towards ourselves and the world. Are you in?