My Dream of Filming a Documentary

Two weeks ago, I arrived at the Beacon Hill office of Lorie Conway, a former WGBH producer, and documentary filmmaker, to have her shoot my 30-second MBA videos for Fast Company (thanks to an introduction by Morra Aarons-Mele of We are Women Online). We shot the video alright — and then I shared a dream of mine.

Watch what happened next.

What happens when you say your dreams out loud?

P.S.  Now I need to learn how to use Pixability so I can not only search engine optimize (SEO) this blog post, I can SEO YouTube.

Becky Robinson | When Doing Your Dream is Hard Work

What if you are living your dream and it is really hard work? Is it still a dream?

Earlier this summer, while on a working vacation, I wondered about this while watching the trainers/performers with the whales and dolphins in the shows at Sea World.

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It must be a dream come true for them to be working and performing at Sea World. But it is also hard work.

So does it feel like a dream?

My husband always jokes that he and other federal law enforcement agents are “living the dream.” They say it tongue-in-cheek, with this unspoken recognition that they get to do the job many people dream of doing, and that it isn't really all that dreamy in real life. Their jobs are not the stuff of TV crime shows and news segments. Instead, they work for months, years even, to get a big break on a case. Condensed into a 60 minute TV show, it looks a lot cooler than it actually is. So they're living the dream — they are — but not.

For me, living my dream of running a business is hard work. On that working vacation, I got up at 5 am because there were emails to answer, clients to serve.  And anytime I try to take a day off, when I sneak a look at my cell phone while enjoying time with family, there is always work waiting.

But sometimes there is something wonderful waiting, too.

On the day at Sea World, I received an e-mail of encouragement, one that helped me realized I am making a difference.

Yes, the hard work is definitely worth it to live my dream.

***

What do you think? If you are living your dream and it is really hard work, is it still a dream?

Is the dream in the doing or the having done it?

This post is from Becky Robinson of Weaving Influence, with whom I am happily co-hosting a Dare, Dream, Do webinar on August 2.

Megan Nelson | My Law School Dream

Early on, it seemed that a career in law was in my cards.

It may have begun when I was 5 and became intrigued by news coverage of the O.J. Simpson trial, which always seemed to be on at our house.  I was particularly drawn to the confidence and articulateness of the attorneys and legal analysts on TV, and I told my family right then that I wanted to be a lawyer when I grew up.  Through the years, I naturally gravitated toward activities like Student Government and Speech & Debate, trying to emulate the confident, articulate woman I dreamed of becoming.

Then I started college.

As a 17-year-old freshman, I still intended to go to law school, but by my sophomore year, I put my dream on hold.  I began believing my mostly well-meaning peers and professors who preached that there were too many lawyers in the job market.  According to them, law school was only for students who couldn’t get a “real” job, and they implied that the “right” path for an econ major like me was a career in finance.  Besides, as someone who is generally terrified of debt, I was discouraged by the cost of law school.  I casually dismissed my childhood dream as impractical and searched full-steam ahead for a good job.

My efforts paid off, and I landed a financial analyst position at Intel right out of college. In many ways I loved the challenges of my job, but after about a year, I sensed something was missing.  Number crunching was not my passion, but I felt particularly energized by projects that required me to analyze accounting laws, draft internal policies, and present to management.  Every day, a career in corporate law seemed to make more sense, and on cue, my dream resurfaced.

Within a week, I enrolled in an LSAT prep course and took the exam a few months later. But after earning a sizable promotion and receiving my good-but-not-spectacular LSAT results, I again put my law school dream on hold, dismissing the whole experience as a whim.  But, intuitively, I knew I was giving up too soon.

In October of 2011, I reconnected with my friend and mentor, Whitney Johnson.  Whitney knew that I had taken the LSAT and asked how the application process was going.  I opened my mouth, preparing to stammer out the recited reasons for why law school was not right for me, but without warning, I started crying.

A bit embarrassed but really needing her advice, I vented my concerns about leaving a solid job, taking on student debt, and wondering if I was even good enough to get into a decent school.  Pausing for a moment, Whitney warmly placed her hand on my shoulder and said with complete sincerity but firmness, “I believe you are choosing not to apply to law school for the wrong reasons.  I dare you to at least apply, and then you can decide whether to go.  Don’t close doors on opportunities until the doors close.”

Slightly taken aback, I didn’t make any promises, but I thanked Whitney for listening and by the end of the weekend, I decided to accept her dare.  With gusto, I applied to over 20 schools and ultimately received zero rejections, a few waitlisted offers, and many acceptances to top tier law schools.  By accepting my friend’s initial dare to simply apply to law school, I embraced my very own dare to follow through and start a JD program this fall at Arizona State.

While I don’t regret the three years I worked in finance, I’m glad it didn’t take much longer to identify—with a friend’s help—the wrong reasons I had cited for almost foregoing another dream.  Ironically, it was as I was starting a new role as a risk analyst that I realized that the real and imaginary risks of applying and going to law school—the rising cost of tuition, uncertain legal job market, and risk of rejection—were completely dwarfed by the even more real risk of regret.  To be sure, I’m quite confident that actually being a lawyer will be much different from the vision of lawyering that was presented to me 18 years ago on TV.  And, while I can’t perfectly predict where my career will take me in the next 5-10 years, I am certain that I’m dreaming in the right direction and that the next time I think about prematurely closing doors to opportunities, I won’t.

Megan Nelson grew up in the Los Angeles area and holds a degree in economics.  She has enjoyed a 3-year career at Intel in Phoenix and is preparing to start law school at Arizona State University in August 2012.  Megan has two sisters and spends much of her spare time visiting family and volunteering at her church.

Marie Ericson | Pulling a Dream From the Pantry

It is Thursday night and I am once again staring into my pantry wondering what to make for dinner.  That feeling of confusion and wonder sometimes mixed with hopefulness and possibility. It’s a similar feeling I get on Monday morning when I stare at the business suits in my closet and reach for the yoga pants and wonder what my next step should be to get back in those suits, or if I even want to get back into the suits.

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I look into my cupboard every night. I make dinner every night. I love to cook. I thrive on figuring out what to make with what I have on hand. Over the last few years, I’ve built up a blog that focuses on what I end up making each night for my family. Other than my family, cooking has been my focus, my joy, my love.

Now I am ready to go back to work. Like when I first look in my pantry, I am not quite sure what to do next. While I have practiced immigration law, have helped numerous victims of domestic violence, asylum seekers, victims of human trafficking and other immigrants who are looking for the American dream, I am looking for that American dream myself.

I was born in South Africa. We moved to the U.S. when I was 2 years old.  It was supposed to be temporary, for my dad to finish his post doc. My parents wanted more opportunities for my brothers and me, so it became permanent. We were lucky that my dad had a university on our side to help with the process toward citizenship.

I have been lucky to have had the opportunities to go to college in Washington DC, law school in Seattle, WA and become a lawyer, mother, wife and friend that hopefully make the sacrifice my parents made worth it. As the mother of a 4.5 year old and 2 year old twins, time to myself for informational interviews, networking, the research I dreamed I would work on while home with the kids, and some days even showering, is not possible.

I want to be able to be a role model for my children. I want to make a difference and help people. I know, it sounds hokey and idealistic, but knowing that my work has made it possible for someone else to succeed, makes me feel successful.

After reading Ann Marie Slaughter’s recent article in The Atlantic on women not being able to have it all, I don’t know if I am encouraged or discouraged. I find myself stuck between wanting to work, but needing it to pay enough to put my three children in childcare, while still being able to make it home to cook and have a healthy dinner together.

Am I crazy? Does this exist?

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By taking stock of what is in my pantry I know I can be better prepared to make a meal. By taking stock of my skills and experiences can I be better prepared to make a new career or get back into my former work or start something new altogether? There are websites that allow you to type in the ingredients in your pantry and then give you suggestions on what to make for dinner with what you have on hand and what extra you may need to complete the recipe. So here are my skills, put out here on the internet, hoping through this exercise I can discover my new dream and what I need to do to get there.

As a daughter and friend I have learned respect, love, compassion, empathy, how to be emotionally supportive and how to be supported.

As the younger sister of two older brothers I’ve learned to be strong, fast, and talk to make myself heard.

As an athlete I have learned teamwork, loyalty, persistence, hard work, dedication, determination and cooperation.

As a person living with Rheumatoid Arthritis I’ve learned strength, tolerance, patience,  how to overcome obstacles and how to rest.

In my professional life before law school I gained a whole different set of skills. I became a trainer, mentor, organizer, strategic thinker, diplomat, analyst, recruiter, cross cultural communicator and leader.

As a lawyer I have learned to defend, argue, pay attention to detail, write, help, speak, protect, analyze, research and conduct thorough background checks on babysitters.

As a cook I have become more creative, spontaneous and confident. I can make a cheese sauce while helping 2 year old twins fingerpaint and braiding Barbie’s hair for my 4.5 year old.

As a host for the holidays, dinner parties, kids birthday parties I have learned planning, time management, conversation, and board game skills.

As a wife (for 10 plus years) I have learned to cooperate, communicate, be humbled and be a partner.

As a mother, through successes and failures, I have learned to multi-task, improvise, be patient, bite my tongue, gain stamina, sing the Thomas the train theme song in a British accent, get 3 kids and myself out the door before 8 am fully clothed, fed and covered in sun screen and to have a sense of humor.

As a food blogger, I have learned a different style of writing and photography and found a new creative outlet.

Each part of life creates different skills, teaches you lessons, like when you burn a pie or put too much salt in your sauce, next time you have a better sense of what to do to improve it. After all my successes and challenges I am ready for that “dream” job. What that dream job is however, I’m not sure.

Thrown together, what can I do now with skills from my “pantry”? What “recipes” can I create?

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I could be a human rights scholar, practicing attorney, chef, food blogger or whatever I set my mind to, but as with getting a home cooked meal on the table each night, there are obstacles in the path: childcare costs, house payments and fear of the unknown.  How do I find a job where I can help people, feel as though I’ve advanced in my career, get paid what I am worth, have flexibility to be there for my children when needed and still make it home before dinner, when I don’t have time to properly network or do informational interviews?

What are your thoughts? (Give Marie advice by answering my poll at Honestly, Now) Anyone you'd introduce Marie (pronounced MAree) too? Any food-related start-ups in search of well-qualified attorney? Any interim baby steps you'd recommend Marie take?

Marie Ericson moved to the Boston area just over a year ago after 8 years in Seattle and 8 years in Washington, DC. Her family initially moved to the Boston area from South Africa in the late 70s. The move became permanent and she became a U.S. citizen. Going to college in Washington DC, she started a career in international development. However, 4 years later law school called her name and she and her husband decided to make it an adventure and move out to Seattle for her to attend the University of Washington, School of Law. She became a lawyer in 2006, became a parent for the first time in 2007 and again (times 2) in 2010. In between she practiced immigration law, worked at a non profit running legal clinics, stayed at home with her daughter and started her cooking blog. When she found out she was having twins, they decided that the time was right to move back to the East Coast to be closer to family. She is currently staying at home with her 2 year old twin boys and 4.5 year old daughter.

The Power of a Single Voice

Earlier this week, I discovered Chimamanda Adichie's TED talk titled The Danger of a Single Story.  As she so beautifully states, “the single story creates stereotypes, and the problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue, but that they are incomplete. They make one story become the only story.”

]

That same day, I came across Adichie's talk (h/t YA author Julie Berry), I learned about  A Challenge to Digital Influencers:  Join the #One4One game.   As Forbes blogger Deanna Zandt writes, “a bunch of us who work in the tech and information industries are tired of pointing out that women and people of color are missing from lists, from panels, from articles about the industry, and that it’s the same six straight white guys having conversations about the future of media, technology and, well, everything.”  But rather than lobbing in yet another e-mail to the compilers of digital influencer lists, Deanna Zandt, Melissa Pierce, and Andrew Rasiej, decided to create their own list of influencers, with this simple call to action:  name one influencer whose identity is radically different from yours (if you are a man, name a woman, for example) as your #One4One.  I happily nominated Denise Jacobs, a veteran web developer, expert on creativity, and with whom I sit on the Advisory Board at Just Family. If you'd like to play, here's a sample tweet:  A Challenge to Digital Influencers: Join The #One4One Game http://onforb.es/LYLrHi Mine is @_______.

As people have read Dare, Dream, Do, some have asked me why so many stories.  Adichie's story helps me articulate why.  If I had included only my story, the message could easily have been construed as ‘how to have a successful career’, rather than a book about the why, what and how of dreaming.

There is danger in a voice, and a single story — but when we share our stories and voices — there is a singular power.

***

“We are impressionable and vulnerable in the face of a story.” – Chimamanda Adichie #one4one

How

[stories] are told, who tells them, when they are told, how many stories are told, are really dependent on power.” – Chimamanda Adichie #one4one

“Stories matter.  Stories can be used to dispossess and to malign, but stories can also be used to empower and to humanize… repair and heal dignity.” — Chimamanda Adichie #one4one

Orlee Berlove | Ice Cream Anyone?

My daughter had the second piano recital of her young life the other day in a very grand Beacon Hill abode owned by the Harvard Musical Association. The building, as is true of most of the homes in this part of Boston, was old-world and imposing. There were copies of letters written by great classical music composers affixed to the walls and high ceilings to capture the notes from the beautiful Steinway pianos in the music hall.

I wondered if my daughter, at her tender age of 8, sensed a disconnect between her experience and the grandness of the locale. She has only been taking lessons for 6 months and while she might someday become a great pianist, she’s certainly not there yet. This image resonates with me – someone who is just starting out, as is the case with my daughter – but sees greatness all around her – as perhaps my daughter did in this hall where so much musical history and legend was showcased.

I have a similar feeling of being an 8 year old at times, hoping to be worthy of the halls around me.

Let me provide a bit of background to explain my feelings here. Six months ago my husband and I both lost our jobs which we had held successfully for many years. These disappointing realities were just two data points in what seemed to be a string of bad luck that hit our family. But, as the adage goes, every black cloud has a silver lining.

I have tried emphatically to see these sad events as a platform from which to launch anew. I want to take all that sadness and negativity and have it fuel me to do something really great. Again, I felt like my daughter, the 8 year-old on a Steinway piano. Greatness was all around me but did I have the tools to access that potential and what would the sounds be like when I tried to play the notes?

I have always loved to cook, to try wine, to experiment in the kitchen. I worked in the wine business for over a dozen years in a variety of positions and developed a very sensitive palate for food in addition to wine. One unique product I came up with over the past several years in my kitchen was a great non-dairy ice cream.

See, I have friends and family who don’t do milk so well for a variety of reasons. It’s nothing personal with cows, really. It’s simply that their diets cannot always take milk. So loving ice cream as I do, I came up with an awesome recipe for non-dairy ice cream.

After my friend Fern put some fire under my feet, I decided to see if anyone beyond my family would actually want to try my product. During the course of lunch with Fern and her family, we came up with a rough business idea, business model and delivery mechanism. So off I went and started asking people to try. To my happy surprise, many people wanted to buy my product. I get people e-mailing me every week asking how they can get some of my amazing non-dairy ice cream.

But my success to date is just a first step and I am not clear on how to make the second step. My dirty secret is that I am making my product at home in my (very clean) house. But my home does not let me get very far with my product. My home only let’s me get the product to people who like me. I want to sell my product to people who don’t like me. To achieve that feat, I need to find a commercial space, a commercial ice cream maker, a freezer truck and a food chemist.

Do you remember the part a few paragraphs ago where I noted that neither my husband nor I have jobs?

So, I am now back to feeling like an 8-year old in front of a Steinway. My solution to date has been to spend my mornings on the computer trying to find a job that will help me pay the bills. I have been spending my afternoons working on all things ice cream: calling ice cream folks in the ‘biz’, looking for new recipes, finding out about commercial space, and talking to people who can maybe help me think about funding.

I want to create to create my magnum opus … I’m just having trouble finding the right notes.

Any recommendations re:  jobs, commercial space, ice cream makers, freezer trucks, food chemists and/or bridging the gap between start-up idea and capital short-fall?  Please feel free to respond here, or share your thoughts via the online poll at Honestly, Now.

Orlee Berlove is a graduate of Cornell University with a Master's Degree in Operations Research. She spent four years in the go-go world of consulting before realizing that her true passion was wine and food. She has recently launched Ice Cream By Invitation Only, a gourmet, non-dairy ice cream line. You can reach her at orlee@icecreambyinvitationonly or view her site Ice Cream By Invitation Only.

HBR Dream: “Disrupt Yourself”

One of my dreams came true this month; I published in the Harvard Business Review magazine.

The article titled Disrupt Yourself applies Clayton Christensen‘s disruptive innovation frameworks apply to career disruption, and includes the stories of Dave Blakely, Liz Brown, Heather Coughlin, Martin Crampton, Alex McClung, Sabina Nawaz, Adam Richardson, and Gregory Sorensen.  Accompanying the article is a 3-minute video and a companion piece by global recruiter Claudio Fernandez-Araoz Why I Like People with Unconventional Resumes.

Due to article length, several fascinating stories were cut, including those of Saul Kaplan, Chief Catalyst at the Business Innovation Factory, Christine Koh, founder of Boston Mamas, and author of the forthcoming Minimalist Parenting, and finally cancer researcher Dr. Steven Curley.

You can read them below.

***

If you want to succeed, rather than travel worn paths of accepted success, find new paths. – John D. Rockefeller

After early career success as a manager at Eli Lilly, Saul Kaplan became bored and changed paths to become a consultant where he was stimulated by new assignments, travel and a variety of roles. After twenty years as a road warrior consultant, Kaplan felt the pull of a new challenge – the public sector. He took a dramatic course change, focusing on his local community, and worked first in business development in Rhode Island, eventually ending up on the governor’s cabinet as an economic advisor. From there Kaplan went on to found the enormously successful Business Innovation Factory where as a self-proclaimed “innovation junkie,” he is constantly in the thick of new ideas and cutting-edge business ingenuity.  Kaplan says, “I saw too many people making

[career] choices based on money, stature or title.  I knew if I stayed on a steep learning curve, I would do my best work, which would create high-profile jobs, and I would make money over the long span of my career.”

***

Christine Koh (@bostonmamas) built a respected career as a music and brain scientist in academia, then decided to change course for a more flexible and multi-faceted working life.  She founded and edits Boston Mamas, a stylish online resource for families in the Boston area; she put her artistic skills to work and created a graphic design firm, Posh Peacock; her passion for communicating has led her to freelance writing and editing, with her book “Minimalist Parenting” slated for publication in 2013. Christine has been recognized as a top mom blogger and featured in multiple major media outlets for both her writing and design work. She had a good job as a researcher and professor in academia, but by disrupting herself, Christine has been able to very successfully use her innate talents to bridge previously untapped and emerging markets and achieve a greater level of personal fulfillment.

***

There are different permutations of disruptive strengths.  Take Dr. Steven Curley, a cancer researcher at M.D. Anderson Medical School in Houston.  A well-regarded physician, Curley understands there are clear processes for vetting research.  Priority is given to the work of other academics.  For Curley, playing to his disruptive strengths meant changing his processes and even priorities, and listening to John Kanzius, a radio and TV engineer, who imagined a cancer treatment utilizing non-invasive radio frequency waves.   As an accomplished surgeon and scientist, Curley could have dismissed Kanzius as a dilettante at best, a crackpot at worst, who first demonstrated his ideas using pie pans and hot dogs.  Dr. Curley’s disruptive strength was a willingness to abandon established practices in his field and go with his gut. Because of Curley’s ability to ignore his “company culture,” he is now pursuing an innovative cancer treatment based on Kanzius’ research.

P.S. Thank you again to my fantastic editors at Harvard Business Review, Sarah Green and Alison Beard for making this dream a reality.

Carrie Hammer | Finding the Perfect Fit

I come from two very passionate entrepreneur parents who have made me realize that if I put my mind to something I can make it happen. My mother is an artist and had owned her own advertising agency and my father is a technology entrepreneur. I am an amalgam of the two of them and love anything that is the intersection of technology and design.

My passion for creativity and fashion lead me to enroll in an intensive summer program at Parsons Paris to explore whether fashion was truly something I wanted to pursue. By the end of that summer it was clear to me that I definitely wanted to be in fashion. I also felt strongly that whatever aspect of the fashion industry I chose to become involved in, I wanted to benefit contemporary professional women.

As I started my first job after college, I struggled to find suitable, affordable work attire. I was told again and again, “Dress for the job you want, not the job you have,” but it was nearly impossible to find quality professional clothes with a contemporary fit at a reasonable price.

And price wasn’t the only problem: I consistently experienced issues with fit. Women are not all the same shape, yet off-the-rack clothes are still made with that assumption. Standard sizing was developed in the 1940s and has not been improved upon much since then. Different brands cut the same size in different ways depending upon their target audience and may employ vanity sizing (sizing larger clothes in smaller sizes) to move merchandise. Eventually, I began getting custom pieces made for myself through tailors online.

All of this was the inspiration and motivation behind my company CARRIE HAMMER. The concept behind the line is that each piece is completely made-to-measure and that every dress is tailored from ten measurements of each individual customer. Women come to my site and pick a dress style, their preferred color, and submit their measurements and fit preferences (such as sleeve and dress length/style). I work with a tailor to create designs that are reflective of current runway trends and my own personal style.

I wear my dresses nearly every day, which I’ve found to be a great sales tool – I get stopped on a daily basis by women asking, “Where did you get that dress?”

The most difficult part of achieving my dream of launching a business was just getting started. I knew I wanted to start my own business, but overcoming my fear of failure and rejection required a huge leap of faith. One day I came to the realization that the only way to start is to start. I came across a quote that gave me courage to begin: “If today is the day that you decide to jump off a cliff, you’ll either be given wings to fly or a ledge to land.” The idea that there could be multiple positive outcomes, even if it looked different than I had originally imagined, helped me get over my original apprehension.

Women are unique — no two women take the same exact career path, no two women have the same exact style, and NO two women have the same exact fit. I am ecstatic to be able to offer more fit and style options for the contemporary working woman. I firmly believe that clothing should be made to fit the woman, not the other way around!

Carrie Hammer is the founder of CARRIE HAMMER CUSTOM APPAREL. A graduate of UCLA and Parsons The New School for Design, Carrie worked in advertising sales for 4 years where she first realized the huge lack in contemporary women’s work wear. This inspired her to start her own line centered around beauty and fit.

Hello, My Name is Hypocrite

One of my strong suits is hypocrisy.

Last week, I was lamenting to one of my friends about how I couldn't achieve one of my dreams until…

And, she said, Oh, you mean like…

I could do my dream, if only I had a housekeeper.
If only I could be on Oprah…
If only, I could get funding…

(See page 194 of Dare, Dream, Do).

Uh, yeah.

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We were having this conversation during a six-mile walk.

Now, to walk my talk.

Do you have people that will call you on your _____?

If you don't, is it because no one wants to be your friend?  Or that you haven't been open/vulnerable enough for anyone to know you well enough to say that?

Parenting to Bring Out Your Children’s Best

“I don't have any homework,” says my freshman-in-high-school son.

Perhaps you've heard that too.

And then his next test comes back with a “B”, maybe even “C”, when an “A” was within the realm of possibility had he studied.

Apart from an “F” in geometry one quarter of my freshman year when I was trying to shuck off my good girl persona, I pretty much did what my parents expected of me.  So much so, to badly paraphrase Tolstoy, I wasn't always sure where their dreams left off and mine began.

Via Flickr

I'm working very hard not to co-opt my children's dreams, but after yet another “B” or “C”, pick your letter, our relationship may be intact, but what of his dream to go to a good college?

Enter the parental predicament.

What we say and do can summon the best in our children, and they need us to provide sunshine and sweetness in their lives.  But, there's a hard truth — emerging rain is also required.  (Which, let it be noted, I take for granted, because try as I might to quit piano my parents wouldn't let me, for example).  Without the rain, our children may plant plenty of dreams, but lack the ability to harvest.

Yes, we are the gatekeepers of our children's dreams.  But it's not enough to allow them to open the gate; they need to know how to walk through.

Where are you on this continuum with your children? 


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