Into the Maddening Crowd

zurich-airport

Photo credit: caribb / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND

I love the promise of airports.  While I’d certainly rather be the traveler than the volunteer chauffeur, I’m happy to drop off others when they need a ride.  I do it for the contact high of fluttery excitement, a feeling which taps into a pool of memories which still pulse with anticipation.  The trip up to the airport makes me feel like anything is possible.

I felt the same when we sent our Growing Gratitude app off to the App Store.  Clicking SUBMIT and pouring champagne, it felt like anything was possible.  One thing I have learned about being a volunteer airport chauffeur is that that feeling does not last.  The drive up is exhilarating with thoughts of fresh surroundings and the thrill of time spent out of context.  The drive home is still, quiet, lulling with thoughts of groceries and what’s on the DVR.  The post-App-Store-submission week was like that for me – still, quiet, lulling.  I was very aware of being the chauffeur and not the traveler, of groceries and what was on the DVR.

Our app arrived, safe and sound.  No worse for wear.  Looking incredibly like it had when we’d dropped it off the week before, even after having experienced so much.  Kansas City, Missouri to Cupertino, California.  Being one of 700,000 apps in the App Store is like being in a small airport where a year’s worth of travelers all show up for the same flight.  Crowded doesn’t cover it.

And instead of the drivers holding signs with passengers’ names on them, the travelers hold the signs.  “Want to launch birds at monkeys and make your DMV wait fly by?  I’m the app for you!”  “Manage your kids’ homework and keep track of the wine in your cellar for just $1.99!”

Ours shouts as best it can above the din, “I’m going to change the way we say thank you! I’m fun, easy, personal, authentic!  I’m free!”

There we are, at our destination and not at our destination.  We’re building a bigger megaphone, a taller platform, a bolder sign.  It’s fun launching birds at monkeys, and I love an app which organizes everything from my pantry to the bodega of my dreams.  But that’s not us.

Our team will help us drown out all that App Store clamor and lift us above the booming crowd because, in doing so, they lift up themselves as well.  Lift up each other.  Gratitude – feeling it, knowing it, sharing it, “getting” it – is good for us, for all of us.  “We cannot hold a torch to light another’s path without brightening our own.”  Let’s turn the amp up to 11 and spread the word!

We’ve arrived…kind of.  The end of the trip is the beginning of our great journey.  And as we’re on the verge of becoming the world traveler we dreamed of, sharing smiles across the globe, the exhilaration of what’s to come rattles our teeth, with all of the jolty vibration of a jet engine and the stomach-flipping anticipation of a trip into uncharted territory.

*          *         *          *          *

For more about the Growing Gratitude app, visit our website & the preview of our app in iTunes.  We’re recruiting more gratitude pioneers to use our exciting new app and to help us spread the word – and their thankfulness.  “I’m going to change the way we say thank you! I’m fun, easy, personal, authentic!  I’m free!”

Across and Beyond

There’s a saying in Haiti: Deye mon gen mon. It’s stuck with me since I heard it in a college class long ago. It means “Behind the mountain there’s another mountain.”

Photo credit: Alex E. Proimos / Foter / CC BY

Ray of Light on Cap Haitien, Haiti. Photo credit: Alex E. Proimos / Foter / CC BY

I’ve been thinking about that, Deye mon gen mon, throughout my Growing Gratitude journey. I’ve been thinking about that phrase’s simplicity, about its richness. Whether the phrase is optimistic or fatalistic depends on your perspective. Is it a lamentation of a life of endless obstacles or a celebration of an infinite number of breathtaking views?

The startup journey is much like that. For someone like me who has to learn just about everything from scratch, the mountains are many, and they are the kind where you think you’ve reached the peak only to find the real summit is still a ways to go. It’s exhausting. The air is thin. My pack is heavy. But I’m still on the move. There are some tourists speaking another language who are chatting noisily as they sprint up the mountain. I struggle to catch my breath at half their pace. But I’m still on the move.

I like looking back and remembering when Growing Gratitude was just a smudge of an idea, little more than a run-on thought which could have been lost like so many others between the chain of activities that made up my life then. It held on though. And here we are.

Today, after taking the kids to a play date where they’ll make a holiday craft then destroy a friend’s house with their pint-sized cohorts for an hour or two, I’m going to buy a bottle of champagne. Then home for lunch and nap time (not for me, of course!). Then to see Nick and Michael, my PixelNation coding superheroes. Today is THE DAY that we submit the Growing Gratitude app to the App Store for review. And while a bigger picture view of this moment might prevent me from seeing the submission as reaching a climax (being accepted into the App Store on our first try would be too easy, right?), I have to reject that view.

I’ve been on the move, head down, trying to keep my breathing steady by meditating on the ground beneath me. I’ve been focusing on the inhale and exhale, the gravelly, sliding crunch of each footfall, and it’s gotten me this far. Today’s a day to look up and out, across and beyond. It’s a view that will hold many mountains, no doubt.

Deye mon gen mon, and – at least for the moment – the view is magnificent.

A Daring Adventure or Nothing

Today’s post is a celebration of the tremendous ground that’s been covered – not a lamentation of the long stretch left to go. It’s a tribute to the vision and generosity of family and friends and the kindness of strangers.

As of this moment, Growing Gratitude has raised more than $8400. Amazing! There is this almost visible energy of support and belief and optimism behind these contributions. It’s not just me trying to will this idea into existence. It’s us. And we’re mighty, so the world might as well just yield to our collective spirit. I wouldn’t want to go up against us.

You might have noticed that we’re not quite to our goal yet. Yeah, I’ve seen that, too. And I have a lot of thoughts about it that I haven’t finished processing yet.

Here are some important points that have been lifting my spirits when that big bold dollar amount at the top of the campaign page gets to seeming too important.

Life is grand. It’s so many other things, too, but I think the way you sum it up matters, and that’s my preferred summary.

We thrive when working together towards a common goal. It feels good. It lights us up inside, and it’s a great reminder that we’re more alike than different. Love that.

Our story is ours alone to tell. I am imagining articles written in the future about the story of Growing Gratitude. The IndieGoGo campaign will be part of that. If we don’t meet that big goal before midnight tonight, the campaign will characterized as a failure. So be it. When I  tell this story, it will be one of the vision and generosity of family and friends and the kindness of strangers. So be that.

“Life is either a daring adventure or nothing.” If you can’t believe Helen Keller, who can you believe? This perspective makes taking risks and sticking with things when others would have cut and run part of the adventure. I’m all for that.

We decide when it’s time for these adventures to come to an end. Only we know how much we put into things and how much we get out of them, and only we can decide when it’s time to let them go.

*    *    *

All that said, if you haven’t contributed to the Growing Gratitude campaign but have given it some thought, come visit us one more time. Here’s the link. “When I say Welcome to the new world. I think we’re going to like it here”, I could not be more serious about the potential of this project or the very real need for it. And it’s within our collective power to make this happen. You only have until midnight!

Thanks and thanks again for your vision and your generosity, my family, friends and strangers.

Go gratitude!

Welcome to the new world. I think we’re going to like it here.

I’ve been really excited to write this post.  After months of hinting around at what our big launch would be about, it’s a relief to be able to share our mission and how we will pursue it.  I’ve summed it up like this: Growing Gratitude helps make gratitude contagious because using our app to express your thankfulness is easy, personal, authentic and fun.  We’ve designed a smartphone app which will bring us all closer together and encourage users to “pass it on”.

Our motto, for now, is this: “Welcome to the new world.  I think we’re going to like it here.”  And the more I see people interact with the idea of Growing Gratitude, the more I do like it here.  Growing Gratitude was designed with the intention of bringing out the best in us as often as possible.  What could be better than that?

Most of you know that I am pursuing funding for the website and iOS/Android apps through IndieGoGo, a crowdfunding platform.  Our campaign launched 6 days ago and ends on Nov. 18.  So far, supporters have pledged almost $6,935, which is amazing!  It feels like walking on clouds, having people see what you see in an idea and support it, too.  I am beyond grateful for that.

I am also in this interesting spot of being very cognizant of the gap between where we are now in terms of funding and what we need to get Growing Gratitude onto solid ground for our app launch.  We’ve got a ways to go.

There are 3 key ways that you can contribute to our mission:

  1. Make a financial contribution at our Growing Gratitude IndieGoGo campaign. Even $5 is helpful and means a lot in terms of a show of  your support.
  2. Spread this link around as often as you can.  Research says that people need to see something 7 times before acting on it, so more = better in terms of inspiring action in potential supporters.  http://igg.me/p/262283?a=1608333
  3. Shoot a thank-you video on your phone and email it to me (at amy@growinggratitude.com).  I want people to understand the power of the thank-you video, and what better way to “get it” than to make our own video and view others’ videos?

Thank you in advance for your support.  Together we WILL do this.  Go gratitude!

Off We Go(Go)!

Big news!  It’s a momentous time in the life of Growing Gratitude, make-or-break time.  Our IndieGoGo campaign kicks off on Thursday.  Thursday!  What does that mean, you ask?  IndieGoGo is a crowdfunding website which hosts a variety of

Photo credit: bibendum84 / Foter / CC BY-SA

projects.  Folks visit the site either just perusing the projects that are out there right now  (I do this sometimes) or go there because they know of a specific project which is seeking funding this way. The projects set a goal, which represents the amount of money they need to complete the project.  People who are interested in and excited about their projects choose to contribute, meaning that they make a financial pledge to help the project reach their goal, and in exchange they receive perks based on the level of their contribution (like the public radio fundraising model).

I have contributed to several projects.  While putting the Growing Gratitude IndieGoGo campaign together, I’ve given a lot of thought to why I back certain projects. It usually comes down to this:  I back projects that, in their own particular way, make the world a better place to live. I certainly understand the situation of having an idea and wanting to see it through but not the funding to make it happen.  When that idea is something that has the potential to benefit people beyond ourselves, crowdfunding sites like IndieGoGo are ideal as they allow us to rally around the idea, stand together behind it and to become part of the team with our backing.

This is your chance to get the whole story on what I’ve been hinting around at all these months! Head on over to the Growing Gratitude campaign page on IndieGoGo this Thursday to see what we’re all about! Investigate, engage, and then please share the link to our campaign all over the place!

Welcome to the new world. I think we’re going to like it here.

Go Team Growing Gratitude!

Plan B(+)

I HATE it when she’s right, that side of me who starts every sentence with the word “but”. I imagine that sometimes when our greatest fears come true it’s just as bad as we anticipated. The good news is that I learned this week that sometimes it’s not.

by Karen Salmansohn at notsalmon.com

So here’s where we’re at: Kickstarter did not accept our Growing Gratitude project to be hosted on their site. I did appeal this decision (using the 150 characters allotted to me to do so), and I’m glad I did. Their original correspondence back to me gave no justification for their decision, but the appeal response did. From my perspective, my project was a perfect fit for Kickstarter because it was meant to get the apps launched, to build momentum around the idea and to leave the rest to me. From their point of view, because we need a website to create user accounts, this is an ongoing – not finite – endeavor and therefore does not qualify for their service. I could continue to argue this point (or cite projects that I have looked at this week which are not finite projects either!), but I have learned not to waste gas driving too far down a dead end street.

Onward and upward.

So it’s on to Plan B. I’m calling it Plan B(+) because, having spent weeks (I’m not saying months in order to keep my spirits up) preparing this Kickstarter submission, I am clearer and smarter about this idea and even more committed to Growing Gratitude than I was when I started.

Plan B(+) is going to be great…as soon as I decide what it is. As my friend Jay said, “Life is the waves, not the water.” Well, it’s sure been rough out here the past few days. I have always abhorred getting water up my nose, but it’s never made me get out of the water. Stay tuned, my friends.

The Other Hardest Part

Some say that the waiting is the hardest part.  Waiting is no fun, but the hardest?  I don’t think so.  Since I submitted the

Growing Gratitude project to Kickstarter for approval, I’ve gone to a party, breakfast with my friends and a pumpkin patch with my family.  The waiting is not the hardest part.  The hardest part, in business as in life, is that which is out of our control.  I can fill the waiting time up with all kinds of activities and forget, even for hours at a time, that it all hangs in the balance.  But taking something which contains a piece of me inside it and handing it over to be measured, judged, perhaps dismissed altogether…it’s excruciating.

That feeling of helplessness could do me in if I let it.   It helps me understand the choices that some students from my school would make.  Why suffer the discomfort of putting yourself out there when you could make a joke, play it off and check out?  The prospect of embarrassment and judgment is a lot to ask from kids who don’t have the life experience to illustrate the payoff of taking such risks.  I’ve got that experience and am still losing sleep and needing to write about it and checking my email every ten minutes!

Ok, so that side of me has had its airtime.  My other side (the one I amplify to drown out the other) is celebrating already!  Of course the Kickstarter folks will “get” the idea, “get” that behind the idea of my project are dedication and commitment to follow-through and that hosting our Growing Gratitude project on Kickstarter will be mutually beneficial.

The optimistic part of me that has allowed me to get this far on this adventure (into my fourth month with no income-earning job and having invested what must be at least 200 hours into fleshing out the vision and the practical steps to realizing that vision) has always believed.  She knows that the job at this point is to help people see what I see and feel what I feel about Growing Gratitude.  She knows that I can and that they will.

I am beyond excited to get the Growing Gratitude app out and on phones across the country, to see what becomes of this idea and how the vision gets stretched in other hands.  I had a daydream the other day.  It took place in this place called Colt State Park in Rhode Island where I lived for a while growing up.  I remember part of it being a strip of grassy park next to a seawall of big, white rocks where waves would glide up and explode.  In the daydream, I’m standing in that park and handing kites out to people standing in line.  They’re trying them out.  It’s tricky doing something new, and it’s windy out there, so there are some brilliant crashes.  Some of those folks give them back, but just as many try again.  I’m giving advice and sharing technique tips, but I end up listening more than I’m talking.  They’re doing things with the kites I’d never imagined.  It’s my kite, and they’re showing me how to use it.

And as we all get better and the show more spectacular, the line is getting longer.  But it doesn’t feel like a line anymore.  It feels like a party—or a festival.  And then I get it.  One of those moments like in the movies when the noise around you fades away and everything slows down so you can see it clearly and take in the whole of a scene, how the pieces fit together.  In that moment I get that they’re our kites, not mine.  And that when you supply the raw materials, like this app, part of the job is being a partygoer, stepping back and taking it all in.

Because it’s more about learning than teaching and more about sharing than selling.  And remembering that is just what I need to silence that other unwelcome voice.  If the folks at Kickstarter don’t “get” it, someone else will.  Giving up on this would be like giving up on us, turning off the wind and letting kites spin into oblivion.  And this party is just getting started.

Wondering what the Growing Gratitude app is all about? Good! Stay tuned, friends! In the meantime, sign up for updates on our website and check us out on our Facebook page and follow us on Twitter!  You won’t want to miss what we have in store!

Eight(y) is Enough

What’s more important – what we know or what we don’t know?

I’ve been asking myself this a lot lately as I delve into the preparations for the role of tech. startup founder, small business owner, solopreneur, mompreneur, crazy lady.

I think about the skills I have honed in my personal and professional lives, the leadership qualities I have developed and the complicated interpersonal situations that I have managed and – in many cases – facilitated a solution to.  I think about all of that, and I get so frustrated that I can’t be that person here yet.  Instead of walking into a room of wily middle schoolers and helping them to refocus and to keep their eye on the prize, I find myself reading every day to learn things from absolute scratch and doing things I never imagined could be part of this adventure, like shooting and editing a video.

Don’t get me wrong – I love to learn.  But it’s so strange to feel so incompetent at so many things out here, especially when all I would have to do to see the take-charge me is to walk back into my school.  I’m not on a circular course right now, and my path is taking me further and further away from my comfort zone.  They say that’s where the magic happens (unless you get lost in the woods!).

The upside to this month’s journey has been the meticulous whittling of Growing Gratitude’s mission.  The office floor is covered in shavings and sawdust, and only the very heart of it remains.  When you do eighty takes of a video (while I am naturally prone to exaggeration, take me at my word on this one), what does not ring perfectly true really stands out.  I knew what Growing Gratitude was; that part was easy.  The surprise to me was the time I needed to take to sort out the nuances of what it isn’t and will not be.  The time spent there has been invaluable.

Saw, carve, file, sand.  Smooth it over with my fingertips.  Only the very heart of it remains.

Best Laid Plans, Blueprints and Babies

Over the years, I’ve often heard people remark that change is hard. I’d smile and nod but think, “Not for me it isn’t. I love change.” What I meant by that is that I love movement, variety, experiences that challenge what I had previously held to be true and the sense of renewal that change often brings. That feeling of starting over and the heightened creativity that comes with it. I draw energy from traveling, moving houses, the chance to do something innovative and experimental at work.

But I’m getting to know the other side of change, the hard side, and I have to say it’s not my favorite. If this is what the change-is-hard folks have been talking about all this time, I so get it. Change is fun, exhilarating, refreshing. It can also be uncomfortable, unsettling and foundation-quaking.

I network online with small business owners, many of whom have kids—and some of whom who, like me, have kids who are not yet school-age who are at home with them. My assumption is that many of them had more traditional outside-the-home jobs before having kids and then made the decision like I did to forge a new normal for the sake of their family. I wonder, though, if they went through any periods of yuck. Working in a regular job with a fairly prescript definition of success has its advantages—one of them being that, when things don’t go well one day, reflecting about why and what to try the next day is straightforward. I am finding that to be so different out here on my own.

Maybe it’s the fact that I have about 15 irons in the fire and an 8 month old daredevil who is learning to crawl just to get closer to the flames. I felt like I was not accomplishing enough each day, so I started writing a more detailed daily agenda to help focus my work. The result of that has been that I am now acutely aware of the tasks I don’t get done, and they’re sitting there on a list for me the next day. Along with the next day’s, of course.

Building something from scratch is quite an experience. I feel like the architect and the builder sometimes, and I feel like I spend as much time redrawing the blueprints as I do creating something that will ultimately form part of my finished product. Our timeline is on point – the Kickstarter campaign is ever closer to its launch, and the app and website development are in progress (right now!), so I certainly have something to show for the time I’ve spent here.

But, in addition to working my way across the timeline of what I need to accomplish before our official Growing Gratitude app launch, there’s another long-term goal to add to the list: make my peace with the hollowy, heart-quickening feeling that this kind of endeavor – and the change it brings with it – inspires. Learn to recognize the feeling, call it, then minimize it and move on. We’ve got work to do.

The Stare-down

It’s been a big couple of weeks around here. People like to talk a lot about fear – why we feel it, where it comes from, how to stare it down without blinking first.

That’s the kind of couple of weeks it’s been (the trying-not-to-blink kind).

I’m not sure how other people work with this kind of thing, but when I have an important move to make, I don’t take a step if it doesn’t feel right.  I have this kind of hard-wired sense of inertia that does not let me go down a path to see if it’s the right one.  It’s like I already have a sense if it’s wrong and go no further.

So I had been working on the business plan with gusto, diving right into the world of mobile apps, trying to wrap my head around where the market was, is and will be, reading what I can to try to pick the brains of those who do what I will be doing.  And I’m proud to say I kind of love doing that.

But the more I read, the more I understand that, in entrepreneurship and in life, only a very limited amount of useful knowledge can come from the written word (and if you give reading the same weight as experience you truly don’t know what you don’t know).   Time to get out there and experiment, get my hands dirty, leap based on my best guess and then pick myself up when I belly flop and climb back up the ladder.  The reason I have not yet made more progress in this direction is a crucial one: $.

And therein lies the staring-fear-in-the-face-and-not-blinking, even raising my eyebrows and scowling a bit.   I’ve got to make a move.  That’s all there is to it.  And I’m finally in a place where I can.

If you’ve been following for a while, you may recall that I was considering crowd-funding as a possible source of my seed money.  I gave Kickstarter some serious thought and even worked on a pitch before dismissing the idea out of fear.  I was afraid that someone would steal my idea and make the project happen quicker themselves and I would be out of luck.  I still think that’s valid – some gutless person or company with no great ideas of their own may come along and think they can do what I am going to do and beat me to it.  That might still happen.  What I realized while having a mind-bending conversation with my entrepreneurial friend Jay is that, while someone else might have the resources to put something together more quickly than I can, it won’t ever be what I have envisioned.  It couldn’t be.  When you have an idea that has roots in your very heart, that’s not the kind of prototype that can be stolen like in a spy movie. Once I understood that I gave fear my “teacher look”, and it bowed and retreated.  Game over!

So, in the spirit of having funding that aligns with the goal of my project which is, in a nutshell, growing gratitude and community, I’m pursuing a Kickstarter campaign.  This project will ultimately depend not only on my belief in it but others’ as well – and the willingness of all of us to invest in our vision of what Growing Gratitude is to become.

The task at hand for me right now is to put all of this – plus details about Growing Gratitude – in the Kickstarter pitch to start to reach out to those with whom this idea will resonate.  I am hoping to enlist your support when we get there.  I get now that my feeling protective about this idea has less to do with wanting to be the all-powerful CEO of the Growing Gratitude empire and more about being a fierce momma who will do what it takes to keep her creation from being co-opted by those who don’t see its true worth.  What a relief to discover that business decisions can – and should – be managed like personal ones: in alignment with our values and with ever an eye on our goals.

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