life change

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!”

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!

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.

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.

First Gear

My few weeks after the last post have gone like this: get up and get the boys ready, take my 4-year old to preschool, play with my 7-month old until he goes down for a nap, then race upstairs and work on my business plan until he wakes up, whether that’s 45 minutes later or 2 hours and 45 minutes later. I do the same in the afternoon if he takes a second nap. And then again at night if I’ve still got my wits about me.

I have been poring over research and blogs and professional association lit about the smartphone app market, where it’s been and where it’s headed. Who risks how much and how often to try to get their ideas out there like I’m working on doing with mine. How people collaborate – or don’t – and where to meet investors if you don’t live in Silicon Valley. It’s all fascinating to me, in a real and unlikely way. And while some people breathe business because money is, for them, the endgame, I see it all as means to an end.

My mission in this whopper of an adventure is gratitude for the 21st century. And while I’m not going to go into many more business details just yet, I believe it’s the worthiest of causes.

As a parent, does anything irk you more than moments when your own child could not be less grateful? It gets me right in the gut. Really. I do not love the prompting – “What do you say?” – how that feels as a parent or how inauthentic it feels to the recipient of the obligatory thank you. And it’s not just a matter of those two words, of course. I think gratitude is a way to view the world, a humility we don’t see enough, a way of grounding ourselves which cuts right through the noise of this modern life. It’s so much more than just two words.

I love taking time like this to think about the root of everything I’m doing. While the need to help provide for my family is strong, as is not wanting to bellyflop in front of basically everyone I know, the electricity which powers reading tech blogs and typing like a madwoman in my 90 degree office is the understanding that I have the chance to put something into the world that it may not have had without me and something it will be better for. I say that with belief, not arrogance.

And belief in an idea is basically all I have right now (unless you count the bones of a business plan which will surely need revision once someone else takes a look). But if behind one door there was $50,000 and behind the other the steadfast belief I feel that this can and will work, the choice is easy. While the funding is what I need to move forward, it’s my belief in this project which will help me navigate when the funding falls into place. So I am frustrated and impatient…and grateful.

(Hey there, Mother of Mayhem reader. First of all, my most sincere thanks for taking the time to read my stuff. It really means a lot to me. If you’d like to follow along on the more public, business face of this adventure, I invite you to visit our Coming Soon page, our FB page, and to follow us on Twitter . Stay tuned for more rock-your-world gratitude adventures!)

I’ll Follow the Sun

Middle school. The last day of school. You could power a medium-sized city if you could harness the energy here today. Looking at kids in the lunchroom, it’s almost as if I can see the molecules in their bodies, spinning in random, haphazard fashion—aimlessly but at breakneck speed. It is something to see. (Bring earplugs.)

I try to focus on these abstract, scientific interpretations because I am not yet ready to sink into the reality of my decision. There is nothing more self-centered that believing that things can’t go on without you. And that’s not exactly how I feel. I know that someone else will be helping kids cope with friendship rifts and broken hearts, making calls to social services and playing cheerleader when kids and adults are carrying loads that seem to be more than they can bear. But part of me still wants to be the one handling all of that, partly because I don’t have a clear view of my future life right now. And because I was good at doing all those things, and it’s satisfying to be in a situation doing things we’re good at.

I explained to my 7th graders yesterday that when I am at school it feels like there’s a hole in my heart because I’m away from my kids and that, come August, there will be a hole in my heart where they (my school kids) should be. But I wonder if that’s true. I feel like the few emotional situations that I dread are usually less horrendous and long-lasting than I anticipate in all my fretting about them. I’m not sure if this will be one of those.

Last week my husband suggested I go get a massage. I’ve been on edge, getting migraines, not sleeping well. I declined the massage because I was afraid of letting go of my stress too soon. This school year I had a baby, went on leave and then came back (reluctantly). That was a lot but not all. One of our students died in February, and we spent much of the rest of the year grieving and trying to regain our bearings. Then, in April, a female student went missing. A few days passed with no word from her—luckily, she reappeared, safe and sound. Then there are the daily heartaches that anyone who works with kids is familiar with: broken families, abuse, so many other non-academic situations which interfere with learning and—one of the hardest for me to help kids manage—getting through to adulthood without believing that hurtful things said about them are true.

I guess I just feel like I had the choice between quitting my job to attend daily therapy sessions or forcing all that emotion down as far as it would go. And I haven’t let it out since. So when my husband suggests I get a massage, I don’t visualize relaxation. I see myself breaking into a thousand pieces. And I can’t afford to do that yet.

My plan is to walk out my sadness and grief from this year and my uneasiness about what the future holds for me – walk it all out in the sun, wandering with my sons around our neighborhood, listening to music and letting all of the emotions seep out through my skin a bit at a time. Let it all swim out of my body with my sweat and evaporate out into the universe in particles so tiny they are harmless.