First open mic comedy night. Yes. My first time taking the open mic at a comedy night. I was sooooooooooooo scared and nervous out of my mind. I decided to share those (funny, to me) stories of how I take fun of those challenging moments as a woman, and an Asian person. I can control my reactions. I can't control what other people say or do. Here it is:
I randomly applied to be one of three startup founders to take up the three open mic slots for that night. I didn't think I'd get it --- but then, Sunday, I found out I did. And the open mic night was that coming Thursday, August 10. ... I think it went okay for a first-timer. :)
This is the aftermath of my 1 hour session with Heather Redman of FlyingFish VC. She's an investor in GiftStarter (my startup I've been quarterbacking since 2014). Usually we meet over coffee or drinks, and I give her my update. She gives me feedback, helps answer questions, and connects me to helpful people. This week, we met and got our nails done. My nails are bright purple (as inspiration to myself to be like a purple unicorn!)!
After three years of wooing, and then continuing to woo our investors (GiftStarter), I've learned that really, when it comes to all meetings, it's completely always about the relationship. Not just, do I like this person, do they like me back? Honestly, do we like each other as people? Do we respect each other?
All I can say, is that I LOVE the investors that invested in me/GiftStarter - investment of dollars, time, and resources. Some really really really (emphasis on really really REALLY really) awesome people. I am so appreciative of the opportunity, the opportunity to go to battle with a very tough set of cards, and the opportunity to have learned all that I have gotten to learn (and continue to learn). To all founders out there, investors are people, too (not just dollars).
Row, row, row your boat
Row, row, row your boat,
Gently down the stream
Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily
Life is but a dream
[Full lyrics here]
(I am late to publish my #postaweek2017 for last week.)
In general, when it comes to life, the best way to live, is to not expend more energy than needed to accomplish a goal. Rowing a boat against the current, or upstream is WAY HARDER, than just sitting in the boat and letting the river take you.
This "Row, row, row your boat" thinking can be applied to:
Lately. I have been applying the "Row, row, row your boat" principles to the topics that are coming up a lot lately in the ecosystems I am part of. The topics of "Women in ___" (be it in the workplace, in tech, in startups, in leadership, in the C-Suite, etc...", and "Diversity" (be in race, gender, etc...). My current belief is that we're missing a purposeful coordinated focus on identifying and influencing MIT in what'll really move the needle in a meaningful way. That's why the whole topic of gender, of women in ___, of social equity and many similar topics have been so slow to change.
Motherhood is hard. There's so many changes that I've gone through to list, and while not everyone has the same experiences, here are mine (not in any particular order of importance).
Motherhood is hard:
Often, I'll share and say something like, "wow, motherhood is hard". You learn a lot about who people are with the responses. Now having been in this for over a year, I've noticed a most definite pattern. I will always get one of two responses to that question. They go something like this:
Supportive fellow human being:
A) Yes. My gosh I can (or cannot) imagine. With the follow up of, let's go grab some coffee or I'd love to share more with you on this journey. I want to show you that you are not alone and I am here to feel shoulder-to-shoulder in life with you. I want you to know that it'll be okay.
Judging oppressive human being:
B) Of course it is. And, isn't motherhood the most rewarding thing you've ever done? Isn't it completely and totally worth it? There's only one right answer here and you better say it. Motherhood is amazing and that's the only thing any mother should ever say. Ever. Because it is completely worth it.
We get to be the guardian of a brand new fresh pure amazing human life, to guide him (or her) to grow up to be a kind, generous, strong, empathetic, respectful and respected adult. It is hard work. Both ideas can exist.
Happy international women's day 2017
Happy international women's day 2017. Maybe happy isn't the right word. I'm observing this day. I don't know if we should quite be celebrating. The state of humanity is teetering on the edge of being truly broken. I don't know about wearing red, marching, resisting, or any of that. What I do know is the following actions we can do each and every day to honor women, respect women, and be respected as women.
18 Ways to celebrate women and each other on International Women's Day 2017:
and a pen. Take notes.
Having worked for over a decade in management consulting, and now having been running this startup marathon for over three years, I always am bewildered by people that show up to meetings completely empty-handed. Bring a notebook. Always. Perhaps the training I received in consulting was just that good. Perhaps it's training that everyone should follow.
An "Employer" perspective: I once worked with this bright engineer who would nod vigorously in meetings, actively and delightfully participate in product meetings, and then a few hours after the meeting, have no recollection of what the meeting was about. We suggested she bring a notebook and take notes during the meeting to help - she never did. We soon parted ways.
Here's an "Employee" perspective: One of my first memories working at a "Big 4" management consulting firm was sitting in a very large intimidating conference room with the CFO and my firm's Partner level "big wigs". I was an Associate sitting in the back with the other Associates all furiously writing notes. At one point during the meeting, the client pointed to one of our Partners and then to one of the Associates that had stopped typing. A few moments later, he (that Associate) was escorted out of the room because he was not "adding any value" just sitting there. I learned at that moment, never let your guard down in meetings and always strive to add value.
Simply put: Bring a notebook, and take notes = you will auto-magically become WAY more effective.
Always take notes in these 3 situations:
If you're not used to carrying around a pen/paper always, other ways of accomplishing the same effect are: 1) add calendar items toward the end of the day and take notes in there, 2) send yourself emails with the notes, 3) voice record the meeting (not recommended for many reasons.) If I'm at a party for instance, and a situation comes up where I need a quick note, I will send myself emails when I'm not with my notebook.
My favorite method now is to carry a large black artist's sketchbook filled with large sheets of blank paper. I write notes, I draw arrows and connect meetings and thoughts. I emphasize some notes with extra underlines, circles and asterisks. Always bring a notebook.
Inspired by recent events
We've started #theredscarfproject as foundhers and founders to take action in making a difference. :) A lot of us, we see the challenges, we've experienced some of them, and we feel like we have the power to help make it better. Even a little, for at least someone out there.
We're working on getting it off the ground. To share with you a little bit about the mantra, it's about being a shining light of what is possible. We want to help inspire others to not just point out what's wrong, but take it a little further to help action what "right" is. And as we all know, often it takes a few iterations until we all really figure out what "right" really is. Our current focus is on spotlighting heroes in our communities who play by paying it forward. Doing for others what you wish someone had done for you.
Our initial thoughts on what it means to be a part of this:
If you'd like to keep in-the-know of what's going on as we launch this, please LIKE our new Facebook page.
We're working on building our humble startup fund, so if you'd like to donate as we work on our website and building the team, we'd LOVE you forever! Please DONATE here. (Any amount helps: $5, $20, $50, $100, $1000, $1Million). Thanks in advance! :D
More updates to come.
We all rise when we lift others up.
We recently celebrated our 5 years of marriage. Time has just flown by - Looking back at ourr wedding photos (the cool ones above were done by Thom Milkovic, an amazing creative), it brings back so many memories. One of the most happy memories I have to this day - LOVE our wedding. Everything about it.
We planned our wedding in 2 weeks (we had the benefit of me having done event planning for over a decade). Dae proposed and we told everyone about our engagement officially on December 1, 2011, and about 5 weeks later, we had our wedding day. Crazy fast. And still to this day, I say I LOVE our wedding day. We did it differently - like the way we are living our lives, from what's expected normally in society - and it was just perfect for us.
How we did it differently (memorably, and efficiently):
Ah love. It's a journey. This year, for our anniversary, we went out to a steak dinner (we rarely ever eat steak, like ever~).... and then both of us ended up with food poisoning for 3 days. It's been a fun week. Benefit to that is that we'll forever remember our 5h wedding anniversary. :)
In 2017, I am OFFICIALLY committing to do 1 blog post a week. #postaWeek2017
LET IT BE KNOWN.
Here we go. Post #1. ... I need to queue up some blog post ideas.... 2017 really crept up on me. I don't know where 2016 went. All I know is that I have created the most precious being of my life with the most awesome husband of all, the Lentil. Lentil is now almost a year old. A little over 30 inches tall, a little over 25 pounds, says a handful of words already, stands proud, has been taking his very first few steps and is already working on walking. Well, since I'm letting everyone know about this #postaWeek2017 challenge, I might as well share some other "resolution" thoughts I've been working on this week.
Not in any prioritized order, here are five "resolution" top-of-mind thoughts:
That's all I got writing today. :) Thanks for reading.
I wrote this during my third trimester with Lentil, and went back to this draft after we finished our "fourth trimester". Now we're close to our baby being 9 months old. What results is that it's a mix of my brain at that time, and some of my brain looking back at that time in hindsight.
Having a baby is a big deal. Having a baby while running a startup is an even bigger deal. When going through pregnancy, I learned some lessons that were applicable to both my journey as a new mother and as a startup founder. Here are a few:
3rd Trimester as it relates to Startup Lessons
1. It's a LOT messier that it looks. As cute as pregnant women look with their baby bumps, it doesn’t feel “that cute.” I stopped sleeping that last month before my child was born, so much so that I started hallucinating. The media portrays an idealistic, romantic image of running a startup company, with all the freedoms and joys being your own boss, when in fact, there’s a lot more grind involved. In the course of a single day, a competitor can suddenly copy your product, and you can land a big investor.
2. There are a lot of ups and down. When I was expecting, the hormones were flying through my body in epic proportions. I remember on our 500 Startups demo day, I ended up crying the whole ride there, smiling for hours once we arrived, then breaking down and crying in the bathroom, only to go back and smile some more. In the startup world, I wake up in the morning full of optimism, and then by 3 p.m., I can come crashing down, filled with doubt. By 7 p.m., I often have to pull together all the energy I have to pitch my company to strangers.
3. Organic versus interventions - nothing is free. There’s no going back. I learned that once doctors intervene with labor and the birth of the baby, there’s no going back. In the startup world, you need to have product-market-fit and a kickass product. I know many founders who practice all kinds of growth hacking to get their numbers to look just right, but many of growth hacks are just not sustainable.
4. Life is precious. It really is. There’s an unexpected feeling. Creating life with my husband has been magical. The child grows right before your eyes. As a founder, you create something out of nothing. Your existence is only thanks to the customers willing to pay for your product or service (and also to the employees, advisors and investors who work alongside you to make it happen). As a gift-giving service, we make handmade cards to go with every product we sell. I’m personally committed to ensuring each gift receives the best attention we can give, and I work side-by-side with those involved in our business every day.
5. You're the underdog. After having gone through miscarriages, making it to the third trimester made us feel like the underdog. Everything was about not messing it up. Data on the number of women CEOs is limited. Less than 5 percent of the Fortune 500 CEOs are women. As a pregnant CEO, I was a minority among minorities. This impacted us, especially when fundraising. It meant we had to make hard decisions as a business to survive. I took out personal loans to cover us for a while. Ultimately, we had to reset and could no longer pay employee salaries.
6. Health and balance become even more paramount. The third trimester is all about health. You work like crazy during the day and prioritize sleep at night. The life of a CEO is about fast decision-making and being able to connect dots and make logical leaps. Even without pregnancy, startups are a marathon of endurance and diligence.
7. Choosing your battles wisely becomes even more important. Everything, from my hands to my feet, was swollen when I was pregnant. I had to be extremely practical, often wearing my husband’s clothing. When it came to my business, I had to prioritize according to the battles I could win and the battles that needed winning. I had to decide whether to change product direction or not. I had to cut spending by 50 percent or increase our fundraising efforts.
8. You're not that special... but you are. You develop a community of like-minded individuals. A woman’s pregnancy journey is very similar to that of other women. I joined various mommy groups because anytime I had a question, there was another person who had experience with it. Startups are born, grow to the next level, and mature in a pattern. Each startup company also has its own special experiences, market and product mix.
9. Critical thinking and understanding are essential. As the due date quickly approaches, everyone around you can start to get anxious. Everyone’s excited for the baby to be born! That anxiety also happens the longer you exist as a startup. It’s really important to keep your critical thinking skills sharp to be able to see what’s real (and what’s not).
10. Let it go. Let it go. And prioritize/focus. It’s about taking care of what needs to get done. Pregnancy is about taking care of yourself so you can have a healthy baby. In startups, it’s also just as much about what you do as much as what you choose not to do. For example, today I could have worked on our email marketing strategy more or I could have finished a landing page. It’s all about prioritizing and making decisions quickly.
Some themes that have repeatedly come up over the past week again and again:
Originally posted and seen in the Huffington Post.