Imagine if you loved your Mondays again!

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How much do you love your Monday mornings? If you are fortunate enough to be doing the work you love, you might approach Monday mornings full of excitement for what the week holds. Perhaps you’re the founder of your own company, or running your own small business.

If you don’t love your job, Monday mornings can be tough. How psyched you feel about going to work on Mondays is an important barometer for job satisfaction. If you’ve had years of unhappy Mondays, it might be time to consider a shift in your work or your chosen employer.

Imagine what it would take to love your Mondays again. Do you want to do your same job but work with different people? What if you had more job autonomy and the freedom to work from anywhere? What if you spent less time sitting at your desk, and more time connecting with people? What if you could hand-pick the team you want to work with every day? What if your compensation was based on your performance instead of based on office politics? What if you could be your own boss? What if you had full control of how you spend your time and who you spend it with?

If you’re exploring new opportunities and wish you could find a way to work for yourself but don’t know where to start — whether you’re in a job where you love your Mondays, or in a job where you don’t.  Connect with me and let’s talk! I’m passionate about helping people grow to their full potential, and am recruiting a team of people to work with me as cloud consultants. Find out more.

Don’t let this be you for much longer:

Advice to My Twenty-something Startup Self

I’ve been involved in over a dozen startups since moving to Silicon Valley in 1996. When I moved here in my early twenties, I had seemingly endless stamina to pull all-nighters. I was pretty much immune to both sleep deprivation and caffeine overload. This made it very easy to throw myself into startup life, which looking back — I think I was addicted to: the thrill of building products that could disrupt then-giants like Microsoft and Yahoo! (ha!) fueled many of us to burn the midnight oil for years.

After LinkExchange was acquired by Microsoft in 1998, I stayed on for a short while to see if the ‘Microsoft Way’ would suit me, and I soon realized the answer was ‘no way’. I longed for the fun and fast-paced startup culture that surrounded me in San Francisco, so I joined one early stage startup after another. One in the mobile space (when WAP handsets were the thing), and another in the e-commerce space (a predecessor to Wag.com – which is cool now that Amazon’s doing it!). Both ran out of money and steam so I moved on to an enterprise-focused mobile startup called SEVEN.

The company seemed full of promise, it’s founder Bill Nguyen had recently sold Onebox to Phone.com for $850 million. They were going to redefine how enterprises accessed their corporate email on wireless handsets — this was before the iPhone or Android existed, and the only way to get your email was through a Blackberry. As the company’s first program manager, I was sent to London to build out a custom product for a wireless carrier partner. My first job as an international wireless project manager made me ideally suited to working with operators and managing large-scale projects. This one required mobilizing dozens of people who didn’t report to me to collaborate across several timezones and deliver a product under insane deadlines. I liked a good challenge!  I had also grown accustomed to falling asleep on long-haul flights while being able to wake up completely refreshed, so the travel didn’t daunt me. My secret? Melatonin and a good glass of port.

While I initially loved spending time in London, the cross-Atlantic trips and constant jetlag started to wear me out. It also became ridiculously expensive for the company to put us up in hotels for weeks at a time, so I volunteered to move my life to London, lease a flat, and stay until the project’s completion. What started out as ‘several months’ turned out to be more than a year.

As anyone from the West Coast who’s worked in Europe knows, the time difference is just convenient enough between London and San Francisco that you can practically work an entire two business day’s worth back to back! Just as my London day came to a close, the Silicon Valley office would open up and I’d spend hours on the phone or over email late into the night, collaborating with colleagues. It made for a gruelingly long work week, and ultimately my immunity to sleep deprivation wore out. So did my passion for startup life. There I was, in one of the most amazing metropolitan cities in the world, and all I wanted to do on the weekend was catch up on my sleep!

To console myself that I did actually have a life and this was all somehow worth it, I managed to take the train to Paris on the occasional weekend.  When I had a particularly good week at work and was feeling upbeat about living so far from my family and friends, I took several spontaneous trips on LastMinute.com. My criteria for a getaway was If I could get to a destination in under 3 hours for less than a $300 ticket and spend less than $300 all weekend, I’d book it. I saw Reykjavik, Seville, Santorini, Istanbul and Rome. They were great adventures, but ultimately I missed having friends to share them with.

Then on September 11, 2001 while en route to a work meeting in a London cab, the first breaking news report that the World Trade Center had been hit by an airplane came over the radio. I remember the moments after that vividly. Instead of having our team meeting we gathered to watch the BBC News and agreed we would all go home and call it a day. It was from my hotel room that I watched in disbelief as the second tower was hit live on television. At that moment, none of the startup glory mattered. My international adventures didn’t matter. My bank account didn’t matter, nor did my glorified options. Even the feeling of being really kick-ass awesome at my job paled in comparison to the feeling of wanting to go home, be with family, and see my friends. Something big shifted inside me that day, and though I couldn’t quite place it in the moment, it felt like a layer of illusion had been torn from my whole perception and that somehow, my life would not remain the same. On some level, I was done playing the game that somehow work was all that mattered in order to define my self worth in the world.

Six months later, I packed up my London apartment to take what would be my last London – SFO trip for a long time. Having wrapped up the first launch of the company’s project, my heart, head and body were no longer able to give any more. I decided to take a sabbatical from startup life and give myself time to just be. I figured since I had graduated a full year early from college to save on tuition and to start making a dent in the Universe, I had ‘banked’ at least a year’s worth or more of time to figure out the next phase of life. I was barely thirty years old.

What advice would I give to my twenty-something self, knowing what I know now? While I wouldn’t advise her to change a thing about the journey she took, I would urge her to savor the moments more. To ‘pursue’ and ‘do’ less, and just “be” more. To pay closer attention to life outside of the working world. To breathe more and to be still. To be aware of her body and to take care of it — feed it well, exercise, and don’t be fooled into thinking it is invincible and can’t be damaged by lack of sleep. To be kind to herself, even when being tough seems expected by the men in the room. And to know that life is teaching her something even through the moments that don’t deliver happiness. Especially those ones.

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In a future post, find out how I launched my own small business, became an expert in the wellness and maternity industry, then returned to startups on my own terms.

Crunch a Color Gamefies Healthy Eating for Young Kids

Today I am grateful to Jennifer Tyler Lee, mom inventor of the award-winning kids card game ‘Crunch a Color‘, which uses a point system and food reward chart to encourage kids to eat a rainbow of foods. My twins just turned five years old and I’ve struggled with their picky eating habits since they were both toddlers trying out new foods.

Crunch a Color’s healthy eating game takes advantage of my kids’ innate sense of ‘twin competitiveness’ – reward charts and games where one of them ‘wins’ really do work in motivating their behavior. Each week, the child with the most points for eating a variety of colorful fruits and veggies, along with proteins and grains, wins a prize such as a special trip or desert treat. They even get points for ‘table manners’ such as helping to set and clean up the table and bonus points for trying new foods.

Since playing the Crunch a Color game their eating volume has improved tremendously, and I am relieved that we don’t need to cheer on each bite now since the reward cards and point system provide enough motivation. It’s been a several-year struggle getting my kids to eat more than a few bite-fulls of food per sitting. My son is a super-picky eater and sticks to the staples like pizza, chicken, steak, hot dogs, macaroni and cheese, peas and carrots — without much interest in trying new things. However, since introducing the ‘double point card’ for ‘Try a New Food’ — he has been asking for what new food he can try with each meal. My daughter has a more adventurous palate and is always up for trying a new food, but isn’t a huge fan of fruit or vegetables, preferring cheese and grains over greens. Now that she has color cards to help guide her through the rainbow of fruits and vegetables, she’s been finishing her plate each meal and also asking for more!

You can purchase Crunch a Color through their website and also download a handy food chart to keep by the dining room table or refrigerator to remind yourself what to serve!

Behind Every Olympic Athlete is a Mom

I love this P&G ad, which pays tribute to all the moms behind the Olympic athletes.

To all the mothers who tirelessly chauffer their kids back and forth to practice sessions, games, away competitions, and cheer patiently by the sidelines – this one’s for you.

The hardest job in the world, is the best job in the world.

View more stories on ‘Raising an Olympian’ on P&G’s ‘Thank You Mom’ Facebook page.

Why Curiosity’s Mission to Mars Matters

We are on the eve of an historic milestone for space exploration, science and humankind as millions of people look toward space and NASA TV to witness NASA’s Curiosity rover landing on Mars. NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory spacecraft and its  Curiosity rover are in the final stages of preparing for landing on the Red Planet at 10:31 p.m. PDT Aug. 5 (1:31 a.m. EDT Aug. 6). It is the end of an eight-and-a-half-month and  $2.5 billion journey for Curiosity, which launched late last November from Cape Canaveral.  It is currently hurtling through space at 13,000 miles (20,921 km) per hour or 17 times the speed of sound.

The one-ton Curiosity rover must complete a set of tricky maneuvers dubbed by NASA scientists as the “Seven Minutes of Terror” using a parachute and without any human assistance. It is expected to be the most difficult robotic maneuver ever attempted by NASA. It must then navigate to the bottom of Gale Crater and spend two years gathering layers of soil from a 3-mile-high mountain called Mount Sharp, or Aeolis Mons.

What is Curiosity’s Mission on Mars?

Curiosity’s goal is to search the environment for evidence of whether Mars has or had the chemical ingredients favorable for microbial life.  NASA’s exploration of Mars enables us to explore billions of years worth of geological data for the first time.

Watch the NASA Curiosity Mars Landing Live

If you were lucky enough to be alive to watch NASA’s Apollo 11 mission that landed the first humans on the surface of the moon, it is likely a moment you will never forget.  You will definitely not want to miss the landing, which can be watched on the following channels:

Participate Live with NASA Events

If you live in Silicon Valley, you can attend the NASA Ames Curiosity Rover Landing event open to the public at 5pm PDT (tickets required).

Find live Mars landing events in your area at museums, science centers and NASA Vistors Centers.

NASA Gets Social [Media]

Follow the Mars Curiosity Facebook page and @MarsCuriosity on Twitter and use the hashtag #MSL.

Follow Scott Maxwell @marsroverdriver,  one of a dozen NASA ‘drivers’ of Curiosity.

Join the global Google Hangout for Curiosity.

Mars Curiosity for Kids

Encourage your children to watch the Mars Curiosity landing to inspire them to explore science and consider their place in the cosmos.  NASA JPL has a great Mars Curiosity site for parents and kids where you can download apps, play interactive games, get activities for students and watch the 7 Minutes of Terror video for a simulated landing of Curiosity.

San Francisco’s Exploratorium has a ‘Return to Mars’ site for kids.

Get the free Microsoft XBox ‘Mars Rover Landing’ game here.

NASA’s Future Funding for Space Exploration

The Curiosity Mission is a big deal for NASA on many levels, and a successful landing could signal a promising future for space funding and exploration. Public funding for NASA has been slashed in recent years and slated for further budget cuts from President Obama’s 2013 proposal, which directly impacts future Mars missions.

While private sector funding for space programs like Elon Musk’s SpaceX may be the greatest hope we have to ensure that future generations continue to have access to space missions, let’s hope it doesn’t mean that only  billionaires can participate in its scientific exploration.

Doug McCuistion, director of NASA’s Mars Exploration Program, said that a successful landing for Curiosity “could arguably be the most important event — most significant event — in the history of planetary exploration,” and for the sake of future space funding, let’s hope it’s a huge success.

Space Matters

If you’re either too old or so jaded that you’ve already lost your innate sense of wonder and awe in the Universe, then I urge you to watch Carl Sagan’s Cosmos videos, a video of the Earthrise, or get re-inspired by the Mars landing this Sunday.

The immensity and mystery of space and your relative place in it should help lend anyone perspective on their everyday problems.  Watching the Earth from space, or looking toward the far edges of the galaxy as a collective human race should awaken people’s consciousness that our destinies are inextricably linked, that we are all connected, and that there are no national borders from space.  How can space not inspire us to explore the Big questions about life, our place in the universe, our reason for existing? As Carl Sagan said, “If we do not destroy ourselves, then we will someday venture to the stars. If we are to survive, our loyalties must be broadened further, to include the whole human community, the entire planet Earth.

Get Inspired

Enjoy this Cosmos-inspired musical tribute to Carl Sagan by composer Kenley Kristofferson:

Increase awareness for space funding by supporting Fight for Space on Kickstarter.

Related Stories

Mashable: What if Huge NASA Mars Rover Crashes?

VentureBeat: Where to watch Sunday’s Mars Landing Online

Fight for Space: a feature length documentary film that explores the current state and future of the U.S. space program.

Join the NASA Kids Club

Why Company Culture is Your New Killer Recruiting Tool

Tony Hsieh once said if you get the culture of a company right, “most of the other stuff will take care of itself”. While a great company culture can’t compensate for a failing business strategy or lack of demand for your company’s product, it can certainly be the key differentiator in attracting and retaining exceptional talent. Especially in today’s startup job market, company culture has become the new killer recruiting tool among savvy hiring managers. All other hiring factors being equal (such as great product/technology, compensation/benefits, fit for position/experience, etc.), having an exceptional and positive company culture can be the defining reason why people choose to join your company over someone else’s.

What is company culture, anyway? It’s defined as the external expression of a company’s shared values and behaviors. It includes how people act toward each other, how management treats customers and employees, along with the visible symbols displayed on the office walls. It includes both the obvious and not-so-obvious ways a company gets things done (or doesn’t). Culture is not a word statement written by human resources. Company culture may differ greatly from the ‘published culture’ contained in the recruiting brochure. Company culture drives employee and customer retention, productivity and morale, and can be the differentiating factor in a company’s success.

How Zappos Delivers Happiness through Culture

While listening to Tony’s ‘Delivering Happiness’ talk yesterday, I was impressed by how seriously Zappos walks the talk when it comes to making culture the #1 priority. Tony talked about creating ‘committable core values’ that the company is willing to hire and fire by. During new hire training, Zappos gives employees a $2,000 offer to leave the company to make sure only the committed stay on. Not only does the company embrace social media tools like Twitter as a way to build and promote Zappos culture, but it does not have a formal social media policy to police employees, trusting instead in their ability to do the right thing (my friend in the legal department confirms this is true).

Zappos encourages the sharing of information by embracing a culture of transparency, inviting anyone outside the company to request a copy of the Zappos Culture Book, packed with each employee’s idea about culture, the Zappos Core Values, and photos. It’s an effective and transparent recruiting tool for attracting new talent, in addition to the Zappos Insight tours hosted weekly at the company’s headquarters. Tony even invited participants to join the company’s next all-hands meeting to feel firsthand what it’s like to work there, mingle with employees socially and see the culture in action. (It’s Wednesday, August 9th and you can confirm an invite by emailing ceo@zappos.com). If you can’t make it to the all-hands, I suggest you check out a Zappos Insights tour or training event by emailing the Zappos Insights Team support@zapposinsights.com.

Define Your Culture, Then Recruit for Cultural Fit

In addition to owning several small businesses, I’ve also worked for over a dozen startups and companies since moving to Silicon Valley in the mid-90’s. I’ve experienced my share of both incredibly amazing cultures and semi dysfunctional company cultures. My experience has taught me that it’s always in the employer’s and employees’ best interests to be transparent about what a company’s culture is truly like.

As Tony Hsieh explained in his Delivering Happiness talk, it doesn’t really matter what the company’s values and culture are, as long as they are committable and communicated with transparency. The message to employees and to potential hires should always be, ‘This is who we are, this is what we care about, and you’re either on board with that or you’re not a fit.” If you can’t even answer #1 and #2, then there’s no way you can credibly convince people to do #3! Your culture statement could even be as simple as ‘We care about making money, we don’t care about culture’ and you will be sure to attract the right people to join your cause, and that’s okay!

I’ve had the honor of working with some visionary founders, including Tony Hsieh, Ali Partovi, and Bill Nguyen. These entrepreneurs all have the gift of smart recruiting through company culture, along with a people focus that separates the exceptional CEOs from the merely okay ones. Tony personally recruited me to join LinkExchange during a party at an employee’s house while I was visiting San Francisco — not only did he manage to turn several employees into my personal recruiters that night, I got phone calls from him and his co-founder throughout the following week until I accepted. Although I didn’t know it consciously then, it was the company’s culture of teamwork, persistence and fun that Tony and others exhibited during the hiring process that got me to say yes, leave my corporate job and move my life to the Bay Area.

Give Employees the Power to Shape Culture

While culture is often defined by a handful of early employees in addition to the ‘leadership team’ (founders, CEOs, and people with ‘C’s and ‘VP’s in their title), the best company cultures are created from the bottom up — as a grassroots effort by the everyday employees. After all, when a company reaches a certain size and stage, these common employees outnumber management by A LOT. Tony suggests that while some company cultures can be poisoned by ineffective leadership, employees are the true source of collective company behavior.

If you want your company to truly enable employees to shape culture, provide the communication tools and environmental design cues that foster collaboration and community. For example, do you have a company intranet where employees can post ideas? Do you use social media tools like Yammer or Chatter to get people talking across departments and projects? Do you have an open floorplan and a community breakroom where employees who normally wouldn’t talk to each other can congregate? Do you gather for company all-hands meetings or host open forums between teams? Do you regularly communicate company and team wins through an internal email newsletter or in person?

How to Smoke Out the ‘True’ Culture at a Company – Research!

When asked how potential recruits can really know what a company culture is like before deciding to join a place, Tony gave great advice to ‘go hang out with the smokers at a company’. While this may be a rare group at most Silicon Valley startups, he suggests it’s the smokers who usually talk with others outside their own teams and departments.

While I don’t suggest you pick up a smoking habit to do your cultural investigation, there are also sites you can visit such as Glassdoor and LinkedIn. The best way to investigate a company’s culture is to talk to current and former employees, as well as exploring a trial consulting arrangement, if possible before you decide to join full-time.

Cheers to finding happiness in your current or future company!

Related Posts:

Why SnagAJob Is Ranked The Best Small Business To Work For In America

Delivering Happiness at Work Resources

Put an end to boring conference calls with Uber Conference

Don’t you just hate your conference call service? Are you done trying to figure out who is talking or telling that guy to go find his mute button? Are you tired of the chronically late dialers who don’t realize you’ve been waiting with boring hold music for ten minutes, and keep repeating the same bad conference call behavior every single week? I am!

So I‘ve been using visual phone conferencing service Uber Conference for over a month now since discovering the product won Tech Crunch Disrupt NYC in May. The service totally rocks. It’s free and you can ‘unlock’ premium features by linking the service to your social network accounts. While it’s currently invite only, you can sign up with my secret special link and you’ll be put on The List: http://uberconference.com/zB7eSryw

UberConference gives you a personal conference call number, call recording, plus a nifty visual people dashboard showing the faces of all your attendees – you’ll know exactly who has joined your conference call, and who is currently talking. I love the call stats showing who talked the most and the least, and the duration of call in minutes. I’m hoping they’ll do attendee ratings so you can tag an attendee’s photo and vote for who was the least boring, the most funny, or used the most business jargon. It’s the one conference call service where you actually don’t mind being on hold to join a call – the hold music is hilarious.

The service is now integrated with my favorite cloud service, Evernote, so you can save your conference notes in one place along with call information, link to recordings, and photos of people in the call. Ever cool!

Use it for one conference call and you’ll wonder why someone didn’t think of this sooner. Call quality is awesome, as the service was built by founder CEO Craig Walker of  Google Voice and Yahoo Voice (formerly Grand Central and Dialpad, respectively). Talk about solid telecommunications DNA – the people building Uber Conference are like a SWAT team of telephony veterans who hail from all the right places. Plus, from the tone of their product videos, they look like a fun and jovial bunch and are poised to liven up the space of voice as a service. Who said the business of communications had to be boring?

Look for more good things to come as the product evolves, fueled by the infusion of $15M in new venture capital from the likes of Andreesseen Horowitz and Google Ventures.

Check out this video to find out why you need Uber Conference:

Join now to put an end to boring conference calls and liven up the meeting for your coworkers.

I believe

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I believe in eating dessert first and often, in laughing freely even when alone, in singing out loud to radio tunes and dancing like nobody’s watching.

I believe in working smart, playing hard, and doing what you love. I believe that when you’re doing the work you’re meant to be doing it feels like joyful creation, and not Work. Heed your calling and trust your gut.

I believe in being good to myself because nobody else has the power to make me happy. Once I embraced this truth, my life mate showed up. Don’t be a missing piece, be The Big O.

I believe that life is too short to settle for ‘good enough’, and to live it to the fullest requires taking risks, making mistakes and sometimes getting hurt…but hey, you’ll learn a ton about yourself in the process.

I believe curiosity keeps the mind young, and community keeps the heart young.

I believe that good relationships with family and friends contribute more to happiness than all the worldly goods that money could buy, and that unconditional love is truly priceless.

I believe the fastest way to appreciate your own parents is to become a parent yourself. I believe that having my own children teaches me every day what it means to be truly human.

I believe in karma, in getting what you give, in giving more than you take, and in paying it forward.

I believe in creating your own luck. I also believe in having the humility to realize when luck is a gift from the Universe and has nothing to do with your hard work.

I believe in paying attention, in being here now, and feeling gratitude for every moment of this wonderful thing called life.