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Draft your dream team

As the coach of your life, be sure these players are on your team:

The Mentor – This is a person you respect and admire, someone who’s “been there.” You see their life and think “That’s what I want.” These people remind you to look at the big picture.

An Advisee – Someone you mentor. They are eager to learn from you and respect your work. Your willingness to teach them and spend time with them reaffirms your own knowledge and skills, even reminding you where you’ve come from and lessons you’ve learned along the way.

Your Advocate – No matter what circumstance you find yourself in, you need people who fight for you and honor what you stand for.

Supporting Star – You challenge each other to become the best you can be. You compare notes, support each other, and get competitive when it’s beneficial. This could be a colleague or friend, someone you feel comfortable delegating work to or can trust to help when you unexpectedly head out of town.

A Neutral – This is someone who can provide an outside perspective when needed, a person with no direct investment in your life or work.

The Wildcard – The Wildcard is just that, wild. Someone in an industry completely different than your own, an energy that keeps you on your toes and brings you new ideas and experiences.

The people around you can make the difference between pushing beyond your limits and settling for less. Find those who motivate, inspire, and encourage you to do better.

Modified from this post, March 2013.

Career counseling

I was asked to speak to a group of Nepali students on “Career counseling.” I wrote a few things down.

When you’re uncertain, you’re uncomfortable. No one likes being uncomfortable. That’s why we go to doctors to get medicine instead of taking vitamins.

In addition to telling you to take vitamins and take good care of your health, I’m going to tell you to make mistakes.

Yup, you heard me. Mistakes. Galti. Galti haaru. 

Lots of them.

See, we think that once we graduate and get a degree, we will have a good paying job and maybe a family to look after. This perfect recipe will bring happiness and joy, maybe even success or fame, and definitely enough money to take a vacation once in awhile.

It rarely works that way.

In fact, the happiest moments in life will come after devastating blows, points when you convince yourself you have made a bunch of mistakes that can never and will never be fixed.

These winding, dark roads reveal who you are and what you are capable of.

Before I came to Nepal, I was living in New York City. In a pretty decent apartment next to Central Park. I was working in advertising with unique clients, and some of them were famous people. But I wasn’t 100% satisfied. I had gone to Columbia University for my Masters in Social Work, yet I didn’t feel like I was making the contribution I was meant to. I was doing interesting work, sure, but I didn’t feel like I was helping people who really needed it. I knew there was something more.

After a bad breakup and nights sleeping on friends’ couches, I found myself trekking to Everest Base Camp. I ended up volunteering after the trek and saw things in Nepal I couldn’t walk away from. Bit by bit, I set out to learn more about Nepali culture.

I used my social work degree to understand more about systems and community.

I practiced empathy I learned as a probation officer to listen to people’s stories, hear their worries and stresses and pain.

I used my experiences in advertising to come up with plans.

And then I used my professional and personal connections to fundraise money to start Learning House, which maybe some of you have heard about.

My life was set into an entirely new track. All because I was open. I wasn’t fixed on a particular goal, but I knew what I wanted and what I was good at.

I knew I liked bringing people together in unique and fun ways, and that I wanted to encourage leadership and education.

I knew that I wanted to create and make things. I also knew that I wanted to be my own boss, but that I wanted to work alongside fun, energetic, and passionate people.

Nothing is impossible. Especially not with the internet at your hands.

Now, I’m able to work as a travel writer and freelancer to pay my own bills and keep Learning House going.

I am able to keep in touch with friends and mentors all over the world.

I can get business advice when I’m totally confused (remember, my training is in psychology and social work, but I am happy to say that I will be entering an alt MBA online program in a few months).

So, what’s my point?

Find people whose lives you admire. People who you want to be like. Then copy them. Ask them questions. What keeps them going? What motivates them? Where do they find inspiration? Set up an informational interview: Ask them for fifteen minutes of their time, write down a list of questions, and go to their office to meet them. Leave after fifteen minutes, not a minute more, then send a thank you note to them afterwards.

Always stay grateful.

You never know where life will take you. You never know who you will meet or how they might help you later on down the line. We have a saying, “Don’t burn bridges.” Watch your mouth, how to speak to others — and how you speak to yourself. You are your biggest advocate and cheerleader. Be positive to yourself and to those around you.

It may sound cliche, but you really can do anything you set your mind to.

Including building a learning center from nothing.

Make mistakes. Galti haru.

When you’ve been hurt

Your heart is broken. Maybe for the first time, maybe for the fifth. You have two choices now.

You can allow pain and anger to seep through your being and go about shielding yourself from any scenario that might cause these feelings again. This will undoubtedly result in limited encounters with the world, stifled relationships, and a blunted emotional experience.


You can look for the lessons. You can dive into the pain and see if you can find greater understanding, more peace, more authenticity, and more focus than ever before. Instead of running, you can sit with the experience and breathe into it, knowing that eventually, slowly, it will pass. That in time small ripples of joy will wash healing currents through your life.

Past failures and disappointments only dictate your future if you let them. Seek out daily moments of magic and wonder. Flashes of lightening in a night sky. The impish smirk of a young child. The rustle of leaves at dusk. Kindness between strangers.

This is how you go on.

To fall in love, do this:

A few years ago, a NYTimes piece lured readers with the secret to relational bliss. The author detailed her personal experience based on psychological research claiming to make two strangers fall in love. By asking intimate questions and demanding two individuals spend quality time together — even holding each other’s gaze for four minutes — the pair were believed to cement a relationship.

Of course, relationships take time and care and persistent, almost stubborn commitment. But at the heart of two people choosing to share life and love is curiosity. Curiosity about your partner’s preferences and dreams. Questions that dare to journey beyond the superficial: goals and fears and heartache and hopes.

Not sure where to begin? These 36 questions can help you get started. Or listen to the original NYTimes piece on the Modern Love podcast.

Top 10 blog posts

Before I list the Top 10 most popular posts I’ve written, I want to acknowledge something big: Project Exponential is coming up on FOUR YEARS of existence, and I can hardly believe it.

I remember that first dinner as if it happened last month. I had to talk myself into calling friends and a few famous people I didn’t know all that well and ask them to join me for something new, an experiment of sorts. I was a nervous wreck in the days leading up to that initial event, second-guessing my planned ice-breakers and seating arrangement. At the end of the night I was so worked up, I couldn’t let myself admit a grand success had just taken place.

Countless dinners later, I continue to receive emails thanking me for thoughtfully creating these kinds of dinners: invaluable introductions; new friends, new ideas; old friends, old ideas; surprising conversations; delight. It’s all come together beautifully, and I couldn’t be more grateful to those who have participated and referred clients seeking meaningful connection.

Top 10 posts:
10. I stopped trying.
9. Figure out what you want to learn and go do it.
8. Stop trying to find your purpose
7. 7 sins of crowdfunding
6. The people in your life will make or break you.
5. 10 questions to ask at a dinner party (instead of “What do you do?”)
4. What brings people together?
3. A coffee riddle
2. 5 rules of hustling
1. 12 questions to turn small talk into real talk 

Thank you for your support, your daring, your ambition, and thanks for coming along this journey with me. Becoming an entrepreneur is not easy, and there are no roadmaps for the many winding, twisting roads you find yourself on. If you have a budding entrepreneur in your life, send them a note to keep going (or share one of these blog posts); if you’re thinking about getting started yourself, GO.

New York City restaurants

I receive many emails asking for restaurant recommendations. Client dinners, hidden gatherings, networking events and fun nights out — here’s a list of some of my NYC favorites, in no particular order:

Cafe Select – Their secret back room is home to one of Project Exponential’s very first dinner parties.

Beauty & Essex – Hidden behind a pawn shop. Go here for an experience.

East Village Robotaya – Food + Environment + Entertainment. Sit at the bar.

Bacaro – Downstairs candlelit dining rooms are perfect for groups. Tell Kama Michelle sent you.

The Fat Radish – Tucked into the Lower East Side. Make reservations in advance.

PDT (Please Don’t Tell) – Look for the phone booth to enter.

Smith & Mills – This one can be tricky to find. The round, red “71” light is your indicator. 

Hudson Clearwater – Private wine room is great for meetings and events.

Buttermilk Channel – American comfort food in Brooklyn. Brunch extremely popular.

Catch – Meatpacking District’s seafood spectacle.

Eleven Madison Park – Unique. Experience. If not, very close to art.

Ippudo – The place to go for Ramen. Make reservations. 

Death + Company – Cocktails.