Why Showing Emotion Makes You Brave

When I saw this video – I thought, this man LOVES his job.

The Gift of Time


I’m writing this post from Hong Kong. I here because I was invited to participate in a professional exchange program sponsored by the US State Department, University of Connecticut, and Hong Kong Baptist University. I’m here to learn from and job shadow professionals in the sports and youth development field. It’s part cultural exchange/understanding – part professional development. I’ll write more about it in another post. Instead, I wanted to write about the greatest gift you can ever receive – time.

I often travel for STOKED. Mainly to Los Angeles, but over the past year I got to visit Lisbon, Aspen, Denver, Boston, Connecticut, and San Francisco for work. Every single time I have the opportunity to travel I cherish it. You know the expression – “It’s the journey, not the destination.” Whether by plane, car, or train, the time and the space that I get to think, read, problem solve, and brainstorm is valuable. So when I was planning my trip to Hong Kong and I heard that I had 16 hours of solo time, I was completely stoked.


Here are the reasons why I enjoy traveling and how I best use the time productively:

Being unplugged gives you space: On my long flight to Hong Kong, there was no WIFI on the plane. My phone was off. That meant no Facebook, Instagram, email or Twitter. Being unplugged allowed me the freedom of being unaccountable to anyone – no family, friends, work. It’s like this gap between where you’re from and where you’re going. For me, it’s like the first layer in being able able to be present with what’s going on in my life and work.

Silence is good for your brain: On planes or trains, because you don’t know anyone there’s no pressure to talk. In fact, if you are looking to talk on a plane, you’re doing yourself a disservice. Often times in social situations conversations always revolve around superficial subjects or the topics around what type of work you do. Although I sometimes take those opportunities to network and promote my work, if I have a lot on my mind or I need to figure out something I just remain silent. The act of not speaking can cause a sense of anxiety in some, and your mind is racing with conversations in your head. However, once you accept the fact that there’s no pressure to speak, it can be meditative and soothing. I often crave time to not speak to anyone.

Movement provides perspective and solutions: I love staring out the window of planes and trains. Looking at clouds or whizzing past towns on a train is amazing for either brainstorming or figuring out solutions to problems. I liken it to exercising during intense times. It just helps. Here’s how: Have something you need to figure out or something on your mind. Think about it quickly. Then, pick an object out the window and focus on it. Watch a cloud for a long period of time until it’s out of your sight. Count the trees. Look at the wing on the plane. If you focus on them long enough, you’ll start getting ideas and solutions to problems.

The next time you have a long journey on a plane or train, instead of dreading it, welcome it and use that opportunity to work on a project or find a solution to a problem you’ve been working on.


The End Of The Year Motivational Strategy

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The end of the year for most of the world is a great thing. It’s the holiday season. Gifts. Family. Holiday bonuses. Time off. But to someone who runs a non profit, this is probably the most stressful time of the year. For years, I’ve run around feeling crazed right before the holidays. There’s a lot of pressure to take advantage of year end donations and finish the calendar year strong.  That was until this year. It started on the 1 year anniversary of Hurricane Sandy. I was stressed the hell out of my mind because our Stoked Awards was coming up. I didn’t have a title sponsor yet, we weren’t selling as many tickets, and I was hustling to get grant proposals out the door. I had been spending too much time on this special project that I’m placing a lot of bets on and I was working really hard to set that up. It was then that I remembered that I had the very same feeling this year, that I did, the previous year….and the year before that….AND the year before that. I then thought to myself that I have the VERY same feeling every time of the year. I’m always stressed, nervous, anxious. I don’t get much sleep, I don’t exercise, and I’m obsessed with my phone and emails in anticipation of ANY kind of news. If you’re reading this, you know what I’m talking about. I was talking to a friend who I’m in a mastermind group together with and I was telling her about my end of the year madness. She then asked me to change the story in my mind. I had to ask myself, “What is the story in my mind?” The story that I kept repeating to myself all these years is that I need to raise money before the end of the year so we can build up a nest egg before our snowboard program and if I don’t STOKED we won’t have money to run our programs (Sidenote: taking kids snowboarding is crazy expensive and STOKED bleeds money in the first quarter of the year.) This is how I turned around this stressful time of the year and into an enjoyable experience.

1) The story this time of the year was always focused on scarcity. I had to reframe the story and create an intention to say: “The end of the year is filled with joy and abundance and I’m focusing on the things that are most important so that I can receive all the good things that are coming.”

2) The next thing I did was go to ITunes and download Deepak Chopra’s Creating Affluence audiobook. It is a simple 55 minute book that helps you get into the mindset of abundance and well, affluence.  I listened to it everyday.

3) The next thing was to put all the fears out on the table and come up with strategies to overcome them.

4) As Deepak said, focus on being completely present and in the moment. Look forward to the gap between your thoughts. As soon as you have the gap, inject your intention. Then forget about it and have a carefree attitude about the whole thing.

This strategy helped me tremendously. For the first time in years, I’m enjoying Christmas with my family. I feel relaxed and at ease. Oh, and lastly, work and all my anxiety that I would’ve had in the past has gone away. This has been one of the most successful years professionally to date. The picture above is me enjoying setting up STOKED’s snowbarn at Belleayre Mountain. We are going into this winter with money not just to run our program but to expand it.

What Nelson Mandela Would Do

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As the world knows, the great Nelson Mandela passed away. Much has been said about how amazing and great man he was. My first real understanding of who he was occurred when I was 25 years old. I had just just started my first business, NinjaWorks, and was over my old business partner’s apartment. She loved to watch Oprah at 4pm and Nelson Mandela happened to be on. This was his first televised interview in America. I remember this day like it was yesterday. It was the first time I got emotional as an adult at the beauty of life and pure inspiration. Although I wasn’t in the people serving business, it was the first time I truly understood that there were people who would do anything to achieve their goal. Mr. Mandela went to jail for 27 years in protest of apartheid. I wondered to myself for many years before I started STOKED what do I believe so much in that I’d go to jail for it. It was that relentless focus and determination that still inspires me to this day. I went through an exercise 6 months ago of envisioning what would a famous person or world leader do to help close the opportunity gap for low income youth. I guess Mandela would protest, organize, and be willing to go to jail to increase opportunity for low income youth. Below is an excerpt from that Oprah interview.

Killing Your Non Profit

It’s such a funny title. Killing your non profit. This title reminds me about a meeting I had with 10 top non profit consultants. As I was telling them my challenges, one of the guys asks me, “How long do you want your organization to be around?” I responded, “Until all low income and underserved students have the same opportunities to succeed as middle income students.” He scratched his head. You see, something happened to me not too long ago in respect to founding and running a non profit organization. It’s that once you achieve your mission, you should close or pass it off so that its sustained by local communities. I think too many organizations are tied to being around quite frankly for the sake of employing the founder and ED. Not, I. I say, Kill Your Non profit – or find the fastest way to do so.

Benefits of Waking Up Early

Today I was just reminded of the time I was a junior and senior in college at SUNY Stony Brook. While my friends were sleeping at 4:30am, I was standing at the Long Island Railroad waiting for the train to take me to Manhattan for my internship at Sony Music Entertainment. Back then the motivation aside from the school credit was to potentially get a job. I never got the job, but they became my first client when I started my first company.

I learned to wake up early in 2009 when I was in graduate school and I needed to keep up with my school and work full time at STOKED. The only way to get everything done was to wake up early. I got advice from Steve Pavlina on how to condition myself to become a early riser and it really helped. I was able to keep up on everything and eventually got my MPA.

Having a child has changed my sleeping habits. As my son got older, his sleeping habits were more predictable….I’m now able to get some regular sleep. However once again, I find myself needing to wake up early to get all my commitments done- and this is also part of my 30 day challenge.

Yesterday, I saw that a major donor was in town via social media. He is a really successful entrepreneur, businessman, snowboarder. He recently stepped down from his company that he took public over a year ago. I’ve always admired him and wanted to spend time talking to pick his brain.

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I texted him at 8pm asking if he’ll be in town the next few days.

He replied back saying that he’s flying out at 7am. I could meet him in the city at a show or at 6:30am the next day for coffee at his hotel.

I asked if he could do earlier….(so we can have more time to talk).

He said yes to 6:15am.

I got up at 4. My usual time this month. Read for an hour. Ran for 30 minutes.

Showered. Got dressed. In my car by 5:45am.

I arrived at his hotel by 6:00am.

He came down at 6:15am.

It took us a while for us to get reacquainted. Then his driver called.

On the phone he asked his driver if he could take me back to the city so we can continue our conversation.

While on the phone I asked, “Are you flying out of LGA or JFK?”

He replied, “I’ll explain…”

When he got off, he said, “When you work hard and sell your company, one of the benefits is that you get to fly your own plane.”

So he flew across the country to a small airport in NJ and stayed in the city.

My jaw dropped.

So I spent the morning in the car driving to the airport, and a little bit in airport’s pilot lounge talking, getting advice, and asking him questions.

Moral of the story is, I’m glad I know how to wake up early so I can take advantage of opportunities like this.

I had to write this story down just so I can remember it.