Mary Elisabeth

on Fridays I burn my fears…

Learning from sunsets

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Have you ever watched the sunset over a beach?  To me, there’s something very humbling about being near the ocean.  Then, add a breathtaking sunset and the world feels that much more amazing.

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Tonight I had the pleasure of watching the sunset on Pebble Beach in California.  Standing there looking over the water inspired a few personal lessons I’d like to share:

  • Observe.  It’s in observing the details of our surroundings that we learn great things.  We learn about others, the world, and ourselves.  Observing my surroundings during the sunset led me to discover a crab, a hermit crab, an anemone…sea creatures I wouldn’t have seen had I not been paying attention to the uniqueness of the environment around me.
Crab

Crab

Anemone

Anemone

  • Breathe.  We all know breath is vital to our life.  We need it.  But how often to we really breathe?  Deep, full bodied breath that trickles through our entire body?  It’d these deep breaths that relax us, energize us, and heal us.  Yoga has helped me discover my breath (so much that my doctor knew I did yoga by how I breathe).  Breathing in the ocean air in itself is a bit magic.  Tie that with a deep, full bodied breath and it’s even more impactful.
  • Cherish.  I was able to convince someone I love to take a break from work and join me to take in this breathtaking experience.  Fortunately, he likes sunsets and the ocean, so my job wasn’t too difficult.  Something about sharing the sunset together reminded me to cherish my time with those for whom I care deeply.  Our time on earth is limited and we don’t really know when the ones we love will leave our lives for one reason or another.  So why not act like every moment is a special sunset with the ones we love?!
  • Be.  Sunsets only last for a few moments and if we’re distracted by other things in our lives, what we did that day or what we’re doing later, we miss the sunset.  Have you ever heard that if you watch the sun just as it sets you’ll see a green light?  I haven’t actually seen a very bright green splash, though have seen green in the sky surrounding the sunset.  I wonder if that claim is simply meant for people to be focused on the sun as it sets.  Because if you aren’t, you’ll miss the green light!
  • Play.  Watching the sunset I took off my shoes, felt the (cold) water on my feet, sand in between my toes.  I had the urge to play, run, jump, do a cartwheel (which I am very poor at actually performing).  After the sunset I attempted a handstand (key word – attempted).  Something about the ocean, the waves, the beauty, the color, and the final sunset felt like a celebration to me.  And what better way to celebrate than an attempted handstand?!

Here’s to many more literal and figurative sunsets in our lives!

<3 mel

 

Personal Mission Statements

Recently I read the NY Times article, “Creating a New Mission Statement” about creating a personal mission statement.  The article recommends answering questions, like the following, to learn about what your mission statement looks like:

■ How do you want to be remembered?
■ How do you want people to describe you?
■ Who do you want to be?
■ Who or what matters most to you?
■ What are your deepest values?
■ How would you define success in your life?
■ What makes your life really worth living?

Going into the weekend is a great time to reflect on these questions.  Spend a moment asking yourself more, digging into your core mission and values that will guide your ongoing decisions throughout life.

<3 mel

 

Excuses

Despite my effort to participate in the YourTurnChallenge, a challenge to write and publish every day for seven consecutive days, I didn’t write and publish yesterday.  

I could list a dozen excuses as to why I didn’t write or publish yesterday – the 17 hours I was spending doing other things that seemed more important at the time.  And the fact that when I did have a few minutes I could have spent writing, I was tired or not in the writing mood.  It doesn’t matter though.  At the end of the day I didn’t write, I didn’t publish.  It doesn’t matter why not.  It didn’t happen and that’s the bottom line.

We create excuses for a lot of things in life.  Excuses as to why we didn’t do something we wanted to or for making “mistakes”, for missing appointments or canceling appointments.  

Why do we make excuses?  Is it out of laziness?  Failure to prioritize?  or misunderstanding of what’s important?  Or is our subconscious telling us that we really don’t want to spend time doing whatever we are making an excuse about.  Maybe if we were more thoughtful about our commitments and other decisions we wouldn’t need to make excuses.

Maybe it’s time we take a hard look at the excuses we make and why we make them.  And carefully consider the commitments we make to others and ourselves, so that we don’t put ourselves in positions where excuses feel necessary.

<3 mel

“What do you do?”

When we meet someone new usually one of the first questions we are asked is “what do you do?”  It’s such an odd question because it’s asking something so broad, typically expecting a narrowly defined answer, detailing our profession.

Whenever I am asked that question I carefully think about how I want to respond or I just say whatever is on my mind.  Because I do a lot of things.  We all do.  And more of what we do is outside of our professional lives (for some of us who don’t make their work their lives).  For me, my work and life interlace, so the distinction isn’t as clear.  Here are some of the ways I like to answer that question:

  • “I make gelato”
  • “I practice yoga”
  • “I write comedy”
  • “I sleep”
  • “I cook”
  • “I run”

If someone is really pressing for a more professional answer, usually I say something like “I create solutions to solve problems (or I’m an entrepreneur)”

Recently someone asked me to describe what I do for work and I used the above description.  She continued to dig deeper into my work, asking:

  • What about it is really satisfying? Making an impact in peoples’ lives (whether an employee, customer, partner, etc)
  • What about it drives you crazy?  It can be a very lonely road & there are lots of ups & downs, highs & lows. And the lows can be very low. 
  • What are your goals?  To leave the world a little bit better place
  • What is driving you?  Honestly, probably achieving. I’m highly competitive.  And making an impact. Doing something that positive impacts people.
  • What is holding you back?  Myself. I’m my own biggest hurdle. Self-doubt. 
  • Do you regret any significant decisions you’ve made about your career? If you had it to do over again, would you do it differently?  No regrets. Lots of lessons though. I live by the philosophy “no mistakes, only gifts & opportunities” 

There you have it. That’s what I do and how I feel about it.

Venture on,

<3 mel

What were your favorite toys as a child?

Someone I love recently subscribed me to StoryWorth, which prompts a weekly question for me to answer. The first question was “What were your favorite toys as a child?” To which I responded:

To help you understand my favorite toys as a child I’ll first say that I loved animals! As soon as I could talk I asked my mom to horseback ride & my family always had dogs. Maybe that’s why I enjoyed the fake animals just as much as the real ones:

Puppy in my pocket. If you ever wonder why I can name almost any dog breed from just seeing a dog on the street it’s because of these small plastic dogs. Each dog came with a card, sharing the breed and the dog’s name. I’m pretty sure they are still in a shoe box (a Hush Puppies brand shoe box of course) in my parents’ basement. Check out the attached photo for a glimpse of what these puppies looked like.

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Breyer horses. These model horses were a higher priced toy item and it was always a special treat to get a new one. I had Black Beauty, Man of War, Secretariat, Ruffian (photo attached), all the “famous” horses, and then others that were just as special. I gave them all names and played with them with my friend Lauren. We’d create our own equine sitcoms (or often times soap operas) with the characters we created and plots we developed. Horses had stallionfriend drama, friend fights, gossip, successes and failures, just as we experience. I also had smaller plastic horses, more similar in form to the puppy in my pockets. However, they did not intermingle with the Breyers.

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Stuffed animals. Let’s just say I could fill a bedroom with just stuffed animals. I collected them over the years because family knew me to love animals and gifting a fake plush one was a suitable substitute (and more favorable from my parents who were not excited when I brought home a live gerbil from a friend at school in the third grade). These plush friends brought much of the characteristics as a real friend…comfort, hugs, a shoulder to cry on, and a great listener (they never talked back and always agreed with me!)

Beanie babies. I struggle to include these small bean filled animals as toys, as they were more of an investment. They were supposed to pay for my college education when their $5 cost became $5,000 in value. Heck, that could’ve also paid for retirement considering all the Beanie Babies I owned. Even if they did appreciate in value ours probably would have still been worthless, since they made great amo for my siblings and my “beanie baby wars” during which we’d throw them at each other from across the basement floor. Once the tag was removed, the value was stripped.

With my imagination, all of these toy creatures had names, lives, personalities. They were my storyboard for creation in addition to childhood toys and entertainment. They were friendly compliments to the sports’ toys – basketballs, soccers, skates, or other recreational games. A basketball wasn’t something to cry on or talk to about my day at school. My husky stuffed animal was always there with a warm hug and listening ears, even if they weren’t real.

Am I missing anything, mom?

<3 mel

Life Without Expectations

Expectations are the source of disappointment. 

This one-line piece of advice is one of the pieces of wisdom in my forthcoming book, Straight from the Investor’s Mouth, and rings true beyond just for entrepreneurs.

Recently I met someone who reiterated the impact of expectations and further encouraged me to not have expectations.  He inspired me to think further about a life without expectations.  When we have expectations we are setting ourselves up for disappointment.  A recent blog post mentioned that my generation is unhappy because our happiness is a factor of our reality minus expectations, and when expectations are high and reality doesn’t match up, our happiness is low.

Think about it…

If you are training for a half marathon and you expect your time to be 2 hours and then you end up coming to the finish line at 2 and a half hours, your expectations are not met.  That creates disappointment.

Or maybe you just shared your company with an investor and expect the investor to invest in your company.  Then, you get the popular “we’re not interested at this time” and do not raise capital from that investor.  Would your reaction to that response be different had you no expectations?

Say you meet an amazing guy (or gal) that you totally hit it off with and you develop expectations that he/she will ask you on a date.  And then they don’t.  Lame.  You’re disappointed (or if you’re like me you just ask the guy out instead ;-).  Take the reverse:  you have no expectations.  Then, when something great happens and you get asked on that date, you are pleasantly surprised and it’s much more satisfying.

Expectations take time.  They take emotional energy.

That’s not to say we shouldn’t have goals or expectations.  Goals are good and expectations have their benefits.  A goal to run a half marathon in 2 hours provides a north star for training and discipline to reach that goal.  Expectations can inspire us to work hard to make those expectations more closely aligned with reality.  By definition a “goal” is “the result or achievement toward which effort is directed” and “expectation” is “the act or state of looking forward or anticipating.”  We can have goals without expectations and have expectations without goals.  The former will motivate us.  The latter will disappoint us.  By putting effort into achieving goals we are working toward a specific outcome.  With expectations, we are hoping for a specific outcome.  Hope is not typically a successful strategy.

A goal to complete a half marathon in less than 2 hours is different than expecting to finish a half marathon in less than 2 hours.  With the goal, we can now work backwards to take the necessary steps to working towards achieving that goal.  If we train and prepare to achieve that goal, we are more likely to run the half marathon in less than 2 hours.

Personally, I struggle to not have expectations.  It’s hard.  I’m usually thinking 2 or 3 steps ahead.  Going through scenarios in my head, planning for how I’ll react in various situations.  Creating expectations and figuring out how I’ll respond when those expectations are (or aren’t met).  I’m making a conscious effort to reduce my expectations.  I’m curious to see how it impacts my happiness, relationships, work, and life in general.

Do you have expectations?  For what?  Do you need them?  What would your life be like without expectations?

Venture on,

mel, the venture gal

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6 Lessons from Katy Perry

Katy Perry at the Life Ball 2009, Rathaus, Vienna.

Katy Perry at the Life Ball 2009, Rathaus, Vienna. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’m not ashamed to admit that I watched the Katy Perry documentary, Katy Perry The Movie: Part of Me.
It was highly rated and available on Amazon Prime.  I’m glad I watched it.  I’m incredibly inspired by learning more about other peoples’ journeys and Katy has a fascinating story.  For those of you who haven’t seen the documentary (what are you waiting for?) I won’t spoil it too much, but share with you a key takeaway and lessons learned from Katy’s journey.

First, let’s be clear…Katy Perry was not an overnight success.  She worked for years, experiencing many challenges along the way.  She persisted and was driven to accomplish her goals (which took more than one night to achieve!)

Some of the reasons Katy succeeded and lessons we can learn from her story include:

Be yourself.  Katy’s father was a minister and Katy grew up with conservative rules and wasn’t even allowed to listen to non-Christian rock music.  Needless to say when her first top single, “I Kissed a Girl,” became a nationwide session, her parents weren’t jumping up and down with excitement.  Katy never compromised herself to be something she wasn’t.  She listened to her heart and carved her own path.

Persevere.  Fight through the hard times.  As I highlighted earlier, Katy was not an overnight success.  There was a time when Katy was completely broke and even asked her brother for money.  She was dropped from labels, divorced, and hit some major lows in her life.  Did she give up during these challenges?  No.  It was hard I’m sure.  But that didn’t stop her.

Be disciplined.  Especially when facing challenges it’s incredibly important to stay disciplined.  After Katy and Russell Brand divorced, Katy was crying before her show and then pulled it together to get onstage…that’s discipline.  Focus.  Commitment.  Not many people can pull off that kind of transformation and focus during such a difficult time.

Love what you do.  As the saying goes, “If you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life.”  That rings true.  When you love what you do it doesn’t feel like work.  Katy clearly loves what she does.  It’s a lot of work…time, energy, commitment, bruises.  All not worth it if it’s not truly what you love.

Be positive.  Smile through the storm because a positive attitude can get you through the darkest of times.  Life is more about how we respond than what actually happens to us.  Our attitude shapes our perceptions and energy and how we progress (or do not progress).

Impact comes in many shapes and sizes.  There are many ways to make a positive impact in people’s lives. Katy has impacted many people.  Whether or not her career is a multi-decade endeavor, she will have at least impacted the lives of many during the time she did.  Kudos Katy!  Similarly, we can make an impact in many different ways.  Think broadly about your legacy and the impact you will make in the lives of others because impact comes in many shapes and sizes.

Venture on,

mel, the Venture Gal

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Happy 2014! A 2013 Recap & Reflection

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Last year at this time I was ringing in the new calendar year with some friends in Santa Rosa, California.  Though I wasn’t yet living in the Bay Area, it already felt like home.  The start to 2013 blossomed change, as I was exploring what next in my life.  Looking at a new venture, a new geographical home.  Flash forward one year later and I have been living in San Francisco since May (officially), enjoying a new venture, and have made many new friends and memories in this chapter of my life.  Looking back over the year, here are some of the things I’ve done:

At the beginning of the year I was finishing up my job at RPM Ventures, involved in the Recycle Ann Arbor board, working with the best gelateria, challenging my fitness goals, and going to every farmers market I could get my hands on.  The year evolved into an exciting and memorable adventure – from moving to a new city, taking on a new venture, and building relationships with amazing people – I truly feel blessed as I reflect on my 2013.

The lengthy nature of this post is meant to encapsulate my 2013 year in review, with just a few of the highlights throughout the year, as well as reflect on my personal growth throughout the year.  If you recall, I don’t make traditional New Year’s Resolutions, and rather set goals and resolutions throughout the calendar year.   Though at the start to 2013 I spent an ample amount of time getting to know myself better and now is a great time to revisit what I set out to be and accomplish over the past 12 months.

To start, here are some of my happenings in 2013.

January:

  • Rang in 2013 with a small group of friends in Santa Rosa, California
  • Exploring opportunities for my next venture
Ringing in 2013 in Santa Rosa, California with friends

Ringing in 2013 in Santa Rosa, California with friends

February:

  • Watched the SuperBowl with friends in San Francisco (ironically just a block or so away from my current apartment)
  • Went to San Diego with my parents and saw my dad receive the Phelps-Martin Award for Community Service
  • Started working at SoFi

March:

April:

  • Watched the University of Michigan men’s basketball team play in the NCAA Final Four at the Palace
  • Led an Improv4 Entrepreneurs workshop in Detroit
  • Celebrated my mom’s birthday at a B&B with horseback riding
  • Received first press from my olive tree in Italy

May:

  • Saw The Colbert Report live in NYC with my brother
  • Led an Improv4 Entrepreneurs workshop in Portland for the TechStars Nike+ Accelerator
  • Explored Traverse City and other parts of the northern part of the lower peninsula of Michigan with my dad
  • Moved to San Francisco! And immediately the day after experienced Bay to Breakers
  • Spent Memorial Day weekend camping in Big Sur with great friends
  • Some more highlights of my first couple weeks in SF
Pre- Colbert Report viewing

Pre- Colbert Report viewing. We’re excited!

Day I moved to San Francisco

With my parents in Michigan the Day I moved to San Francisco

June:

July:

  • My 25th birthday with 50 of my closest friends!
  • Continued taking improv classes at BATS Improv
  • Checked out the Treasure Island Flea Market with some friends
  • Some more highlights 
My birthday party!

My birthday party!

August:

  • Performed in an improv show at BATS Improv
  • A blur of professional and personal challenges, including the loss of three people

September:

October:

  • Quick trip to Michigan
  • My parents and grandmother visited the Bay Area.  My mom and I ran the Healdsburg Half Marathon together, both getting our PR.
  • Judged the San Francisco Crossfit in-house competition, Virtuosity
  • Attended the Net Impact Conference in San Jose, representing SoFi
  • Dressed as a farmer for Halloween
Family in Napa together

Family in Napa together

November:

  • Spoke at the Babson Entrepreneurship Forum, on behalf of SoFi
  • Got my first case of walking pneumonia after traveling on 7 flights in 5 days for SoFi
  • Participated in a pre-Thanksgiving progressive dinner
  • Thanksgiving at the Fallone’s
  • Kayaked to Angel Island and did a little hiking around there, with picnicking, once we got there
Made it to Angel Island!

Made it to Angel Island!

December:

  • Joined Brian Rumao at the LinkedIn Holiday Party
  • Saw Book of Mormon!
  • Got my first concussion from a SoFi injury further demonstrating that student loans are dangerous
  • My brother, Nick, visited me in San Francisco
  • More holiday parties and cheer!
  • Hiked Gerbode Valley Trail
  • First Christmas away from my parents.  Spent it with wonderful family in Lafayette.
Hanging out at the LinkedIn holiday party

Hanging out at the LinkedIn holiday party

At the start of last year I wrote about what’s important to me and listed many words that I wanted to be descriptive of my 2013.  Here are some thoughts and/or examples highlighting those words in my life over the year:

Love – to quote a movie I like, “love actually is all around”.  There is so much love in my life and throughout 2013 I was continuously reminded of this.  Love from my family who flew out from Michigan to visit me in my new home.  Love from my friends who called me and asked to help when they heard I had a concussion and pneumonia.  Love from complete strangers who smile as we cross paths.

Risks – moving to San Francisco, taking on a new life venture, leaving familiarity behind

Passion – I’ve seen my passion for cooking really flourish in 2013.  I have spent a lot of time creating new recipes, trying new foods, and learning more about culinary knowledge…and enjoying every minute of it!

Challenges – My biggest challenge of 2013 was probably moving to a very new place.  It wasn’t the move itself that was challenging.  It was the adjusting, a bunch of little challenges in the process that added up to make it a larger challenge…more than I thought. For instance, things like figuring out how to get places, navigating new social circles, taking on a new work venture, AND taking time for/discovering myself in the process.

Improvement – just the other day I got a PR on a lift in crossfit – clean and jerk – by 5 pounds.  It’s a little improvement, but an improvement nonetheless, and it feels great to progress on something I work hard to achieve

Discovery – With a new city, new friends, new ventures abound, which means tons of discovering new restaurants, people, places, activities to try, and more!  I even wrote about some of the new places I explored.  Never a dull moment!

Health – my health has been great!  Other than the walking pneumonia dip in November I have felt great and been strong and energetic out here.  It certainly helps that the sun shines so much!  I have stayed active with running, crossfit, yoga, hiking, and other adventures.  I am eating well – California’s farmers markets are spoiling me (but not my wallet!)  Sleep needs improvement in 2014!

Creativity –  Improv was my primary creative outlet this year.  I led several workshops with Improv4 and hosted more informal improv jams with friends and improve classmates.  I took a couple of improv classes at BATS Improv, an acting class, and had my first improv performance in San Francisco!

Smiling – I love smiling and I’ve embraced smiling at strangers more in the past year than I had previously.  Lots of improv in 2013 also kept me flashing those pearly whites!

Independence – For the first time in my life I truly feel independent.  I live on the other side of the country as my immediate family.  When I moved out here I didn’t have much.  I sent one box and brought a couple of suitcases.  I was responsible for getting my act together – buying a bed, dresser (still working on that), furniture, taking care of my health and finances, and more.  Not that I wasn’t doing those things before, but help was always an easy call away.  Fortunately, I have amazing friends and family in the area and they always have my back.

Commitment – May of this year marked my 1 year anniversary with crossfit, something I have been dedicated to since my intro sessions at Hyperfit in Ann Arbor.  I love everything I am learning at crossfit and the amazing friendships I have built through my involvement in the community.  I remember last year setting a goal to go to crossfit 2-3 times per week and now I go 5-6 times per week (if not more – my record is 7…that was a tough week!)

Courage – on so many levels I have needed to exercise courage in my life.  Courage to stand up for myself professionally.  Courage to speak my mind at work or with friends.  Courage to try new things and put myself out there in a new city.

Fun – definitely had more fun in 2013.  Probably my most social year yet.

Strength – I am the strongest I have ever been, physically and mentally.  Habits help.

Endurance – I’d say running 2 half marathons in 2013 has to do quite a bit with my endurance =)  Not just the race itself, but the training and the perseverance to get it done!

Ventures – life is a venture and 2013 sure had its fill!  Hiking ventures.  Food ventures.  Improv ventures.  New ventures.  San Francisco ventures.  Writing and more.  I’ve really had a full 2013 with lots of changes and exploration.

Here’s to a happy and equally venturing 2014!

mel, the Venture Gal

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50 Better First Dates

Disclaimer: I’m good at several things. Dating is not one of them.  I am creative.  As I spend more time dating, being asked on dates and asking guys on dates (yes, I do that), I have been disappointed in the lack of creativity when it comes to date ideas.  Dinner, drinks, so overdone.  Not original or thoughtful.  Not that those are bad activities for a date, but that’s not going to stand out in anyway.

A good first date has the option to be max an hour and then done, or the possibility of naturally extending the date.  This makes “grabbing drinks” a safe bet – it’s easy to cut the evening off after one drink, or extend the evening with dinner and dessert if the night is really going well.

A good first date doesn’t trap you.  As fun as bike rides and exploring nearby hikes or islands are, they won’t be fun if you find out early in the date that you don’t want to spend more than 60 minutes with the other person.  Do yourself a favor and save those activities for someone you already know a bit better.

A good first date has some element of activity.  “Hanging out” is akin to staring awkwardly at each other’s face for an hour.  A walk in a park, or even as simple as eating dinner provides some option for movement or activity, which provides a crutch to eliminate awkwardness (e.g. drinking water, walking and staring at the nearby scenery), while still providing for eye contact and discussion.

Maybe drinks or dinner are your thing and you don’t want to deviate.  Fine.  But for those of you who want some other ideas, here’s a start:

Take a classPottery.  Art.  Wine pairing.  Cooking.  I’m talking one-hour class, not daylong workshop.  Save the workshop for a future date.  Stick with the quick class to start and then if it goes well you can always grab a bite to eat afterwards, or visit an art gallery to see how your creations stack up!

Tour a local touristy spot.  It’s not every day that we’ll visit a place where all the tourists hang out, but these spots can be great for quick activities to hang out with someone.  For instance, check out tourists’ favorite café or experience (like riding a cable car or walking up the curvy part of Lombard Street in San Francisco), or even getting your caricature drawn by a local street artist.

Be a local tourist.  Maybe tourist traps aren’t your thing.  Try being a local tourist and getting to know your city better with another person!  Pick a neighborhood in your city to explore or set a goal of finding “the best” of something in your town.  For instance, “find the best gelato in Little Italy” or “discover your favorite antique shop”.  With the latter, “finding the best” can stop after two stops or can continue with more and more places to explore.  If the date is really going well you may find yourself exploring entire neighborhoods or multiple neighborhoods!

Go for a walk.  Unless you’re in an arctic climate (hey, I used to live in upper Michigan, I know how this goes), an outdoor walk is a fabulous way to get to know someone better and get some fresh air.  These dates are easy to end after an hour, but naturally extend if the date is going well.  Walks allow room for creative discoveries (e.g. a park with bench, or pond to skip rocks in).

Visit a park.  Similar to going for a walk, visiting a park allows for some light physical activity and spontaneous adventures, without too much time commitment.  Bring a Frisbee or light picnic snacks in case the date is going well and you want to prolong it.

And one of my personal favorites…

Visit the farmers market.  Start with walking around.  If it’s going well, grab treats to snack on nearby.  If it continues to go well, really well, grab ingredients to cook a meal together.

What creative date ideas do you have to share?

Venture on,

Mel, the Venture Gal

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How to Learn

I started an online course on writing.  My mom shared it with me and she is taking it as well.  I am mostly doing it for the writing prompts and to practice writing more, and to have something to talk to my mom about and do together (in addition to both training for the Healdsburg half marathon in October).  The course just started and the first question asked is “how have you learned what you are good at?”  Basically, it’s a reflection piece thinking about learning styles and how I learn.

When charged with the question how have I learned what I am good at I first asked myself, what am I good at?  What do I know?  Then I considered how I learned about that.  The things I think I am good at (or have been good at) are: cooking, improvising, writing, yoga, horse riding, running.

Take a look at how my learning for those activities breaks down:

Cooking:

  • Practice / doing
  • Experimenting
  • Receiving feedback
  • Reading relevant material

Improvising:

  • Classes
  • Practice / doing
  • Reading relevant material
  • Teaching
  • Receiving feedback

Writing:

  • Classes
  • Practice / doing
  • Reading relevant material
  • Teaching
  • Receiving feedback

Yoga:

  • Classes
  • Practice / doing
  • Receiving feedback

Horseback riding:

  • Classes
  • Practice / doing
  • Reading relevant material
  • Receiving feedback

Clearly there is a pattern here.  I learn by doing.  I learn by practicing.  I learn by teaching others and by receiving feedback about my work.  Reading relevant information is useful, but is just a piece of the puzzle.  I strongly believe that learning by doing is vital to mastering something.  However, learning something from taking classes or reading is a great predecessor for practicing and then teaching.  Teaching a skill is a great way to master it because it forces knowing.  When teaching you are expected to answer questions, so must know enough to answer those questions.  Asking questions is an important part of the learning process – when taking classes or practicing with people more experienced, it is good to ask questions to develop more knowledge about the particular subject.

Considering learning involves a process of absorbing (reading, taking classes, asking questions), doing (practicing), and sharing (receiving feedback, teaching).  And it’s never done.  It’s a cycle of absorbing, doing, and sharing, and doing more of all three.  This learning model I can apply to other activities I’d like to master or activities I’d like to get better at, like writing, improvising, cooking, crossfit-ing, leading, etc.  Absorbing, doing, and sharing in those activities will continue to get me to a level of skill worth noting!

Venture on,

MEL, the Venture Gal

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