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Musings, Meanderings and Miscellaney


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Why a Childhood Scolding Turned Out to be Such Good Advice

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I was recently asked to contribute the essay below as part of a series for HuffPost Icon Next, entitled ‘The Best Piece of Advice I’ve Ever Received For Achieving My Career Goals.’ You can read the essay here.

Wouldn’t it be nice when something significant was about to be said, if a bright sign would appear alerting us to this fact? As close as I’ve ever come to this actually happening was in college. In the middle of a mind-numbingly boring lecture, my professor would change the cadence and volume of his voice and announce, “Now write this down. It will be on the exam.” I would scribble whatever came out of his mouth next and then wander back in my mind to some place more exciting than my current surroundings. Thanks to his early-warning system, I managed to pass the class with a B despite retaining very little of the content he shared in class.

When I was recently asked what the most important advice was that I’d ever received, I was hard pressed to come up with a single answer. How does one start with a question like that? Nary a day goes by without some form of advice being shared, so how does one choose that one thing that rises above all the rest as being the most pivotal, valuable words of wisdom?

It’s likely a lot easier to recall the worst advice – especially when there are scars to remind us of our foolhardy decisions. Most of my Worst-of-All-Time Hall-of-Famers begin with phrases like They won’t be mad; you should do it or It won’t hurt. Really. Nothing good ever happened when I opted to believe advice that began with that kind of logic.

And some advice, as inane and obvious as it sounds, pays off every single time. For example, the advice to use my manners – that’s been pretty useful. Seriously. It has resulted in many a positive result and has helped me inspire colleagues to try a proposed course of action which places them far outside their comfort zone. When I was told that please and thank you are magic words, it was good advice. They hold incredible power to change the attitudes, minds, opinions, and decisions of those around us.

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But when I consider what it is that I come back to time and again when I am in the midst of a struggle, whether it is in my personal or professional life, it would have to be the words of my great-grandmother, Zelma Carder. She was a larger-than-life figure of my childhood who walked straight out of a Zane Grey Western novel and into my life. She’d lived this incredibly difficult but exciting life. She homesteaded in the barren, windswept prairies of northern New Mexico in the 1800’s, survived the Dust Bowl years despite losing almost everything she owned except for a grand piano (which now sits in our living room). She traveled in a Conestoga wagon (with her grand piano in tow) to live as a migrant worker, picking cotton alongside her husband and children to survive the desperate years after the Great Depression. She learned to carry the heartbreak of burying several of her family, including her own child, during a flu epidemic in the early 1900’s. She crocheted rugs out of bread bags and turned butter tubs into the most wonderful doll beds filled with satin beds hand stitched from old night gowns and covered with colorful crocheted skirts. She was a true pioneer of sustainability, the ultimate conservationist. The stories she told me were the things of grand novels, and she was, by far, the strongest, bravest, fiercest, most stubborn woman I’ve ever known.

While visiting her when I was maybe six or seven years old, she scolded me for crying after losing a game to her. I had no idea at the time that her words would ring in my ears every time I faced a situation where I felt I was being treated unfairly or had an uphill battle to reach my goal. As I sat in my chair across from her, trying to swallow my tears, she said, “No one in this life is going to feel sorry for you. If you sit there feeling sorry for yourself, you just decided to give up on yourself. And then you’re the loser, not because of anyone else, but because of yourself. If you’re going to play, do it because you love the game. And then when you win, you can celebrate, but even when you lose, you’ll still be the winner because you got to play the game you love.”

Especially now as I serve as CEO of a startup, her words spur me to grow, be courageous and focus on the vision of the future I know is possible. While our team deploys and refines our technology that is impacting the lives of others and has the potential of impacting lives across the globe, I know I’m in this game because I love it. But on the hard days, when everything goes wrong, my great-grandmother’s words remind me that it’s up to me to dig deep, toughen up and find the courage to brush off the disappointment and push forward to the next pinnacle where the view of the future is clearly visible once again.


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Learning How to Just Shut Up and Love

When my kids were little, I thought I pretty much rocked the whole parenting thing. My kids sat still in the pediatrician’s office – at least for the first hour. They obediently held my hand all the way across the parking lot. And when one of them tried on the whole defiance attitude, I moved in swiftly with strong parental authority, setting them down firmly in a chair while telling them to sit there and think about it until I said they could get up. And nine times out of then, they did.

When my children became adults, I believed the same authority-driven parenting skills would still work. I continued to believe it would work despite multiple failed attempts proving otherwise. Making a toddler sit in a chair until they’re willing to accept your rules may be exhausting, but sitting in a chair all night wondering where you almost-adult child is … that is terrifying. I struggled quite a bit with the transition of being a mother of adult children, and it was fear that drove me to escalate my attempt to control my children as they escalated their own attempts to break free. I tried withholding affection and giving them cold shoulder. I pointed out every wrong decision and lectured whenever possible. I held strong, despite it feeling very much like bondage, believing that not giving ground was the only way to parent a child who was making choices I was sure would end badly.

And then one day my great-aunt, a sweet, quiet woman who had raised six children, pulled me aside at a family gathering. At the time, I had no idea it would be the last time I talked to her. She passed away a few days after our conversation, and I am so grateful that she intervened in my own struggle – when I hadn’t even asked for her help – to tell me that what I was doing was all wrong. Her words changed everything for me as a mother of adult children.

“I’ve learned a lot in my years on this earth, and I feel compelled to tell you something that I wish someone had told me when I was a younger mother,” she said. Something in me bristled. I didn’t want to hear that my parenting might be part of the problem. “Right now … where you are with your kids? This is the time in life when you just shut up and love them.”

She had tears in her eyes. Her advice obviously came from experience, from wisdom she’d gained at great personal cost. Not a week later, my own mother gave me the same advice, and when I received the same advice from two women who had dedicated their lives to being good mothers, who were looking back on their own journey and seeing from their side of the struggle what might have delivered better results, I knew I had to listen.

I decided to swallow my pride and try their advice.

Instead of pointing out the obvious to my kids, I just shut up.
When I felt hurt, I shut up.
When I wanted to lecture, I shut up.
When I wanted to get angry and yell, I shut up.
I just loved – whatever the cost.

And here is what I learned:

  • Just because something works well for one stage of a relationship, it doesn’t mean it will work for the next.
  • Don’t make rules that keep you in bondage.
  • Be willing to hear hard truths and swallow your pride.
  • If you want things to change, be willing to make the first move.
  • It isn’t anyone else’s job to call you, reach out to you or make the first move.
  • They don’t owe you, even if you think they do.
  • A child never learns a good lesson from a parent withholding love.
  • You can make your children fear you, but you have to earn their respect – and their love.
  • Sometimes, the right answer – the only answer – is to just shut up and love.

For me, her advice worked miracles almost overnight. The bonds that were so nearly severed, the fights that almost ripped our relationship apart – they ended abruptly when I chose to take the higher road, to give my children the space to explore their own adulthood. And they’ve made mistakes, painful ones that cost them. But instead of anger and self-righteousness, I’ve found myself filled with compassion, my heart breaking right alongside theirs. They learned they could lean on me, ask for help and advice, and they learned through their own journey that with almost all of the mistakes we make, there is still a way out, a way back – even if it is with a few scars and consequences along the way. My children found the courage to address their own problems once I wasn’t trying to wrestle the decisions away from them in order to prevent the mistakes.

I am sure that I will have to once again have to learn how to be a different mother when my children begin having families of their own. But whatever it is I have to change, I’m ready. I now know that whatever it requires on my part, it’s worth it. It’s so well worth it.


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3 Ways Branded Mobile Apps Help Cities

Lisa Abeyta:

My latest post to our official APPCityLife blog, talking about what we’ve learned from our civic clients on how official, branded apps can help cities.

Originally posted on APPCityLife: What's APPening®:

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As initiatives go, Open Data is still in its infancy, with most early-adopters only two or three years out from the release of their first data sets. As the CEO of APPCityLife, a civic tech company supporting the delivery of those data sets into useful civic mobile apps and tools, I’ve had the privilege of being a part of the Open Data movement from those early days and have learned a bit about what has worked well for some of our early clients. Here are three reasons I believe that every city with an open data initiative should be producing and supporting official mobile apps from some of their own open data feeds.

High Quality Open Data

ABQride1One of our earliest open data projects was through a public/private partnership with the City of Albuquerque. As an early adopter, a major concern of the city’s administration was ensuring the open data produced would be consumable and…

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Why I Participated in Bizwomen Mentoring Monday

I can’t remember exactly when it started, but at some point this last year, I started receiving emails from complete strangers who hoped that somehow a few moments of my time might help them with the next step towards their own dreams and goals. At first, I replied to every single email that arrived, but it didn’t take long to no longer had the bandwidth to answer every question or to volunteer my time for every invitation.

I was in the midst of determining what to turn down and what to say yes to when I attended this year’s Women Entrepreneurs Festival. I posed the question to a group of women entrepreneurs, and Debra Sterling, the founder of GoldieBlox, offered up some advice that helped me gain clarity. “That is the question,” she said. “What I do is come up with strategic goals for the company. Then every month I come up with what are my goals towards those greater goals and use that as a filter. So when any opportunity comes in, if it is not hitting those goals that I decided on, I’m going to tuck it away.”

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I’ve used that principal to make several decisions since that conference, and it’s worked well for me. And when I was asked if I would be willing to serve as a mentor for the upcoming Mentoring Monday, a national initiative spearheaded by Bizwomen, I again used this filter to decide. The event pairs women business leaders with women in their own community through speed-dating style sessions, and this year’s event was expected to encompass over 10,000 participants at 40 locations throughout the U.S. Because the local event in my city would host 150 attendees, I saw it as an opportunity to spend a morning sharing whatever insight might be useful with anyone who wanted to talk with me. I will admit I was a bit skeptical that anything of real value could come out of 7-minute conversations that were started and ended by the ringing of a cowbell, but I was willing to try.

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What actually happened – at least for me – was profound. When the speed mentoring session kicked off, a woman who was maybe in her forties hurried up and sat down across from me. She wasted no time getting to her point. “Here is where I am,” she said. “I’m good at my job and like it, but I’ve been at it for a long time now. I have this thing I think I really want to do, but I don’t know how to get started or whether I should give up my current security to try to pursue it.” I was expecting softball questions and, instead, ended up with someone facing a life-changing crossroads. For the next six and a half minutes we talked about life’s scary decisions – weighing worst case scenarios against the payoff, how to explore new possibilities without destroying what was currently working. We discussed the need to gain enough reference points to understand if something was a passing interest or a burning passion as well as the option of taking baby steps – and the struggle of knowing when to go all-in and risk our security for the chance to do something that really matters. I have no idea if our talk helped or not, but it certainly inspired me to see someone seriously weighing the cost of pursuing her dream.

The procession over the next hour included women of all ages from college students to retirees, all with unique issues and perspectives. Some wanted advice or access to insights based on my own journey. One woman waited in line for her turn because she thought the event would be the perfect time to sell her product to me.  I spent the remainder of her seven minutes talking about strategic sales and customer validation. I’m pretty sure my response wasn’t what she wanted, but I’m really hoping she was listening.

I found as I walked back to my car to make my next appointment, that I was energized and inspired by the dreams and goals of the women who had spent their morning talking to me. It’s a good thing to remember when our lives get so incredibly busy in the midst of growing our own companies – that while it becomes vital to protect our time to reserve the  necessary bandwidth needed for priorities, it is also important to carve out time to give back. Even when we give, we still get. For me, that takeaway was well worth my time.

 


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Saturday Morning Musing: Dropping Anchor in a Storm

When a vessel drops anchor to ride out the buffeting of a storm, it is wisdom, not failure to make progress towards the destination. It is good to know within ourselves when we need to find our anchor to ride out a difficult experience . Perseverance is understanding when to anchor and when it is time move forward once more towards our goal.

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Mentors Are The Secret Weapons Of Successful Startups

Lisa Abeyta:

I am so grateful for those who have been willing to invest time in me as a mentor and can personally attest to the value of finding the right mentors. I have a long way to go yet, but I wouldn’t have had the courage, capacity or tools necessary to begin this journey as an entrepreneur without the consistent mentoring of those who were already successful and willing to share their own experiences with me. If we want to see more entrepreneurs become successful founders of leading companies, we need to be willing to commit to supporting their efforts through mentoring when and where we are able to provide high value insight and by helping make connections to those who can mentor the next generation.

Originally posted on TechCrunch:

Editor’s note: Rhett Morris is the director of Endeavor Insight, the research arm of Endeavor, a nonprofit that supports high-impact entrepreneurs across the world.

“I’ve probably revised this investor pitch deck 200 times,” a founder told me recently. She’d met with more than 50 potential investors before closing a seed round last month. This might sound excessive to some, but her experience is not unusual.

Entrepreneurs often spend hundreds of hours raising funds from angel and venture capital investors. While these activities are clearly important, analysis of new data on startups suggests that founders should also dedicate significant time to something that many people overlook: recruiting great mentors. This simple strategy can increase a company’s odds of success more than almost anything else.

Discovering the secrets of the best founders

Our team studied thousands of tech businesses last year. We looked specifically at companies in New York City’s tech…

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