Mama CEO

Musings, Meanderings and Miscellaney

Leave a comment

Memorial Day Trivia (to help you impress your friends)


Just in case you need one or two tidbits of history to throw around at your Memorial Day cookout, here are a few things your friends might not know about this American holiday that just might impress them.

We’ve been officially celebrating Memorial Day in some form or fashion since 1868.

What else happened in 1868. Funny you should ask — I have a few things that just might be the type of trivia you’d like to share while you’re lounging in your lawn chairs. It just so happens that 1968 is the very same year we elected Ulysses S. Grant as our 18th President — oh, and it’s the same year we impeached Andrew Johnson, our 17th President, although he managed to escape conviction by a single vote after his three-day trial. (For historical perspective, in case any of your friends challenge you on this, President Obama is our 44th President.)

1968 is also the same year that William “Buffalo Bill” Cody was hired by the United States Army to serve as a scout and bison hunter. So while you’re out grilling your hot dogs, picture that first Memorial Day where our U.S. Army still fed themselves by hunting bison.

Unlike many national holidays, Memorial Day wasn’t established by the President of the United States, and it wasn’t called Memorial Day.

It was originally called Decoration Day and was established when Commander in Chief John A. Logan of the Grand Army of the Republic issued General Order Number 11 designating May 30 as a memorial day “for the purpose of strewing with flowers or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion, and whose bodies now lie in almost every city, village, and hamlet churchyard in the land.” And, yes, that’s a crazy-long quote that you’re never going to remember when you tell your friends, but just throw out words like ‘strewing flowers on graves’ and ‘during the rebellion’. You’ll sound eloquent.

It might be impressive to say that Mississippi was the only southern state willing to celebrate the first Memorial Day (the rest of the souther states were still pretty mad about the way things turned out with the Civil War and all). And you might sound really knowledgable if you can tell everyone that even today many states in the South still hold their own day to remember the fallen Confederate soldiers.

And if someone gets all feisty with you and starts challenging you on your facts, boggle their mind with this fact: it would still take over half a century after that first Memorial Day for New Mexico to even become a state and almost a full century for Alaska to join the U.S.

Memorial Day may look like fun, but it isn’t fun at all for a lot of people.

Ok. So this is where the facts get juicy, and you’re going to have everyone hanging on your every word.

Did you know the folks at the National Safety Council predict that 382 people will die this year during the 3-day weekend, and almost 41,000 people will get injured — all because of car accidents. Oh, and those really fun ATV’s aren’t any better. In 2012 alone, there were 14 deaths and 2750 ER visits thanks to people having too much fun on their all terrain vehicles. And if that’s not enough of a bummer to take the fun out your holiday expectations, almost 200 people visit the ER each day of Memorial Daythanks to the under-21 crowd thinking they need to get in on all that holiday drinking. And while there aren’t a lot of compiled statistics on exactly how many people get sick thanks to food poisoning, bug bites, allergic reactions, and injuries, the uptick in ER visits show more from these categories than usual.

Makes you kind of want to just stay home, hunker down, and wait it all out, doesn’t it? Fair warning — it may have this effect on your guests, too. You may have a lot of work ahead of you just convincing them it’s safe to go home.

There is actually a law passed by Congress in 2000 that requires every last one of us in the U.S. to pause at exactly 3 PM local time on Memorial Day to observe a National Moment of Remembrance.

Think about that. There is a law that mandates volley ball games pause mid-serve, dogs stop barking and children stop running around at the park, and burgers stop cooking on the grill (although that’s usually just because you forgot to fill up the grill’s propane tank). Well, at least that is what is supposed to happen. There is a law, after all. And now, thanks to this, you have plenty of interesting trivia to share with your buddies right after you all share that moment of silence at exactly 3 PM.

You’re welcome.

Leave a comment

The Power of What If


I have a challenge for you. Go dig around in your kid’s school backpack (you might want to wear gloves for your own protection if your child forgets half-eaten sandwiches like mine does). Pull out a few tests and assignments, and see how many questions are similar to the following:

  • List three ways that …
  • Name four of the …
  • Define the following …
  • Calculate the …
  • Determine the …
  • Circle the answer which best …
  • Which of the following do not …
  • Write in the answer that …

Questions which evaluate memorization still make up the bulk of answers our children answer on a daily basis,  despite most of these same students owning a device which can search for just about anything and return information in a matter of seconds. For some reason, we still believe it necessary to determine if a student can recall the exact date in which the Louisiana Purchase was signed, although the chances of needing that specific tidbit of information to escape some precarious situation are quite low.

What if …

Please know I am not devaluing foundational knowledge or the need to teach our children rudimentary functions of grammar, math, science, or other academic studies. But what I am saying is that we are completely missing the boat when it comes to encouraging students to take risks, make mistakes, or explore the unknown where they can discover, invent or create.

A lot has been written about concerns over the decreasing number of young entrepreneurs, but what did we expect would result from spending twelve of a child’s most formative teaching them how to conform in their thinking? As we continue to pile on more testing mandates, no matter how well-intentioned, the result will continue to be an environment that greatly discourages exploration of ideas beyond the page – a foundational characteristic of entrepreneurship.

Asking a question that begins with What if helps us discover for ourselves what is and isn’t possible or what happens when we try something new. For myself, some of the most impactful experiences of my childhood began with some version of asking What if. I am grateful to have grown up in an era when children were allowed the opportunity to make mistakes, because we discovered that mistakes were just part of the learning process and nothing to be afraid of.

When I was about eight years old, my family lived in a neighborhood that bordered an empty field. My brother and I spent hours at a time exploring that field – chasing lizards, catching horned toads, digging in the dirt. We often asked what if and then spent days experimenting, building, and testing our answers. On this particular day, my brother and I had asked each other what might happen if we used balanced our toy magnifying glass over the head of our sister’s Barbie. In our defense, we didn’t do this to be mean; we’d simply run out of our Barbie supply, having already gone through all of mine on previous experiments. Besides, we didn’t use any of her special dolls; we found the one with the ratty hair and the teeth marks all over, thanks to a previous encounter with our dog. We buried the doll about waist deep in the sand and began our quest to discover the answer to our what if question. We were not disappointed. We learned that the sun, when filtered through a seemingly harmless toy magnifying glass, could melt plastic. While my brother and I were ecstatic with our discovery, alas, our sister was not, even after we pointed out our obvious consideration in choosing her chewed up doll.  I’m not sure she ever quite saw it our way – that she got a new doll out of it – but for me, it was well worth losing my allowance for several weeks to replace her doll.

Sure, text books had the same information, and we could have spent that summer afternoon reading about it. But I certainly wouldn’t remember it this many years later had I learned it in a book. I can still recall quite vividly that moment when the soft plastic of my sister’s doll started to sizzle and melt right before my eyes. My excitement at what I was witnessing was only slightly diminished by the realization we were going to be in trouble for destroying our sister’s toy in the process. There is something quite empowering about using actions to explore the wonder of our own mind that can never be replicated by knowledge gleaned from a text-book.

It is probably safe to say that almost everything new that exists today was a result of that single question. What if we can build a machine to fly? What if there is a cure for measles? What if … None of the innovations we enjoy today could have happened without individuals who were willing to go beyond the available knowledge to explore the What If inside of their own mind. If we want to foster a nation of entrepreneurs and inventors, then we need to encourage more What If questions – although I might recommend keeping those little plastic magnifying glasses out of reach. They’re a lot more powerful than the average eight year old might think.

1 Comment

Finding a Job vs Finding a Calling


IMG_0290 (1)


Never wait for your calling to come find you.
It won’t.

A calling is borne of passion, and passion is a spark stoked into flames only by doing, not sitting and waiting.

So do something.


Take a class.


Get a job doing something that matters – even if you have to take an entry-level job to get started.

But don’t wait on something to come your way that makes you happy, gives you purpose. Life is not like that. If your job is sucking the joy out of every day, then decide to take steps to change your reality. It may take time, but that time will pass whether you’re preparing for something better or just marking days off the calendar.

You don’t have to lead to be a part of a bigger vision, so if you don’t want that role, don’t take it. You can find a great deal of happiness and fulfillment in simply filling a small, but vital cog in a larger purpose. 

And if you are a leader, don’t settle for less. When you muster up the courage, commitment and vision to lead, you’ll enjoy growth of character you never knew possible. 

But whatever you do, don’t wait for your calling to find you.

It won’t.

Leave a comment

The Trait That Ruins Entrepreneurs

file4911265967621I don’t believe there is one single trait that, absent all others, can deliver success for entrepreneurs. It’s really a unique blend of traits and talents within each individual – as well as many outside factors – all converging at the right time in the right way. If it were as simple as a specific trait, then those individuals possessing that trait would be successful every time – and that is certainly not the case. Many a successful entrepreneur has gone on to live through colossal failures. And while there are just as many reasons for a startup’s failure as for its success, I do believe that there is one trait that, if given room to grow, will ruin an entrepreneur. When an entrepreneur stops being willing to be coached, their days are numbered – and understanding the underlying root of this resistance is vital, because the solution often depends on what is causing us to shut out the advice of others.

There was a phase early in my own journey as the founder of a startup that I was far too resistant to the feedback and ideas of those around me, and for me, it was my inexperience that was getting in my way. I had clarity on our ‘big idea’ and knew it was my job to protect our focus so that we, as a company, didn’t end up chasing every shiny thing and every dollar that looked like a possibility. But in my very worthy goal to protect my team from being pulled to and fro by contrary paths and indecision, I become implacable. Thankfully, I had the good fortune to survive those growing pains without losing momentum, and I’m grateful that the experience helped me become much more willing to hear the cautionary words of others and to entertain opposing views. I’ve learned that while it’s right to protect the goals and vision of a company, a founder must also be open to advice and correction from others and synthesize that feedback into a more refined path forward.

Entrepreneurs can also become uncoachable simply because we are so afraid of taking the step we’re being prodded to take. We can easily confuse fear with intuition and believe that our inaction is actually being wise. Intuition tells us the truth when we are missing warning signs that something is not right, but fear is a liar and operates from our weaker selves. As entrepreneurs, fear is often the thing we experience right before a breakthrough. When we start rejecting advice that is pushing us past our comfort zone, we become paralyzed by inaction and ruin our chances for success.

But when being uncoachable is driven by hubris, that is really the most destructive reason of all. Hubris is defined as excessive pride or self confidence. Hubris turns almost any trait’s value into a detriment. It changes confidence into cockiness, single-mindedness into disdain. When that happens, the very traits that initially resulted in early progress become the very traits that lead to failure. It is the difference between someone forging ahead into the unknown and choosing the road less traveled and the individual who drives over a cliff, despite the multitude of warnings and cautions along the way.

While an entrepreneur absolutely must possess thick skin and the ability to filter through doubts, fears and bad advice, there better be an understanding that in the midst of the cacophony of feedback, there may be invaluable insights and guidance that could make the difference between failure and success. When we are coachable and receptive, we increase our chances of success.

Perhaps a good test is this: if you think everyone around you is an idiot, and everyone who shares advice with you is a fool who just doesn’t get it – especially if your own vision isn’t leading to your expected outcomes – then maybe it’s time to serve yourself a slice of humble pie and realize that they may not be as much of an idiot as you thought. You may well be in that same category yourself for summarily rejecting all feedback as beneath you. You have to want success more than you want to be right, and when that is your goal, you’ll find the humility and grace to accept difficult advice and hard truths that can help you succeed. I know from experience that hearing difficult advice that goes against what we want to be believe is painful and difficult, but I’ve also seen the results of it and know that without finding a way to be coachable, there is no way to get where we want to be.

Leave a comment

How the Smart Phone has Equalized Access to Information


The smart phone is the great equalizer of knowledge access. Never before has so much information been accessible to so many for so little cost. The global spread of smart phone tech has resulted in a device which entered the market as an expensive device available only to the wealthy metamorphosing in less than a decade into a personal tool whose market penetration spans across all socioeconomic demographics.


Growth of Available Information

When knowledge was only accessible through printed materials, the cost of publication and distribution along with the need to continually print updated information created a barrier to access of knowledge for those individuals, communities and countries who could not afford entry into that world of knowledge. And while the internet introduced the possibilities of accessing information from each other, such as Wikipedia, and from our government agencies through websites and sunshine portals, the true catalyst for the explosion of open data was the proliferation of the smart phone and the understanding that for the first time that data could be consumed in mobile format to solve problems for cities and empower citizens. Within a year of its introduction, countries across the globe began signing up as supporters of open data and delivering data feeds out to the public, spawning a new culture of organizations of entrepreneurs working to develop innovative technologies solving problems facing people and cities.

Citizen-Generated Information

Beyond access to knowledge, the changes in culture, commerce and communication are ever growing because of the smart phone. Citizens living within the confines of repressive regimes continue to access information and news despite efforts to have that access banned or suppressed, often risking arrest or even execution. Think of that as a barrier, and yet it is still a price many have been willing to risk paying because the desire to gain access to true information is that high. Smart phones have resulted in citizens documenting revolutions, atrocities, and misconduct and then sharing their footage with the world through social media platforms like Twitter and news sharing sites like reddit. The world is watching in ways that were never possible before, and it has led to a higher level of accountability from those in power.

Growth of E-Commerce

Smart phones have also served as a portal to e-commerce according to a report by ATKearny, thanks to internet and mobile commerce engines within facilitating virtual showrooms and stores as well as international transactions. When smart phone technology can deliver this kind of access to individuals all across the world, that is a great equalizer of personal empowerment and freedoms.

Connectivity is New Barrier to Access of Information

As the costs of smart phones are reduced, they continue to break down barriers within lower socio-economic communities. With the reduction in cost to manufacture hardware smart phone tech, the new barrier to access of knowledge becomes connectivity. While many other countries throughout the world have made cellular service inexpensive, this has not been the case in the U.S. The industry is still controlled by a handful of major players who have kept a stranglehold not only the pricing of service but access to it at all, although some see a new initiative by Google as a possible disruptor to the status quo. The US lost out on an incredible opportunity to equalize access to connectivity when the television industry shifted to digital delivery. The ‘old’ television waves were auctioned off to the highest bidder, creating an exciting cash infusion for the F.C.C., but none of the winning bidders have expressed any intentions of opening those up for the delivery of affordable connectivity which could deliver access to remote, rural regions of the country. The immediate monetary gain of those expensive bids killed the chance of delivering equal access to remote communities and families without means to pay for internet or mobile access. While some forward-thinking cities are providing free wifi access within specific locations within their communities, such as libraries, civic squares, and, in NYC, old telephone booths, it is still far to few and too limited in scope to be considered anything close to an equalizer.

Demand for New Education Models


For many educators, parents and students, the immediate access of information has resulted in our current education system becoming irrelevant and outdated, especially in later grades once the foundational skills such as reading are mastered. As the global community becomes empowered to independently access knowledge and training, it begs the question of how long it will take us to demand a shift away from the current waste of tax dollars spent testing, retesting and testing some more to assess a student’s ability to memorize and regurgitate information which is already stored in the smart phone in their backpack. If those same tax dollars were spent on teaching how to find information, vet it, and synthesize it – we could foster a generation of creative, inventive students who could take that information and further innovate their own future. If our schools fostered creativity, curiosity and analytical thinking, we’d also likely see the side-benefit of less children needing medication to sit still and lowered dropout rates.

The smart phone has been the conduit for equalizing access to information. But it is only the beginning. By supporting the continued growth and spread of mobile technology throughout the globe, we continue to empower and lift up more individuals. The imperative is on us to educate our children in ways that empower them to continue the momentum of innovation into the future.


Leave a comment

5 Things I’d Like to Tell My 7th-Grade Self

  I recently was invited to keynote at a Microsoft Digigirlz Camp in Albuquerque, New Mexico. And while I was very honored to keynote the event, I struggled a bit with what to say. I kept thinking back to what I was like in 7th or 8th grade and wondered what that girl would have wanted to hear. And finally, I decided that was the girl I needed to talk to. Here is the advice I would have given to the 7th-grade Me:

Never, Ever Play Dumb

I’m not sure when it happens, but somewhere beyond those first early grades when we, as girls, raise our hands high and eagerly answer questions in class, we somehow learn how to play dumb so others around us don’t feel bad for not knowing something we know. I know I did this – a lot – and I never felt good about me when I did.

As girls, we do this thing of pretending we don’t know an answer so the guy we’re with doesn’t feel bad that maybe, just maybe, we might be smarter than he is. Or we stay silent about how easy we thought a test was when our girlfriends at lunch are all saying how hard it was. But here’s the thing: if someone has to think you’re dumb to hang out with you, you’re making the choice to hang out with someone who will never like you for who you are, for all the special, unique quirks that is the wonderful version of you that lies awake at night imagining great adventures or ideas. So be true to that girl. She deserves it. I’m not saying to rub anyone else’s nose in how smart you are; I’m not saying that at all. I’m just asking that you make a promise to yourself that you’ll never, ever pretend to be dumb to make someone else feel better. Just be you, be humble, and be nice.

Be Adventurous

Have you thought you wanted to be a part of a sports team and decided to try out only to discover halfway through the season that you really didn’t like it all that much? Well, if your mom is anything like mine, you had to finish out the season so you didn’t let your teammates down. And then the next time you were curious about something and wanted to try it, you thought about getting stuck half a season doing something you didn’t like and, instead of exploring this new curiosity, you held back and decided it wasn’t worth the risk of getting stuck with it if you didn’t like it.

Well, those lessons are good for us – about not letting down teammates, about keeping our word and living up to our commitments. But we also need the freedom to explore new things in a way that lets us back out if we don’t like it. How will you ever know if you don’t try it? Find ways to explore things that you’re curious about. There is nothing at all wrong with dipping your toe in the pool to decide first if you like how the water feels; you don’t have to commit to diving into the deep end or doing nothing at all.

Check Your Stereotypes at the Door

How do you decide what it takes to be a good doctor or teacher or artist? What does a doctor look like? How about a teacher or artist? We build up these stereotypes, and we try to put ourselves – and everyone else around us – into this box that easily defines who that person is, what their role is, and what skills and traits they should have to be good at that particular role.

Don’t put yourself in box by deciding that you don’t fit the stereotype of what someone in STEM looks like. And don’t decide that it is all you can be if you do fit that stereotype. There are so many approaches to doing things that integrate across different disciplines that the possibilities are endless. Find something that strikes your passion, that you can’t stop thinking about how to solve that problem, and go do that. If you love art, don’t think you can’t be a part of STEM. You have no idea how much we need artists in this new digital world – artists who know how to think outside the box, to imagine how to communicate through color and lines and thickness of letters or shading to evoke just the right experience for someone accessing a website, a mobile app, an interactive kiosk in an airport that needs to appeal to multiple ethnicities and cultures. That is no easy task, so bring your talents to help solve problems that excite you.

Don’t Make it Hard for Other Girls

This one is so important. There is this part inside all of us that we want to create this environment where we feel comfortable, and we can unconsciously make it harder for other girls if they don’t fit inside of what we think our world should look or feel like. The next time you’re talking about something that’s a higher level idea and a girl you may think isn’t all that bright or isn’t interested in topics like yours – the next time one of those girls asks what you’re talking about, don’t dismiss her. Tell her. If she isn’t interested, she’ll disengage on her own. But don’t be the girl who doesn’t let girls outside of the stereotype into the smart girls club.

Mayim Bialik, who plays a scientist on Big Bang Theory, actually just became a neuroscientist in real life. But she pretty much fits that stereotype, right? What about Alicia Keys? Do you picture her as brilliant – smart enough to discuss ‘hard’ topics? She graduated at 16. And Elizabeth Banks graduated magna cum laude from UPenn. The point is that we sometimes jump to snap judgments about others based on what we see on the outside, but most of the time we’re wrong. Don’t be the girl who makes it hard for other girls to feel welcome in STEM.

It’s Your Life, So You Get to Choose

Don’t ever live someone else’s dream or become the character that someone else believes you should play in this thing called life. Even if it is that you are so good at math that everyone keeps telling you that you have to go into something that uses math – as if you owe it to math. You owe nothing to math. You owe everything to being true to yourself. So if there is this thing inside of you that says I may be good at math but I love art – then listen and explore that idea. Maybe you’ll land back at something in math but maybe you’ll do something really cool with art that no one else could have ever imagined without your incredible math skills. And if you’re a fantastic artist but you are curious about how cells break down and become cancerous? You have no idea how your ability to imagine things visually may play into this whole world of discovery around science and curing diseases. Don’t live someone else’s dream or let others define your life or your interests. Your unique view of everything around you may be just what the rest of the world has been waiting for. Anything is possible – so embrace your curiosity, embrace those around you, and explore your interests so you can contribute something amazing to the world that can come only from you.

Leave a comment

Helping Jen Thrive

Screenshot 2015-04-27 16.18.30Sometimes you just know someone is special. I knew this about Jennifer Lake the first time I met her. And then I saw the amazing photography she volunteered to do for Hautepreneurs. And then she volunteered to shoot headshots for our first year of finalists for the HauteHopes Scholarship Fund. And then Jen started working for us part-time at APPCityLife as a web developer.

With each interaction, I’ve affirmed a little stronger my opinion that Jen is one of the rare ones among us that will shine no matter what she faces – and she is facing a lot right now: constant pain, a trip to NYC for yet another surgery, and medical bills that are rapidly piling up.

View More: purchase of a specially designed t-shirt will help Jen defray some of those costs … and who among us couldn’t use a bit of a message like “thrive” from someone who’s learned to do it no matter what?

Buy your shirt HERE

Please share this post. Let’s spread the word and help Jen face this battle for her health with our support!


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 139 other followers