Archive for the ‘Entrepreneurship’ Category

  • What Do Fluffy Pink Flamingos Have To Do with Entrepreneurship?

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    Big D 2

    Much more than you might think!

    Last week I was in Sarasota Florida at The Institute for the Ages’ Seventh Annual Conference on Positive Aging to launch eProvStudio, a new program I’ve created with colleagues at Babson College – the #1 Entrepreneurship College in the US.

    eProvStudio is designed to help individuals aged 50+ explore the world of entrepreneuring. It combines Babson’s methodology of Entrepreneurial Thought & Action® with the art of improvisation to harness the individual and collective experience of older adults, thereby boosting prosperity for all ages.

    eProvStudio puts the skills and mindset of entrepreneuring into the hands of seniors to help them ignite and build ideas. In a truly experiential environment, players explore the mindset of an entrepreneur and practice the methodology of acting, learning and building on ideas. They draw upon who they are, what they know, who they know, and what resources they have at hand.

    The Sarasota workshop, filled to capacity by creative and energetic seniors 50+, was a huge success, but the workshop represents just one aspect of this pioneering new approach to entrepreneurship. We had several opportunities to engage seniors outside the workshop and the results were life changing.

    Just one example involves my Babson colleague and eProvStudio co-creator, Cheryl Kiser, who was walking with a crutch as she was still recovering from some horrific knee surgery. It was your typical boring aluminum crutch, and I kept saying we really need to do something to spiff that up. It reminded me of a remarkable 89 year-old senior, affectionately nicknamed Kickstarter Granny, who being bored with her old black canes began decorating them with flowers. Her grandson urged her to create some for others and helped her launch a Kickstarter campaign to raise $3000 to start her new business, “Happy Canes,” which sold online through Etsy.com.

    After the workshop, our Babson team drove off in search of a little retail therapy. We found a fun beach store, where I spotted an adorable fluffy pink flamingo. Turning to Cheryl I said, “This is the perfect decoration for your crutch.” She said, “If only I had a piece of string to attach it, and that’s when the “life-changing moment” occurred….

    The store manager had been observing us and with no prompting whatsoever said, “I think I have some twine in the back to hang the flamingo onto your crutch.”

    She found the twine and handed it to Cheryl who was about to loop it around the flamingo’s neck and hang it from the crutch’s crosspiece.

    The manger gently said, “No,” and began playing with possibilities. After a few minutes she had looped the twine under the bird’s wings and tied it to the crutch in such a way as to make the bodacious – some might say a wee bit bawdy – flamingo swing gracefully back and forth with every step.

    As we were thanking the manager, she said, “I thank you. This was joyful and made me feel great.” She asked us what we were doing in Sarasota, and when we told her about eProvStudio, she said, “Oh, I’ve always wanted to be an entrepreneur but never had the courage or resources to do it.”

    We explained how she was already thinking entrepreneurially in the ways she had thought and acted to address a customer challenge. She had used who she was, what she knew, and the resources she had at hand to create new value for the customer and one of her products. We said, “You already have what it takes to think and act as an entrepreneur.”  She is a real-life example of a 50+ year old woman who absolutely can be an entrepreneur but  doesn’t realize it.

    She was delighted, we were delighted with the encounter, and anyone who sees our fluffy pink flamingo – especially now that it is back in snow country – swinging from Cheryl’s crutch is delighted. We could not have had a better beginning for eProvStudio, which aims to “Launch, Lift, Learn and Leverage” all manner of entrepreneurial thinking!

    Cheryl and Big D

     

     

  • Take Back the Word SENIOR!

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    These Super Heroes are now in their 70's!

    These Super Heroes are now in their 70′s!

     

    As we dance into the New Year, it’s time to take back the word SENIOR! Really.

    When did “senior” become the uber- negative to be avoided at any cost?  Remember when you were in high school and couldn’t wait to become a senior? Even more so in college when “upperclassman” was okay but senior was the penultimate. Then, after graduation and out in the work world, did you strive to be the junior partner? No – your goal was senior partner, senior editor, senior designer, senior producer etc. Achieving “seniorhood” was always the aim until…  until you hit age 50 and then it became the pariah it is today.

    2014 is the time to reclaim our “senior” creds. Those of us over 50 are among or children of those called the “greatest generation.” We are brave and iconoclastic. We successfully fought for political freedom, eradicated barriers to racial, gender, religious and sexual discrimination, conquered diseases and global epidemics, provided broad access to healthcare and education, and explored the moon.

    Today’s seniors are providing an essential boost to the economy. Eighteen percent of Americans 65 and older continue to work and pay taxes, at least $120 billion a year, a figure that doesn’t include state income taxes.

    Senior entrepreneurs are launching new businesses stimulating job creation and growth, and boosting prosperity for all age groups. The highest rate of business start-up activity over the past decade has consistently been among people in the 55-to-64 age bracket. Almost half of all new entrepreneurs are between the ages of 45 and 64, and this cohort continues to grow.

    It’s time to stop the “senior” gloom and doom. This is not, as too many espouse, a “silver tsunami.” It is, rather, a “golden dividend!”

    Advocacy matters but action’s even better. Here’s to shaking things up, reclaiming the word, “senior,” and to the people who can make it happen!

    Happy New Year!

  • The Open 24-Hours Diner, the Open Talent Economy, and a Gent Named “Sawbones”

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    Diner

    I love diners – always have. You can eat whatever you want whenever you want. There’s no, “we stop serving breakfast at ten.” I can pop in for eggs over easy and bacon charred to a crisp (the way I like it) at 3pm or 3am.

    Who knew that these culinary establishments would be trendsetters? I read about today’s “Open Talent Economy,” and think that economy du jour is perfect for those of us aged 50+ who wish to work at what we want when we want.

    Deloitte has a nifty report, explaining the nuts and bolts of an “Open Talent Economy,” and Elaine Pofeldt writes in Forbes, Traditional Jobs Keep Fading, and It’s Time to Adapt.

    This is good news for the legions of 50+ year olds who are out of work, many of whom statistics demonstrate can basically forget about getting hired for a full-time job.

    But the remarkable, true story, “On the Contrary: Taking a Tip From Sawbones’s Career,” shared by Susan Jepson, Director of the National Senior Network, SCSEP, in Lowell, Massachusetts, brings to life just what it means to be multi-talented in today’s economy.

    Susan writes:

    I was rushing through the white-tented terminal at Denver International Airport when my attention was diverted by a storefront massage business.  Checking my wristwatch, I calculated that I had just enough time for a 20-minute massage.

    I settled onto the light gray vinyl chair and placed my face inside the cushioned headrest.  The massage therapist introduced himself.  “I’m Lee,” he said.  “But friends call me Sawbones.”

    He must have seen the cartoon question mark floating above my head in an imaginary white bubble — Sawbones? — for he went on to tell me about himself.

    Digging his thumbs into the back of my neck, Sawbones explained that massage was a new line of work for him.

    “Do you like it?” I asked.

    “Yes ma’am,” he said, revealing a slight rancher’s drawl.  “I get to meet interesting people, especially here at the airport.  A few weeks ago, I massaged Timothy McVeigh’s lawyer, who was on his way to the execution…He was a little tense.”

    Although that demanded a smart-alecky response, I could not think of one fast enough.  Instead. I asked Sawbones if he worked only at the airport.

    “No ma’am,” he said, I also have an office by the Stock Show Complex.  I have another business. “Custom cowboy hats.”

    “ The cartoon question mark made another appearance.” Cowboy hats?”

    “Yes ma’am. I sell them at the Grizzly Rose, the country-western bar on I-25.”

    I inhaled the rosemary scent of the massage oil and debated whether to prod Sawbones for more information.  Since I was unlikely to meet another cowboy-hat-maker masseur in the near future, I asked him if his massage business was growing.

    “Yes ma’am. See, I massage horses, too.”

    “Horses?” I asked, feeling like I was being sucked down a conversational rabbit hole.

    “Yes ma’am. Horses like massage.  They can get testy though.”

    “I’ll bet,” I said, picturing a blond Palomino lying hooves up on a massage table.

    As Sawbones kneaded my upper arms, he asked what I did for a living.

    “I’m a writer,” I said. Actually, I didn’t say that because just then, his fingers pushed my head into the headrest, making my answer sound more like “Imamiffer.”

    Sawbones was unfazed.  “Really?! I’m a writer, too!” he exclaimed, as if we were distant cousins meeting at a genealogy conference. I write scripts!”

    “Scripts?”

    “Yes ma’am. See I also perform in Wild West shows.”

    The rabbit hole was getting deeper by the second. “What kinds of things are in your shows?”

    “Shoot-outs.  Stuff like that. I have a friend who looks like Abraham Lincoln.  He’s gonna be in our show tomorrow night.”

    Now, I’ve never been that great at history, but it seems to me the Lincoln didn’t have that much to do with the Wild West. I was about to ask Sawbones how Abe figured into his act when he pulled my arms behind my back and away from my body like he was dressing a chicken.

    Soon, our 20 minutes was up, and Sawbones handed me his business card: ”Massage,” it read.  “For Horses and Humans.”

    “Just for future reference,” he added, “I also do home massage. It’s only 50 bucks, and I bring my own table, oil, and CD’s.” I accept the card graciously, even though I was fairly certain I’d never pay a man named Sawbones to tote oil and soft music into my house.

    It’s been a week since my encounter with the custom-cowboy-hat-making, Wild West show performing, horse- and – human massage therapist, and I can’t get him out of my mind.;  The more I think about Sawbones, the more I think he is ideally suited to today’s work world.  He’s adaptable, multi-talented, enthusiastic, and independent.  Think about it. They say people in their twenties today can expect to have seven different careers.  Sawbones has all seven at once.

    Now, I know there are people who might find Sawbones a little lowbrow and unfocused.  But to me, Sawbones is wise. He can work indoors or out.  He has built-in job security.  The bottom could fall out of the cowboy-hat market and Sawbones would still make it in the world.

    To check my impressions of him as a poster child for the new economy, I referred to Career Intelligence: The 12 New Rules for Work and Life Success, by Barbara Moses, Ph.D.  Here are a few of them:

    1. Ensure marketability: Sawbones has not one but seven fallback positions.  He has a broad network of contacts.  And, with a slogan that reads “Healing the West one massage at a time,” Sawbones clearly knows what creative marketing is all about.

    2. Be able to communicate:  In the space of 20 minutes, Sawbones managed to sell me on his talent, enthusiasm, business, savvy, and manners.  I haven’t been called ma’am so much since I invited a vacuum cleaner salesman into my house—something you should never do under any circumstances.

    3. Think income streams, not salary:  By calculations, Sawbones has at least six income sources, all in which include the potential for tips.

    In fact, Sawbones has already figured out what many of us spend our entire careers learning: how important it is to always try new things.  “Ma’am,” he said, “I do all these things because I promised myself I would never do the same boring thing all day long.”

    Now, most people I know have said this same thing to themselves at one time or another.  But the difference between Sawbones and most people is that he is not afraid to tackle new challenges.  Think about him the next time you’re confronted with a new opportunity.

     

  • How Celebrity Chef and Cookbook Author, Thomas Keller, Parlayed His Dishwashing Days into a Culinary Empire

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    Thomas Keller004 (5-9-05)

    I had just read another of Maria Popova’s fabulous Brain Pickings blog posts – this one on How To Find Meaningful Work or, as she says,  “The art-science of allowing the various petals of our identity to fully unfold,” when I saw this video of Thomas Keller addressing a packed auditorium of Stanford Business School students about how he attributes the lessons he learned as a dishwasher to his success.

    Keller’s mother managed several restaurants and, as a young boy he spent a lot of hours in those restaurants, beginning as a dishwasher. He says that early experience was formative because, as a dishwasher, he needed to be:

    1. Organized, efficient, attentive to detail. How he loaded the machine counted as much as how he unloaded it: the dishes, glasses and silverware had to be loaded a certain way to get them cleanest and unloaded efficiently. Feedback was instantaneous: things were either clean or not, and he could not afford for them not to be clean on his watch.

    2. Part of a team: everyone relied on him to get their plates, glasses and silverware clean. 

    3. Aware of rituals: loading the washer, emptying it, or sweeping the floor – everything had to be done at a certain time. He equates this today to every aspect of a meal needing to be done at a certain time for the whole to come together.

    4. Purposefully repetitive. He perfected his skills as a dishwasher by doing it over and over again, just as a chef perfects slicing onions by slicing them over and over again.

    Today, Thomas Keller’s culinary empire includes four restaurants and a bakery, cookbooks, wines, a line with Williams Sonoma and now Cup4Cup - a Gluten free flour business.  Keller is the only American-born chef to hold multiple three-star ratings by the Michelin Guide.

    The Thomas Keller Restaurant Group is made up of a family of restaurants that range from the gastronomic experiences of The French Laundry, which actually was a French Steam Laundry dating back to the 1920′s, in Yountville, California and Per Se in New York City to the more relaxed atmosphere of Bouchon Bistro, the family style dishes of Ad Hoc, and the exquisite sweets you’ll discover at Bouchon Bakery.  Each are bound by Keller’s passion to nourish and to provide memorable experiences for every guest that visits.

    To quantify these experiences specifically:

    Gift Cards for French Laundry in Yountville, Ca or Per Se in New York City range from:  Silver at $750-800; Gold at $1550; and Black at $2500 – thankfully each card is for two!

    Ad Hoc, also in Yountville has gift cards from $58 per person.

    Bouchon and Bouchon Bakery, with added locations in Beverly Hills and Las Vegas, from $31 per person per gift.

     

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     I’d say, Keller definitely found what Popov describes as meaningful work by “allowing the petals of his identity to unfold!”

     

     

     

     

     

  • 89-year-old Grandmother Takes on Kickstarter with Happy Canes

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    Photo courtesy of Marc Malkin

    Photo courtesy of Marc Malkin

    While some of us are still trying to figure out the intricacies of crowdfunding, Pearl Malkin, as reported by Parija Kavilanz in CNN Money this week, has, in her almost 9th decade, launched a campaign to raise $3,500 on Kickstarter.com for her first startup. Her business is Happy Canes. She buys old canes at Good Will stores and turns them into snappy walking sticks by decorating them with artificial flowers.

    Pearl is what my grandmother used to call a pistol. Bored with her plain black cane, she decided to glue on a few flowers. It did not take long, Kavilanz reports, for Pearl to branch out, creating different canes to match different outfits. When a close family friend visited, he suggested she turn the canes into a small business. He told Pearl about funding through Kickstarter and selling through Etsy, an online marketplace for handcrafted goods. He set her up on both sites in January, and Happy Canes now sell for $60each on Etsy. Pearl has raised $1,856 from 71 backers so far and, if she gets the full $3500, she wants to hire some helpers to create 10-20 made-to-order Happy Canes a day.

    When Kavilanz asked Pearl, “Why start a business now? The self-proclaimed rebel said, ‘I can’t sit idle and watch boring TV all day long. I want to make people happy, spread a little cheer around and maybe buy some nice shoes again.’”

    Kickstarter, for those not as much in the know as Pearl, is a crowdfunding platform for creative projects – everything from films, games, and music to art, design, and technology. Since Kickstarter’s launch in April, 2009, over $450 million has been pledged by more than 3 million people, funding more than 35,000 creative projects.

    For more startup funding info, check this Forbes Beginners Guide.

    In the meantime, take a peek at Grandma Pearl’s Happy Canes in her Etsy shop.

  • The Holstee Manifesto – Pithy, Poignant and Powerful

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    Screen shot 2013-02-03 at 1.12.53 PM

    We found this manifesto through one of our absolutely most favorite blogs, BrainPickings.org, created by the irrepressibly curious, Maria Popova.

    Behind the Holstee Manifesto is a business launched in the heat of the recession in May 2009. Brothers Mike and Dave and their partner, Fabian  knew they wanted to create more than a business – the trio wanted to create a lifestyle. So the first thing Holstee’s three founders did was sit together and write down exactly what was on their minds. They wanted to create a company that breathes passion into the world everyday. It was to be a reminder of what we live for. The result became known as the Holstee Manifesto and, through all avenues of social media, the manifesto has been viewed over 80,000,000 times to date!

    Screen shot 2013-02-03 at 12.44.40 PM

    Starting in the summer of 2009, they dove head first into the world of design and production. After six months and a huge learning curve, Holstee launched its first line of Recycled Tees made of 100% recycled plastic bottles that were milled, cut and sewn within 150 miles of each other in North Carolina. Starting with this first round, 10% of all sales were lent to entrepreneurs in extreme poverty through non-profit micro-lending organizations like Kiva.org – a tradition they are proud to still embrace.

    Amazed and inspired by the community of individuals who have embraced the Holstee Manifesto as their own, the founders have created this My Life  project to capture, celebrate and share the stories that speak to the truth that life is indeed about the people you meet and the things you create with them.

  • Just Start!

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    Courtesy, TwistedPoly.com

     

    One book and two blog posts I read this week – and another classic tome – hold our entrepreneurial, career shifting toes to the fire – as in stop over assessing, evaluating and planning and Just Start!

    The book, Just Start: Take Action, Embrace Uncertainty, Create the Future, by Len Schlesinger, President, Babson College; organizational learning expert Charles Kiefer; and veteran journalist Paul B. Brown is a stirring, practical pronunciamento. Each author shares his own deep and varied experiences and draws from a source where striving amid constant uncertainty actually works: the world of serial entrepreneurship. In this world, people don’t just think differently—they act differently, as well.

    Their dynamic manifesto begins in the epigraph where they invoke Lao-tzu, the Chinese philsopher’s, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” It ends (but is it really an ending if you follow their practicum?) as they capture the essence of the book in 78 pro-active words in the epilogue:

    1. Know what you want.

    2. Take a smart step toward that desire as quickly as you can, that is, act with the means at hand; stay within your acceptable loss and bring others along with you if it makes sense.

    3. Make reality your friend. Accept what is and build off what you find.

    4. Repeat steps two and three until you accomplish your goal or until you decide it is not possible, or you decide you’d rather do something else.

    One of the blog posts I mentioned earlier is The Habit of Starting written by Leo Babauta on his Zen Habits blog. Babauta says, “The biggest reason people fail at creating and sticking to new habits is that they don’t keep doing it. That seems obvious: if you don’t keep doing a habit, it won’t really become a habit. So what’s the solution to this obvious problem? Find a way to keep doing it.

    When you look at it this way, the key to forming a habit is not how much you do of the habit each day (exercise for 30 minutes, write 1,000 words, etc.), but whether you do it at all. So the key is just getting started.”

    The second great blog post is Tim Berry’s What Business to Start? Look in the Mirror.  Berry writes, “So you want to start a business, but don’t know what kind? Sure, you can get a list of franchises or ask the experts what are good businesses to start. That works for some people. Lists of businesses to start are easy to find. My advice, however, is don’t look for a list of good businesses. Don’t ask what the big opportunities are. Get a clue. Go look in the mirror.”

    Last but not least, the “classic tome” is  The Art of the Start: The Time-Tested, Battle-Hardened Guide for Anyone Starting Anything by Guy Kawasaki. Aimed at entrepreneurs of any age, it is one of the most enlightening and inspiring books I have read on this subject.

  • Do What You Love – Don’t Settle for Second Best

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    Courtesy, webgrrls.com

     

    If you’re 60 years old and just starting a business of your own, this is not the time for you to settle for second best. First, it is not good for your psyche and second, it is not good for your business.

    In this 12 Most Overlooked Essential First Steps For Starting A Business blog post, the first and last steps are all about you.

    The number 1 question is: Ask yourself, “What do I want out of life?”

    And the 12th and final “most overlooked essential” question is: Remind yourself, “Why you are starting this business and what it’s supposed to do for you?”

    You’ve lived and worked a lot of years. Now you’re free to choose what you want to do for the next 20-30 years. Don’t blow the opportunity. Stay focused and don’t compromise.

    Business News Daily had an article, Innovation Begins at Home for Entrepreneurs, that notes one of the best ways to test your entrepreneurial mettle and staying power is to build on something that works for you. It cites a study, released by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, a nonprofit group that focuses on entrepreneurship and innovation, which found, “Nearly half of innovative startups are founded by user entrepreneurs. These are firms created by entrepreneurs who developed innovative products or services for their own use and then went on to found firms to commercialize them. They leave an outsize mark on the economy; even though they create only 10.7 percent of startups overall, they account for more than 46 percent of innovative startups that have lasted five years or more.

    For more about the you in entrepreneurship, don’t miss this new book The Big Enough Company by Adelaide Lancaster and Amy Abrams. They explore how to grow your enterprise in a way that sustains your own personal goals and needs, not someone else’s standards. Drawing on the true stories of nearly 100 entrepreneurs, as well as their own experiences, the authors guide readers through the best principles that really matter when you work for yourself. This book empowers entrepreneurs to ignore popular “wisdom” and peer pressure to take charge of their businesses in a way that will help them succeed on their own terms.

    Never Lose Sight of the You in “Starting Your Own Business!”

  • Orchestrating Innovation – Old and New

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    Courtesy, Harvard Business Review

     

    This weekend, as I read a preview of Walter Isaacson’s article, “The Real Leadership Lessons of Steve Jobs” the April cover story in the Harvard Business Review, I was struck by the parallels between the culture of creativity Jobs fostered at Apple and that of Mervin Kelly, “the man most responsible for the culture of creativity” at Bell Labs fifty years earlier.

    Jon Gertner, author of the forthcoming “The Idea Factory: Bell Labs and the Great Age of American Innovation,” published an ode to the “Bell Labs’ Miracle” in the NY Times last month. Just for starters, read and compare how these four key lessons of Jobs – “Focus; Simplify; Take Responsibility; and Combine the Humanities with the Sciences” were integral to the Bell Labs’ creative ecosystem.

    Echo, the first communications satellite, in 1960. Courtesy of Alcatel-Lucent USA Inc. and the AT&T Archives and History Center

     

    As Gertner notes: “His [Kelly's] fundamental belief was that an ‘institute of creative technology’ like his own needed a ‘critical mass’ of talented people to foster a busy exchange of ideas. But innovation required much more than that. Mr. Kelly was convinced that physical proximity was everything; phone calls alone wouldn’t do. Quite intentionally, Bell Labs housed thinkers and doers under one roof. Purposefully mixed together on the transistor project were physicists, metallurgists and electrical engineers; side by side were specialists in theory, experimentation and manufacturing. Like an able concert hall conductor, he sought a harmony, and sometimes a tension, between scientific disciplines; between researchers and developers; and between soloists and groups.”

    Indeed, it will take all of us – artists, scientists, politicians, teachers, navigators, cooks, athletes, geeks, oboe players and more – to address the world’s seemingly intractable problems today.  And, once we truly understand this, we need to identify another innovator cut from the same cloth as Jobs and Kelly to lead our orchestra.

     

  • Balancing Work and Life: Stories from the Trenches

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    Stone Sculpture, Willard Beach, Maine

    The challenges can be daunting but they need not be insurmountable. As a wise old soul once said, “Nothing is impossible; the impossible just takes a little longer.”

    A key first step is to identify your priorities. Determine what you want to get out of your work and your personal life, and jettison all the things that don’t help you achieve those goals.

    The second key step is to give yourself time. You can’t expect to achieve this balance overnight. Take small steps and build on each success.

    Help, as in interviews with those who have and have not achieved balance, is available at Stanford University’s e-Corner (Entrepreneurship Corner), a project of Stanford Technology Ventures Program. They have published a collection of videos and podcasts of more than 1800 of Silicon Valley’s most practiced entrepreneurs and thought leaders.

    Check out three of their videos with “perspectives on this frequently elusive pursuit” below:

    Video: Life With an Entrepreneur
    Brad Feld, Foundry Group, TechStars
    5 min. 7 sec.

    Living a “life” while being an entrepreneur can have its challenges, according to entrepreneur and investor Brad Feld. Through a candid story from his own marriage, Feld explains how he has successfully found a way to balance his love of work with his love of family.

     

    Video: Work-Life Balance for Driven People
    Dominic Orr, Aruba Networks
    3 min. 28 sec.

    Dominic Orr, CEO of Aruba Networks, wrestles with the definition of work-life balance for people deeply engaged by their work. Orr recognizes it can be difficult to separate work and life, but that we must still make room for relationships that matter to us. According to Orr, this ultimately comes down to carefully allocating our time and energy.

     

    Video: Failure in Work-Life Balance
    Lisa Lambert, Intel Capital
    2 min. 19 sec.

    “Failure is as much about success as success is,” says Lisa Lambert, vice president at Intel Capital. “In fact, it’s probably a more important part.” Lambert reflects on aspects of her career she wishes she could revisit, including work-life balance. Get practiced in the act of saying no, she advises, and accept that your time and money, and other resources only occur in limited quantities.

     

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