Failing = Awesome

Recently, one topic has been popping up again and again in front of my face.

The necessary and often positive outcomes of failure.

The topic seems messed up, but upon further inquiry, it’s totally dead on.

My first intro to the idea of success through failure came from Barbara Corcoran’s book, If You Don’t Have Big Breasts, Put Ribbons On Your Pigtails, in which she describes her turbulent, funny, disastrous, and random path to outrageous real estate empire building success.

I’m not sure she actually writes: failure = success.  But I’m pretty sure, looking back three years, when I first read it, that that’s exactly what I got out of it.

Or to elaborate: although the paths we take may not always seem to lead to the proverbial pot-of-gold, it’s the dead ends, unclear choices, and “failures” along the way that lead us to the outcomes we seek.

I had been thinking about the topic since the New Year began, and then stumbled upon Failing Well, an article Barbara happened to write on January 9 of this month, recounting the time she blew her first profit of $71,000 on an inspired idea to make real estate video tapes, so people could look at apartments for sale from the comfort of their home (what a crazy idea!!!).

It failed.

Apparently, no one wanted the video tapes.  And it seemed like a total waste of funds.

Except that a little while later, this thing called the I-N-T-E-R-N-E-T came to be, and Barbara was the first to put her videos’ contents online and eventually make a killing.

Seems like failing is basically inevitable.  What’s not inevitable, though, is our attitude.

And the more I think about my path to where I am now… the more things become clear.

  • Would I have found the job I have now if I hadn’t left the last one abruptly after the company went through an unfortunate restructure?  Probably not.
  • Would I have found my field of work, a small niche that I am passionate about, if my first job out of college hadn’t sucked / fallen apart during the economic plummet of ‘08?  Probably not.
  • Would I have been a founding member of a new sorority in College, if I had not fallen through the cracks and was not accepted by the sorority of my choice?  Probably not.
  • Would I have switched figure skating clubs and coaches and become the skater I am today if I didn’t fail at that competition and my earlier coach hadn’t lost faith in me?  Probably not.

Out of failure comes success.

I can’t wait to fail in 2014.

Awesome.

New Year’s Resolutions in Reverse: A Good-bye to 2013

 

The first few days of the New Year are upon us.

This can only mean one thing:

New. Year. Obligatory. Post.

Just in case the other 97627346 bloggers, hard-hitting CNN journalists (seriously – CNN – sometimes I think you’re punking me with your absurd headlines), and, as I found out today… , USA.GOV New Year’s Resolution website (what???) didn’t offer the right amount of predictable inspiration, I’m offering my two cents here.

Truthfully, I am a fan of this topic and New Year’s in general.

The ending of a year and the starting of a brand spanking new blank slate is pretty exciting.  It’s like the first day of school (brand new notebooks!!).

However, I don’t believe you can start a new chapter/list/notebook before you’ve properly closed off the previous one.

Last night, during a dinner party, one of the seven guests suggested we go around the table and have everyone say their “Best and Worst of 2013.”

The answers were real.  Some were funny.  All prompted reflection.  The worst: losing a job, learning of a family member’s illness, losing a pet; The best: passing an important exam, meeting newly special people, finding a new job.

In similar fashion, for today’s post, I’ve decided to recycle a popular idea I used a few months ago called The Reverse Bucket List and write a reverse New Year’s resolution list for 2013.

The following is a list of some self-improvements, goals, and personal attainments of 2013 (and, when appropriate, illustrative photos):

1)      Put effort into becoming closer with family members; find time to get to know extended family

cousins

Meeting second cousins for brunch

2)      Separate emotionally from surrounding drama

3)      Get back out on that ice and start figure skating/training/coaching again

ice skating figure skating

Back on the ice – starting a session

4)      Furnish/decorate an apartment from scratch

The completed "living room" in my first personal apartment

The completed “living room” in my first personal apartment

5)      Travel abroad for an “extended” vacation; leave worries/computers/cell phones behind

greece

Taking it easy in Naxos, Greece

6)      Pick up a new fitness hobby

flywheel spin cycle

Attending Flywheel classes with friends

7)      Cook for myself more – learn to make new healthy staples

Yummy salad with homemade dressing

Yummy salad with homemade dressing

8)      Take advantage of new city

Hanging off the ledge at Sears Tower

Hanging off the ledge at Sears Tower

9)      Take advantage of new found proximity to family (with move to Chicago) and spend more time with little sister

roller coaster

Roller-coastering with lil sis

10)      Take steps to show some semblance of putting yourself first

11)      Learn to say no

12)      Bring down the mile-high fence/barricade/guard and give trust and a new relationship a chance

Ice skating at the zoo.  It snowed.  It was perfect.

Ice skating at the zoo in Chicago. It snowed. A friend snapped this when we weren’t looking.

Decidedly, 2013 was pretty good to me.

A great portion of the positive in 2013 stemmed from this blog.  Writing these posts, however inconsequential they may seem, has come to be a huge part of my life.  I love connecting with readers from my  backyard as well as all over the world.  I love reading what others are generating.  I love finding commonalities.

So thank you, friends, for making 2013 Awesome.

I think I’m ready for 2014.

Cheers!

The Miracle of Human Flight. (in the digital age)

flight

I went on a business trip.

Yep. Like a big girl.

I know you’re not surprised, since I’ve blogged about my flying adventures before.

This time was different though.  I didn’t make a lobster roll spread on my way to Los Angeles by taking up a full row and laying out my condiments (shamelesssss) and I didn’t creatively procure free alcohol (it was weird).

I participated in the miracle of human flight in a different way and I got pretty excited.

Are you guys familiar with Louis C. K.?  I apologize if this question is akin to me asking if you’ve heard of Miley Cyrus. DUH. (Unfortunately) (although that “We Can’t Stop” song – pretty catchy).

Anyway. Louis C. K. Comedian. Hilarious. Sometimes takes it too far. But mostly dead on funny.

A few years ago he was on Conan’s show and ranted for a fantastic bit that has come to be known as “everything is amazing and no one is happy,” during which he recounts how freaking awesome it is – this invention of human flight (among other things) (and rants on humans in general).

(if you haven’t seen it, then you HAVE TO watch this clip. It’s the funniest shit ever. Click here. Or here. Or HERE.)

That’s how I felt.

Not only was it a gorgeous day for flying.

BUT I used the internet today. On board.

Not only was I 38,000 feet in the air, but I could TELL MY FRIENDS ABOUT IT.

In real time.

So I did.

I emailed my brother, my aunt, my boyfriend, my cousin, 10 of my co-workers, my grandma, several managers, my dad, and my hair stylist (ok my former hair stylist).

I realize in-flight wifi isn’t new. But it actually worked this time. And I actually felt like using it instead of taking some me time/had to dial-in (something about work).

I was totally going weeeeeeeee. (My row companion LOVED it. JK. But I did have an interesting convo with him that I’ll save for my next post. YUP. It’s a two-parter.)

Anyways, IT WAS AWESOME!

Messin’ About On Boats: A Spontaneous Vacation

bahamas stirrup cay

I love surprises.  I love being spontaneous.  I love getting away.

Even when it’s to the neighborhood French bistro at 9:30 PM on a Sunday — that’s 2 hours where I forget it all, drink wine and stuff myself with truffled fries.  Or to the movie theatre on a Monday night followed by deep-dish pizza – that’s 3 hours where I pretend I’m having a staycation in the beginning of the week.

Point is.  I love being spontaneous and getting away.

So when that boy I’ve been hanging out with a lot told me five days before Thanksgiving that he’d booked a cruise to the Caribbean for this past weekend, I nodded and said:

I’ll go get my in-case-of-Caribbean-cruise-rolly-bag.

It’s already packed.

I was psyched.  All 3 aspects rolled into one.  What an incredible short, yet Awesome adventure.

I was beaming, but also kind of nervous.

Because I didn’t know what to expect.

Let me rephrase that.  I knew exactly what to expect.  I knew about the mountains of delicious food available to all passengers 24/7.  I knew about the on-board shows.  I knew about the endless photographs, Jacuzzis on the top deck, piña coladas, cheesy dance parties and the fact that they’ll deliver a pizza to your room at any time of day FREE.  I even knew about the safety drill (where you get to practice lining up like you did in elementary school).

But I didn’t know what to expect.

It’s been 6 years since my last cruise.

That one that my mom purchased for me – a last gift before she passed away – for my graduation from college.  I haven’t been on a cruise since then.

Similar ship.  Similar islands.  Similar environment.  Same desire to vacate.  Different time in my life.

What would it be like?

bahamas

atlantis

photo 2 (4)

IMG_1095

IMG_1097

photo (98)

photo (99)

The food was still there.  So were the hot tubs.  The stars still sparkled unlike anything I am able to see in the city.  The ocean’s turquoise colors still amazed me.  As did its blunt expansiveness.

We had fun.  We ate too much.  We drank one too many mimosas.  We tried Bahamian beer.  We went down the kiddie slide at the Atlantis resort.  We won some money in roulette.  We lost it all.  We ordered champagne and pizza at 3 in the morning.  We ordered the left side of the all-inclusive menu at dinner.

It was different, but it was the same.  Appropriately tweaked for this time in my life.

And it was spontaneous.

Which made it that much better.

Good weekend.

Awesome.

A Thing or Two About Life: A Birthday Chronicle

lala bday party 1 - Copy

A photo of the besties in costume for their big performance honoring/teasing my aunt

My aunt turned the big 6-0.

She’ll probably kill me for broadcasting this to the world.  But I think it’s necessary for my purposes.

Mostly because, it’s kind of a big deal.  In Russian, we call this a “circular date.”  A milestone.  Something huge that deservedly requires something grand to mark its presence.

To commemorate, my aunt invited friends and family from our town, other states and other countries.  I’m pretty sure she invited everyone she knew.  Old friends, new friends, relatives I’ve never met and neighbors who treat me like family.

She decided to put aside that whole “shit I’m getting older” situation and decided to have a big damn blow out.

And we applauded her.

And we braced ourselves.

Because we knew this meant a “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” style party, during which we would eat enough food for 30 days and those of us “youth” would stare with mouth agape wondering how it was possible we ever made any friends.

food

One of the tables. It could have fed a 1st world army. Instead it fed 50 of my aunt’s closest friends.

Unfortunately, this post isn’t about my eventful childhood (we’ll save that for later).  It’s about my aunt’s choice to ring in her important birthday with a positive attitude and a hell of a lot of fun.

She always tells me about the parties she and her friends throw together.  The kind of fun they conjure up, seemingly from nothing.  When she phones me to catch up, the conversation inevitably turns to some gathering these friends had and the songs, skits, poems, readings and/or ensembles they put together.

My aunt’s birthday offered me a peek into their traditions.

These weren’t ordinary toasts.  The MC’s main job was passing the microphone around from group of friends to group of friends so they could start on their “prepared piece” in honor of my aunt.

My expressions went from awed shock to laughter.

And at the risk of showing the world the insanity that is a birthday party in “my culture,” I’ve attached the video of one of the performances here – my favorite one.  Where they dressed up in “Ukrainian wear” and sang a Ukrainian folk song in jest to tease my aunt.

You don’t need to watch all 2 minutes and 48 seconds of this video.  I realize it’s a lot to ask.  But should you choose to click on the link below, keep in mind that these women are dentists, lawyers, doctors and engineers by day.  Also – I had no idea they even knew how to speak Ukrainian (my family speaks Russian).  Also – I had no idea our friend the MC could play the accordion.  Or that people still played the accordion.

It was absolutely ridiculous.

But so damn fun.

I’m thinking my aunt and her friends have a thing or 2 figured out.  Maybe they know how real fun is had.

Between catching up with my cousin and family friends, dancing with my boyfriend, my uncle and my dad, stuffing myself with deliciousness, taking hundreds of photos, and watching my family members dance together, I was absolutely caught up and living in the moment.

brother sister

My dad dancing with his sister, the birthday girl.

Admittedly, I enjoyed myself thoroughly.

We laughed.  We danced.  We sang.

What more can a person ask for?

Awesome.

I Live Where Now?? What Happened This Year??

chicago

365 days ago my (former) roomie and I started a new life chapter:

The Chicago years.

It happened.

1 year ago today.

I would say I’m shocked at how fast it’s gone by but then… SO MUCH SHIT has happened.

And by shit I mean things.

Relationships, friendships, apartments, family and work dynamics, extra-curricular activities, travels domestically and abroad, animal relocations (roomie’s cat couldn’t stay) and Chicago-based family reconnections, among other things, were all changed or touched for at least one of us this year.

So, yeah.  It’s been a busy year.

But let’s turn the focus back to that day for a moment.  October 31, 2012.

Looking back, I think the sequence of events for the move went something like this:

1)      Wake up at 430AM.

2)      Wonder why head hurts.

3)      Wonder why we’re on the floor on a bare mattress… oh right. Moving. New state. Hurricane Sandy.

4)      Remember dealing with stranded situation by playing beer pong with everyone in building by candle-light.

5)      Find cat.

6)      Put mattress in trash room on another floor so no one thinks it’s us.

7)      Feel guilty for a few seconds.

8)      Shrug.

9)      Use landline system to call downstairs to ask for little man to manually bring the only operating generator-backed up elevator to the 27th floor.

10)  Stealthily begin the escape out of NYC by doing what we were told NOT to do under ANY circumstances: move out. Or leave the building generally.

11)  Leave roomie to bring our (my) stuff down the elevator.

12)  Walk through pitch black streets to the side of Manhattan with no blackout.

13)  Find our beacon of light: Enterprise Rent-A-Car.

14)  Rent Suburban.

15)  Realize it’s too small.

16)  Rent Mini-Van.

17)  Suddenly understand soccer moms.

18)  Drive through Manhattan streets with no traffic lights.

19)  Feel scared.

20)  Feel excited.

21)  Reflect on the fact that you need a shower.

22)  Pull up to building.

23)  Convince 4 doormen to risk their jobs by packing the mini-van with all of our stuff.

24)  Give doormen handles of Vodka as a going away present.

25)  Pretend we’re NOT moving out when manager shows up to work at 6AM.

26)  Put cat on roomie’s lap.

27)  Drive away.

28)  Don’t look back.

moving away nyc

Lining the hallway with our stuff so we’d be ready to go in the morning

We drove about 794 miles in 12 hours.

The actual drive was eventful in itself.  If I wrote a list of things that happened, I would definitely include roomie’s desire to SING THE WHOLE TIME, roomie trying to make the cat “go” IN the car at the McDonald’s parking lot while in godknowswhere and stopping in quaint Pennsylvania town to eat and then somehow hanging with trick-or-treating preschoolers.

It was a journey.  We couldn’t predict hurricane Sandy’s premiere in our life the night before we were supposed to move and we couldn’t predict the past year.

me on couch

One of our friends in midtown Manhattan had electricity so we went to plug in my computer and phone so I could check work e-mail and ya know tell my family I was alive (and drink water out of a wine glass apparently)

It’s been busy.  But the good news is that a lot of things have stayed the same.  Like her desire to constantly get me up to do shit in the morning.

Per usual, she forced me to wake up this morning for a breakfast outing – to celebrate our 1-year anniversary in Chicago… before work.

Per usual, I couldn’t get up and was more than late.

Per usual, she was mad but then it was ok after we had eggs and hash browns.

Celebrating the move this morning!

Celebrating the move this morning!

We toasted with sunny side up eggs while sitting in the diner around the corner from my apartment.  We chatted about this past year and talked about upcoming plans and then we went about our lives in this city which was new last year but is suddenly so familiar.

Looking forward to year 2 ya’all.

Awesome.

Note: There were 3 of us living together in that last apartment. The 3rd one did not move with us.  Something about family and the whole having a great stable relationship with someone who had just gotten into law school in NYC.  Still trying to figure out what all that’s about.

we will miss you nyc

Helping other roomie paint

Inspiration Fridays

inspiration

That time has come upon us.

It’s Friday.

The first day of the weekend.

Time to reflect on the week and plan weekend adventures.

Today I’m getting listy.

Here are the people, in no particular order, that are inspiring me this week:

This Amazing Old Guy

Harry Rosen is 103.

He eats out in New York City’s trendiest restaurants every single night. He gets his usual corner table and he eats by himself, often striking up conversations with people.  He says it “lifts [his] spirits.”

He’s not your typical 103-year-old.

He’s living life and he’s doing his best to enjoy it.  He’s eating out and he’s even trying to date.

He enjoys the simple pleasure of being out among the people.  It helps to be out, since his wife of 70 years passed a few years ago.  Since then, he’s even tried participating in singles groups.

This guy’s enthusiasm makes me want to get up in the morning, throw back the curtains, and declare in one magnificent gesture, hands on hips – like I imagine Tarzan, naked in a loin cloth – TODAAAAY WILL BE THE BEST DAY EVER!!!!!!

He’s also freaking adorable.  And everyone from my 20-something friends to friends’ moms to my grandma want to be his dining companion (I’ve taken a poll).

I think this has something to do with the fact that people tend to be drawn towards the positive.  And Harry – you’ve got it down.  I can only hope to make it to 103 and have half the spirit and drive you do (Rosen says the secret is sleeping on your back).

Absolutely amazing.

A Neighbor

I received some 8AM inspiration from a new neighbor this week.

I overslept one morning and decided to take a cab to work (low point, I know).

While I was waiting, an older gentleman happened to come down to head to work as well.  And we struck up a conversation in my building’s lobby.

This man (probably in his 60s) told me (in the span of 20 minutes) essentially his entire professional life story (I asked).

He told me about the teams he used to work on for automotive clients, dreaming up new inventions for cars (silly things like windshield wipers).  He told me about the 150 patents he penned in the U.S. and abroad.  He told me about how he keeps working now well into his retirement because he loves it.

To quote my new friend Eric: “It’s not always giggles, but I’ve loved what I do for decades.  Life’s way too short not to love what you’re doing.”

This Spunky Personal Training Entrepreneur

My building invited a Chicago personal trainer/life coach to train residents in Yoga and Pilates.

I couldn’t make the classes previously, due to my work schedule, but had the opportunity to attend the last couple.

I love her class – and I love feeding off her energy!

I’ve had some opportunities to chat with her since then and I’ve been pretty inspired.

Stephanie Mansour started her own business in her early 20s (Step it Up With Steph) and five years later is well on her way to building her own personal fitness empire.

I look forward to her blog articles and her advice.  Why?  Because she’s honest.  And anyone who blogs will tell you that being honest is key.  Putting yourself out there is HARD and blogging or sharing your life takes guts (that I’m slowly finding).

Steph believes that her business is “not JUST about exercise and eating right – it’s about emotions and the connection we have to ourselves and others.” (from her blog) – I couldn’t agree more.

She is equal parts inspiration due to her entrepreneurial skills and her attitude about life.

——–

Thanks for the inspiration ya’ll!!

And HAPPY FRIDAY.

Awesome.

Note: None of these people knew that I was going to write about them.  Although, I do wish Harry Rosen knew.

Note 2: Somehow another photo shoot happened this morning.  If you haven’t tried putting on ridiculous things from your closet and being expressive for no reason, I HIGHLY recommend it.  I also recommend dancing around your home/apt/living abode by yourself to music in said outfit.  it’s AWESOME.

Why I Broke Up With New York City

new york city

view from the roof deck in my last New York City apartment

In 4 weeks exactly, I will celebrate an important anniversary.

Exactly 11 months ago to the day, a friend and I packed up our fabulous apartment in New York City and drove 15 hours until we saw the Chicago skyline.

It’s been almost 1 whole year since I did this scary thing – left New York – and dared to build a life elsewhere.

I planned to post this entry closer to the 1 year mark, but my friend Irene (in New York City no less), sent me an article, entitled “Why I’m Glad I Quit New York at Age 24” today, in which Ann Friedman chronicles with great sincerity, the reasons why she left New York and her “Meh” feelings on the city in general.

The topic of New York City has been implanted in my mind, unwavering, since I moved.

Between meeting new people (HI! I just moved here from NYC…), my new co-workers, friends back east and random strangers, the topic of the move comes up more than talk of the weather.  And every time I’m at a house-warming, networking event or on a date, I feel extremely unsettled about my answer.

Why DID I leave New York?  Why don’t I EVER want to live there again?

Every time I hear these questions, a slew of verbal diarrhea ejects itself ranging from reasons to do with work, family, my childhood in the Mid-West or just LOVING the deep-freeze of winter (not really).

Unlike Ann, who moved to NYC because she couldn’t think of anywhere else to go and followed a boyfriend who reportedly had her dream job, my path and times in NYC weave a different tale.

As a child, I was fortunate enough to visit New York almost every year.  My parents’ best friends (the ones who are credited with birthing Irene) moved to New York City when we immigrated from Ukraine, while we settled in Michigan.  I found myself visiting New York “frequently” on family trips when I was a child and then on my own when I was older to see Irene.  The lights of Times Square used to mesmerize me.  Irene’s parents would take us driving through during every visit.  Those big billboards represented big dreams to me (12 year-old me thought corporate America was like six flags) and I longed to grow up and find these corporate dreams of my own.

Once I grew up, my educational goals pushed me to the East Coast.  I attended a competitive liberal arts school, after which, what felt like my entire graduating class, moved to New York City.

I didn’t follow a boyfriend (he ended up moving a year later to follow me).  I was psyched about my first job (until I wasn’t).  I lived with one of my best friends from college (see Brunch post).  I had 3 jobs during my 5-year tenure in the city, during which time I had great experiences, and one of which was in the smack center of Times Square.  I even had my little brother by my side, after he graduated and moved to NYC (and lived on my couch for 3 months).

From the outside, my NYC life probably looked like a Great Gatsby party or a Sex and the City episode (except with parades of frat boys and no Louboutins – those actually aren’t affordable, Carrie).

Somehow though, the city left me incredibly unsettled and – this has been hard to admit – I don’t think I was ever incredibly happy.  Yes, I had some great times and I accomplished professional goals and I frolicked with old friends and made new ones.

But I somehow still felt like I was in a box.

Ann describes New York as the prom king in high school: “He knows he’s great, and he’s gonna make it really, really hard on you if you decide you want to love him.”

I think in my version the prom king loves you back and you realize he’s a douche.  Or you’re Cady Heron in Mean Girls and you’re accepted by the popular clique only to find out that the 3 of them are absolutely miserable people.

I haven’t put an exact stamp on my feelings.

Maybe it has something to do with the eventual break-up with my now ex-boyfriend.  Maybe it has to do with my lack of desire to hang out with the prom king while he runs around town telling everyone he’s #1.  Maybe I was just getting tired of being shoved on the subway in the morning.

Maybe it’s all 3.

I realize this topic hits on some buttons for many people and there are those that love NYC with extreme passion.  I still have friends who are there and love it.

I will say this though, I agree with Ann – I breathed easier after moving.

Over the past year, as hard as it is, I’ve thrown myself into establishing a life here.  I decorated my first personal apartment by picking out furniture piece by piece, I joined internal organizations at work, I went to networking events, I started coaching figure skating again, I put in effort to reconnect with high school friends I’ve lost touch with and I’ve opened myself up to finding matches in new dating pools.

It was hard.  But even on the hardest day, I still breathe easier.

The city you live in that suits you is a personal choice.

On this anniversary, I’m proud of myself for taking a leap of faith and leaving.  The move has turned a number of my worlds upside down, but it’s also grounded many.

I feel happy about the direction I’m moving in, and that friends,… is Awesome.

That Time I Saw Walter Isaacson Speak and Spent 8 Days Trying to Write About It

steve jobs book

Obviously, this is when it happens.

I meet the man who basically invented inspiration and my ability to write about it resembles a kindergartener on the first day of typing class. (But a really advanced one!)

For seven days I’ve been wrestling (physically) with writers block, trying to figure out how to put this evening into words.

I’ve been trying to relay the luck I felt to be in this right place at the right time to get some perspective during a hell week at work that included an all-nighter, a boss that thinks “this is shit” is constructive feedback and instructions to my team to redo all the work.

I’ve been struggling to come up with a sequence of words that conveys the extent to which I was nerding out during this speech about the corporate dictator/lunatic genius himself, Steve Jobs, and the things true passion can build.

After all, you don’t hear every day from the man who spent two years taking long walks and discussing Jobs’ life, the legacy he wanted to leave, his regrets, his formative years and insane stories that could only come from someone who started and saw through the very thing that lead to the iPod/iPhone/iPad situation (The situation being their existence, of course).

My eyes were glued to the stage for the entire hour-long speech.  Somehow Isaacson squeezed in what felt like Steve Jobs’ whole life story, added his own personal feelings and threw in examples of bringing in strengths from those around you as demonstrated by Benjamin Franklin and the team of leaders that wrote the United States Constitution (yep).  Isaacson addressed the meanings of “success,” both positive and negative and most importantly, the roads that lead there, the critical interactions that matter and the manner in which these leaders treated those around them.

I’m not sure how he wove these stories together, but strong messages of the entrepreneurial spirit were conveyed.  Knowing about challenges faced by those who achieved greatness gives you appreciation for your own struggles (however small they may seem in comparison).  I felt stronger.  I felt pumped. I somehow felt even more patriotic (??) than usual. (Walt, you sneaky bastard).

A week later, I am still thinking about the messages I heard and the stories that were told.

Clearly the act of conveying these messages is throwing me for a loop.  So I leave you with this.

My main takeaways:

1) Being a successful leader means surrounding yourself with talented and capable people and enabling them to do their best work.  I’m pretty sure Jobs drove 90% of the people he encountered absolutely nuts, but he was smart enough to recognize Steve Wozniak’s technical abilities and the CEO of Corning Glass’ ability to invent a new glass product that would make the iPhone what it is today.  He pushed these people out of their comfort zones because he saw their immense potential and diverse strengths.  In my opinion, this is the sign of true leadership.

2) Even those who reach great success have struggled too.  This might seem obvious, and yet it’s so reaffirming and encouraging to know that the unexpected challenges, road blocks and crossroads we meet are a normal part of the journey.  Jobs was thrown out of the very company he built, and yet, without this turn of events, he would not have found the creativity and innovation that powered the dynamic Apple synergy that exists today

3) How you treat people is important.  Word on the street is that Steve Jobs was kind of a dick.  Although he pushed those around him to greatness, he also broke them down at times.  Whether this type of demeanor is required to achieve the best results is something I’m still mauling over.  I have a feeling that the answer stems somewhere from your own personal values.  As Isaacson put it, not to give Jobs any excuses, but unless you’re planning on re-inventing the face of technology on planet earth, being “lovable” and loving others is a virtue not to shy away from.  (ie don’t be a dick).

He left us with is:

“Stay hungry, stay foolish.”

That’s the plan, Walt.

That’s the plan.

Awesome

Note: At some point during the writer’s block process, I found myself wearing the dress I wore to an 80’s prom party a couple years ago.  TOTALLY NORMAL. The photo shoot just naturally followed.

Dating Inside My Culture / Why I’ll Never Date Boris the Hunter

RUSSIAN MAN WITH USHANKA

This post was inspired by an article I read while sitting in the inviting confines of the MRI waiting room.

While I was busy mouthing off to the “doctor” at the orthopedics unit (NO. It’s fine. What? An MRI? NO.), a friend sent me an article to read just in case I needed something to keep me busy.

(For those that are just joining the party: I added excitement to my life a few weeks ago when my wrist took one for the team when I fell on a boat.  I’ve been pretending it’s FINE ever since.)

Friend apparently thought that the best form of therapeutic literary Zen before being sent into the tube to enjoy the rare acoustics of a jack hammer was to have me ponder my dating life (Clearly friendship will be questioned later).

The article, written by Diana Bruk, pushed my primal buttons.

In her account of why “I love (and hate) dating Russian men,” Bruk recounts, in impressive honesty, the ways in which she feels torn between dating her culture’s Russian “patriarchal alpha males” in St. Petersburg and the American egalitarian, no-strings-attached guys.  According to the author, who has split her time between the privileged New York liberal arts school where she attended college and the “crumbling communal building” in St. Petersburg where she moved thereafter to teach English, dating in Eastern Europe is like dating in modern day 1927.

Like the author, I too was born in the Soviet Union.  I also moved to the US at a young age and sure enough… went to a liberal arts school on the east coast where I learned valuable lessons like: your natural beer pong abilities are directly proportional to the caliber of your love life; boys can be judged on their ability to pair a pink Lacoste polo with a Brooks Brothers pant; sneaking onto the President’s lawn post frat party is considered a romantic date.

Unlike the author, I have never been back to the motherland and I’ve committed to my one and only US passport (like a glowing bride).

Until this year, I had never dated a Russian before.  Nothing about a union with a Russian male appealed to me.  I was sure that I had more in common with a Filipino rice farmer.

Most of the reasons why I never dated a Ukrainian/Russian are neatly outlined by Bruk.  In fact, while reading it, I kept gripping my iPhone trying not to yell “NO DUH.”  Not surprisingly, the lack of respect for your independence, chauvinistic sex practices and the inability to digest the word “no” is not absolutely thrilling to a girl who moved to the land of the free and freakishly independent when she was 5 (her. Not me. I was 6.) and then graduated from Liberal Arts University where, let’s be honest, feminism is taught as a first year requirement.

So Yeah.  I’m not running towards Boris the Hunter.  I’m turning around slowly with some swagger and thinking “tool.”

I hadn’t given it too much thought to be honest – this whole Ukrainian/Russian man topic (except for NO thanks) – until this year; when I moved back to the Midwest, reconnected with some of my roots and thought about what I wanted to be when I grow up.

In the past year, my family has taken it upon themselves to casually suggest some Russian dating partners… as if to say OK you’ve had a great deal of fun… time to settle down. Boris the Hunter is waiting for you.  He brought his club.  And some meat.  Swoon.

While I was busy beating Boris the Hunter over the head with his own club, I connected with my roots by way of extended family, family friends and even made some new friends from my culture in my new city (Chicago).

Recently, in fact, I’ve found myself “at home” dating and hanging out with Russians and Ukrainians.  I’ve found a familiarity and understanding I didn’t know would bring fulfillment.  While Boris the Hunter and I still come from different worlds, Boris’ assimilated offspring and I have found some common ground.  They might not tear my clothes into pieces in the heat of passion, but they’ll eat homemade pirogis, engage in broken Russian banter and rock out to Soviet pop hits of the 1970’s that our parents used to love (that we secretly keep on our iPods).

Boris the Hunter Jr. and I connect on a level I never considered before.  The one where you don’t have to explain where you come from.  Or why smearing fried chicken liver on toast is breakfast.  Or why your uncle still dresses himself in the same clothes he’s had since we immigrated to America two decades ago.

I don’t care if your mom immigrated from Zimbabwe, your grandparents came from Venezuela in 1952 or you were born in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.  Everyone has a point of origin that dictates their values and cultural roots.  What I’ve learned is… no matter how far you wander and what new worlds you encounter and assimilate to… something about spending time with those from similar backgrounds strikes a chord of familiarity and gives a taste of home.

Boris… you’re OK.

And that realization is kind of Awesome.