Saturday, October 30, 2010

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Friday, October 29, 2010

Cyoot and Osom

My six-year-old daughter Yumi’s list of top ten words that describe herself include:

1. fantastic

2. prfct

3. byootiful

4. osom

5. cyoot

6. icsiting

7. loving

8. cind

9. sopr

10. sopr fun

How “osom” is that? And when do we as women begin to lose this awe for ourselves that Yumi clearly has in spades?

I belive that how we tend to view ourselves and our capabilities is profoundly influenced by our gender – particularly as we grow up. When I was in law school, I saw this first hand in looking at the applications for Supreme Court clerkships, the pinnacle of “just out of law school” achievement. Although about half of all law school students were women, less than 10% of Supreme Court clerks from our law school were women. And when we looked deeper into the application pool, we found that more than 10 times as many men applied as women. Basically, many of my male law school colleagues believed they were brilliant (despite their mediocre grades), and very few women believed they were brilliant (despite their amazing grades).

One of the things I love most about Julep is that we are a group of women helping other women to remember to feel good about themselves in ways both big and small. I especially think about this for my team – who are truly “byootiful” and “sopr fun” and “cind.”

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Sisterhood is Happiness

I wholeheartedly agree with Deborah Tannen’s recent article in the New York Times describing how having a sister can make you happier. I love being a sister, and I love my sisters so much I feel a physical pain in my chest just thinking about them. I have been a sister longer than any other role I’ve cherished in my life – except for being a daughter (which I also love). For example, I have learned from my sisters:

· The difference bewteen “LOL” (laughing out loud), “ROFL” (rolling on floor laughing) and “BWL” (bursting with laughter) – because my sisters make me do all 3 of these.

· The secret to loose waves is owning a professional grade 1.5inch barrel curling iron – and wrapping hair around it starting 2 inches from your scalp and stopping 2 inches before the ends.

· The perfect pair of jeans can LIFT your butt. According to my sisters, I do not own any such jeans.

But most importantly, I have learned that life is long, and sisterhood, being the inescapable relationship that it is, can be frustratingly suffocating and exhiratingly freeing - often all at the same time. So thank you Jenny and Alice for being my first loves. And for saving me from saggy jeans.

(Photos: Alice, Jenny and Jane (with perms) circa 1985; Alice, Jenny and Jane in Ottawa circa 1988; Jane, Alice and Jenny at Alice's wedding, 2008)

Friday, October 22, 2010


One of the questions I am asked frequently is whether my background as a lawyer has been helpful to me in starting Julep. Although I LOVED my law school years (being the only time in my life where I have ever felt remotely close to “cool”), there’s actually not much about the study of law that is related to my day-to-day work in growing a company.

One of the rare exceptions is the concept of “BATNA”, which was introduced to me by Lee Van Der Walde in our second-year Labor and Empoyment law class. In between passing notes to Ali and Renata (my then-boyfriend, now-husband, refused to sit next to me in class because he thought I wasn’t paying sufficient attention), I learned that making the most of any bargaining situation is all about your BATNA – “best alternative to negotiated arrangement.” From what I can recall (now decades later), the principle is that your ability to get what you want in any negotiation is only as strong as your next best alternative. So if Person A wants to buy your car for $500, you have a “BATNA” of $500 when you go into your conversation with Person B. You can tell person B they need to pay you at least $500.01 or you’re walking away. You got BATNA, baby. If you walk around and create higher and higher BATNAs, you will ultimately get the best price for your car.

BATNA is everywhere. In fact, “the greatest love of all” (a-la-Whitney Houston) is really all about improving your life BATNA. Learning to love yourself is just good relationship economics. It improves the value of your “BATNR” or Best Alternative to Negotiated Relationship. Improve your BATNR, and you’ll be in great shape to negotiate what you need from any relationship.

When you feel like you have no BATNA, as my daughter Yumi must have felt when she asked me for hot chocolate first thing this morning, then a “no” means disaster. Your world feels like it is falling apart – it’s “A” or nothing and so you are powerless and destroyed when you told you can’t have “A”. (Because you are relying exclusively on largesse or inattentiveness at that point to be able to get your way, and although I often have large doses of both when it comes to my daughter, it’s still never a good starting point for a negotiation). Sometimes just asking the question, “what’s my BATNA?” can be soothing – it can remind you there are other amazing things in life and that life will still go on – even if the chocolate milk negotiation falls apart. I hope Yumi will find the strength of BATNA someday. . .

Spun around and put more positively, BATNA can also be about standards. When I had kids, my home BATNA rose through the roof, my best alternative to being at work was the opportunity to kiss buttery-smelling, chubby cheeks as often as I wanted to. I couldn’t tolerate a mediocre job anymore – I had higher standards for what I wanted to do with my time.

I see entrepreneurship, and perhaps life in general, as all about creating great BATNAs - so that I can go after what I want. Anyone who has worked with me for any length of time knows that I like to have my “what I would do if I had a gun to my head today,” plan – just in case someone jumps me in the street with a firearm, demanding to know my next business decision immediately. Although this hasn’t yet happened, I am learning that often life does NOT go as planned, and in fact, start-up life seldom goes as planned. And sometimes even your backups fall apart. Increasingly, what is important to me about the idea of a BATNA is not any particular negotiated result or BATNA itself, but rather my confidence in our ability as a company to continually generate new BATNAS to help fuel forward motion. We have a plan and, you should help us achieve our plan because we have a long list of exciting alternatives to you, and won’t you feel sad and left out if you don’t jump on our bus. And by the way, we’re full of ideas and plans – you can say no to us, but you can’t take away our ability to generate BATNAs.

I love my life, and I love my BATNAs. Or maybe I love my life BECAUSE I love my BATNAs. . .

Monday, October 18, 2010

To Know, Understand, and STILL Engage

Before most of the women who work at Julep were born, I was weeping night over night (for at least four nights, anyway) over a young Australian lass who fell in love with an ambitious priest. Of course, I mean Rachel Ward and (shirtless) Richard Chamberlain in the brilliant 1983 mini-series, The Thorn Birds.

Because of my deep twelve-year-old’s knowledge of sacrifice and ever-lasting love, the mini-series spoke to me.

I’ve never seen it again, but OFTEN, by which I mean at least several times a month, I think of (shirtless) Richard Chamberlain telling me about the legend of the thorn bird, who is born to seek a thorn bush and impale itself on the longest thorn while singing the most beautiful song of its life – thus causing even God to smile. If I had the inter-web back then, I would have Googled (or “Binged”, since my beloved works at Microsoft), “thorn birds” - and realized they weren’t real.

But those were the dark ages, when it took walking to the library and physically flipping through card catalogues to access the information dirt road, and so until tonight (just minutes ago, in fact), I honestly thought thorn birds were real. I thought they were just like salmon – only even more masochistic.

I was particularly moved by Cardinal Di Bricassart (aka shirtless Richard Chamberlain)’s realization that we are ALL thorn birds – destined to impale ourselves on the longest, sharpest thorn we can find. Even worse – here’s the real “ah-ha” moment - we are KNOWING thorn birds: “we know, we understand, and we still do it.”

But here’s the uplifting part (really, there is one!). The thorn birds do what they do because of Beauty. Because we all want to belt out the best song of our lives, consequences be damned. No matter how painful, no matter how bloody, no matter what ends up happening, maybe we’re all searching for that moment where we get to channel Beauty. And it seems that these things are intertwined. Yes, death is a little severe, but if you flip the question around from "what are you willing to die for" to "what do you live for" - then it starts making sense.

The thing is, I do believe in Beauty. And finally (DECADES post-Thorn Birds), I feel happy in my middle-brow perspective that we see it and create it through acts of love and engagement.

I thought about my lesson from Richard Chamberlain again this weekend because I met this amazing woman named Mandy Hitchcock. The amazing thing she does is continue to hope.

Mandy lost her 17 month old daughter, Hudson, to meningitis earlier this year (she shares a beautiful blog at She is living the freak tragedy that I’m always discounting in my own mind as a mother, and as the CEO of a start-up. “A fever is just a fever, a slow week is just a slow week – let’s not panic.” In many ways, I’m not dispositionally capable of wrapping my brain and heart around the concept of real danger and risk. And of course I can’t imagine the loss.

But in my life as a mom, CEO, wife, daughter, sister and girlfriend - I aspire to learn as much as I can about the dangers of heart break - and affirmatively choose to engage anyway. I am wrestling with this equation in both my personal and professional lives. The real challenge is to engage – but with eyes wide open. To know, understand, and still do it, to paraphrase a life-changing made-for-TV mini-series. And it’s so helpful to find inspiration along the way. And to seek out the "one good thing" that comes out of every challenging situation.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

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