I go in phases with my yoga practice. I love a 30-day yoga challenge and sometimes extend it for another 30-60 days. Then I often stop making it a priority because I’d rather go for my morning run or because that extra 30 minutes of sleep is enticing, but it’s not just my flexibility and ability to touch my toes that is effected by this, but my energy and focus at work as well.

Certainly part of my yoga life-goals is about achieving the headstand, or at least mastering crow pose, but part of the reason I get called back to practicing is because of how I feel throughout my day post-session. Don’t let Instagram fool you; yoga has nothing to do with how flexible your body is or what poses you’ve mastered, but about meeting yourself where you are and breathing into your movements. Whether I practice for ten minutes or an hour, the method of breathing in and out in rhythm brings focus to my body as a whole, and I feel more centered during my day and able to center that focus on my tasks, projects, and relationships.

Yoga has a plethora of benefits. Though it unfortunately won’t prevent difficult plights at work, it can certainly help entrepreneurs manage their stress and anxiety. Cash flow problems won’t be resolved by mastering the firefly pose, but what it can help is how to approach these problems with a clear mindset. Most entrepreneurs I know understand the importance of staying physically fit, but not as many commit the same time for their mental health.

Lizzie Brown, highlighted by Forbes, is the co-creator of Yoga Wake Up, an app that teaches busy entrepreneurs how to practice meditation and basic yoga postures. She shares that “yoga is a practice that adapts to whatever challenges are going on in your body and in your life.” The benefits of yoga for you as an entrepreneur are all about managing stress. When your day is inundated with employees asking questions, or you’re working around the clock to secure funding, a mindfulness practice can root you to the ground. This mindfulness and meditation is what yoga is at its core and your consistent practice, whether through an app or in a studio, will aid you in keeping control.

Yoga helps you let go of control, slow down your mind, practice patience, and take a moment away from screens and work to be with yourself. We’ve been fortunate at thinkspace Seattle to practice weekly with Jackie Lea as she leads member yoga each Wednesday. During our session we take extra time to stretch, open up our breathe and work out the kinks from sitting at a computer all day. After each session I’ve left feeling refreshed, re-energized, and ready to tackle my next project, whether for work or at home. You have so many options to practice yoga, via app, instructor, or online (might I recommend Yoga With Adriene?). You can do yourself and your business a favor – try challenging yourself to 30 days of yoga and be shocked at what more you can do.

Diversity in the workplace looks incredibly different depending on the industry and certainly location of the company, but if you’re paying any attention to some of loudest niche markets out there, and definitely those supporting entrepreneurs, you’ll see that women are getting more noise than ever.

While browsing for information about women and diversity in the workplace I stumbled across State of Startups; I found the results fascinating. Venture-firm First Round Capital produces an “annual survey where hundreds of venture-backed founders speak frankly about what it’s like running a technology startup today.” A Wired article points out some of the biases in the actual survey conducted as it notes that while they certainly asked a lot about diversity, they never gathered data on the ethnic breakdown of their own respondents. What I found most interesting about the results however was that startup founders believe that true progress when it comes to diversity is still well into the future, 10+ years. When you think of the big tech companies and the startup world, words like innovative, ground breaking, and spearheading come to mind. When it comes to diversity though, these founders overwhelmingly predicted that it will take 10+ years until the tech scene is representative of the general population. If tech and startups are where innovative practices are born, think of the missed opportunities and insight from women’s unique perspectives that could be leading this even stronger. How do we accelerate this?

With so much media focus on women and minority entrepreneurs and in tech, it’s curious to see such low optimism for diversity goals being met in the startup world. I think we’re lucky in Seattle. We’re surrounded by some incredible women-led groups with missions to support gender diversity like the Female Founders Alliance, entrepreneurial and programming-rich spaces like The Riveter, and programs like Companion Coding which introduces low-income minority youth to careers in tech by training them to build websites for real small businesses in their own communities. All of these Seattle-based companies don’t just have visions to support women and minority entrepreneurs, but are creating resources and spreading awareness about it as well.

At thinkspace we get to see women in tech thrive in their businesses. We see startup co-founders like Cassie Wallender of Invio and software engineers like Erin Fitzhenry of ToSomeone, and we host the Women in Tech Regatta, which gathers to connect wo(men) in tech to mentors, peers, and resources. In talking to Erin Fitzhenry about diversity in tech jobs and startups, she shared an interesting perspective about her experience as a woman in technology–she isn’t a fan of the term. Though she acknowledges her strength in her abilities, her interests lie in tech as a tool for solving problems rather than in the technology itself. That is sometimes in contrast with her male counterparts, especially ones who grew up gaming and got interested in the industry because of it. Erin noted that if schools, clubs, and parents focused on using technology as a tool to solve meaningful problems in the world, this might attract more girls to this concept at a younger age, helping fill the pipeline in the future.

Certainly we’re seeing more women and minorities as CEOs and in tech, but the growth rate according to this data points to the pipeline being underrepresented and unconscious biases during hiring. Entrepreneurs and companies always have room to do more to be inclusive but finding the resources to support that is crucial. Thinkspace partner New Tech NW has an incredible resource guide Diversity and Minorities in Tech which I highly recommend taking a look at if you’re interested in gaining resources or getting involved.

The “How I Work” series, most noteworthy done by Lifehacker, has been reproduced by multiple authors for good reason: people love to hear from successful and influential people and learn the intricacies of their day-to-day. It can be inspiring and motivating to hear about the best, and oftentimes most simplistic practices.  In our “How I Work” interview we refined our questions by adding a few of our own and spiced them up with inspiration from Lifehacker as well as thinkspace mentor Matt Heinz. If you’re interested in checking out our previous “How I Work” interviews they get compiled here.

In this edition you’ll be hearing from Michael Elliott from RocketDog. Rocketdog originally launched in 1999 and Michael dove in full time in 2000. Not only is he an active member at thinkspace, he’s also heavily involved in the tech community. This year he was co-lead for Seattle Startup Week and sits on panel discussions often. It’s important for entrepreneurs to make time for themselves and Michael does that by going on hikes with his bulldog Chuck. You can visit Michael, and Chuck sometimes too, in the Seattle office.

Name:  Michael Elliott

Current Gig: Owner of RocketDog

One word that best describes how you work: Hustle

Current mobile device:iPhone

Favorite verb: Get

Grit Score: (You can learn your Grit Score here) 3.75

How do you recharge or take a break from work? Great food and drinks with friends.

What was your dream job/passion project as a kid? NFL Football and or Superhero

Sunrise or sunset: Sunrise. It’s such an amazing sense of renewal, though I have to admit I see way more sunsets.

Tell us a little about your background and how you got to where you are today. I’m somewhat of an accidental entrepreneur. I enjoy, and sometime dread, controlling my own destiny, but it is the path I have chosen and wouldn’t have it any other way.

Number of unread emails right now? 0

First thing you do when you come into work? Review my plan/projects for the day, then meditate for 10 minutes.

What is your email management strategy? Not as good as I’d like.

How do you keep yourself calm and/or focused?  Meditation.

What’s your perspective or approach to work/life balance? I’ll let you know when I find it.

Are there any work rituals critical to your success? My notebook. I write down all of my tasks/projects that I need accomplish for that day with two items on the top of each page: “What’s the one thing that I can do to dramatically change my world” and “What’s the most important thing I can do today to achieve that goal?”

What apps/software/tools can’t you live without? Adobe Suite

Last thing you do before leaving work? Review my tasks and what I need to finish before end of day.

What’s your least favorite thing to do, and how do you deal with it?The hunt. Though I love it, it never ends.

What are you currently reading, or what’s something you’d recommend? I’m a big fan of Culture Code, Power of Habit, and The Power of Moments.

Who are some mentors or influencers you wish to thank or acknowledge? EO (Entrepreneur’s Organization) has been a fantastic experience over the last decade. It’s like have a built-in brain trust of several hundred of people, that I can reach out to anytime.

Describe your workspace? Awesome!

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received? When I was graduating high school, I was gifted some money as a graduation present and when my best friend’s dad handed it to me, he said “I gave you more than any of the other boys because I know you will do something with it and I look forward to seeing how your journey turns out.”

Is there anything else you’d like to add that might be interesting to readers and fans? I love giving back, and I encourage those around me to find ways to give back in a meaningful way.

Interested in becoming a “How I Work” spotlight? Contact Stephanie and she’ll be excited to come chat!

If you’re anything like me, your nostalgia for the past will never cease. This means you’re well aware that The Backstreet Boys have reunited and are back on tour, that you were torn when Toys “R” Us announced their bankruptcy in 2017, and have been equally shocked to see in the recent news that Payless Shoes will be shutting down all of their 2,000+ US and Puerto Rican stores.

Payless Shoe Source has been a staple since it’s opening in 1956, when cousins set up the model for self-service. In the late 2010’s self-service is still a thing of course, but online shopping is booming and shopping malls are vanishing. Consumers simply aren’t going out to brick and mortar shops as frequently as retail stores would hope, forcing many of them to deal with their multitude of debt.

Market disruptions have always existed, but within the last decade it seems more like an explosion. The entertainment industry for example was blown away by Netflix and other streaming services- you certainly haven’t seen a Blockbuster store anytime recent. I’m also fairly certain you haven’t opened the door for an encyclopedia salesmen anytime within the last 20+ years, and I feel fairly comfortable betting that Gen Z might not even understand that reference, because wikipedia was the disrupter in that.

Your company might be working to cause the disruption in a frustrating market, or perhaps you’re trying to prepare next steps in case of one. Either way, seeing news like Payless closing up doors is a good reason to consider how you’re doing business and embrace that change is bound to occur. I found it shocking that in a recent report from Accenture it quoted “while 93 percent of executives … say they know their industry will be disrupted at some point in the next five years, only 20 percent feel they’re highly prepared to address that threat.” Noteworthy is that this is occurring to both large companies and startups so embracing for change is inescapable.

Darwin’s theory is survival of the fittest. How do you do this in business? Mimicking advice from Accenture: don’t wait, be brave, turn your vulnerabilities into advantages.

By now you’ve probably at least heard the name Marie Kondo, the Japanese decluttering expert who’s been trending all over social media. People are binging episodes of “Tidying Up,” her Netflix Original series and if you haven’t been able to follow along, you should definitely watch this clip of her with Colbert on the Late Show, surely to give you some insight. Dubbed the KonMari method, Marie reveals that the root of decluttering is in finding joy, not just in the items you own, but within your heart.

Marie begins each episode greeting and thanking the home, a silent moment of gratitude, before she helps her new clients prepare for the journey ahead of them. She takes a simplistic approach when it comes to spreading awareness of organization: “the KonMari Method™ encourages tidying by category – not by location – beginning with clothes, then moving on to books, papers, komono (miscellaneous items), and, finally, sentimental items. Keep only those things that speak to the heart, and discard items that no longer spark joy. Thank them for their service – then let them go.”

In addition to tidying (and teaching Americans how to fold their clothes so that their dresser drawers look incredible) Marie also speaks to productivity: the art of being organized doesn’t just lie within the walls of you home or your workspace, but within your mind. In one of her blog posts Marie explains to maximize productivity and be most efficient, she sets up routines that spark joy and align with her goals, currently of which include being able to spend more time with her children. From a macro perspective on long term goals, she begins with how to spend her time in years then progressively works toward quarters, months, and weeks- and finally works through daily routines. If you don’t have time to read through her whole blogpost here are her five tips that keep her productive while balancing work and family/personal life.

  1. Start Your Morning With Good Energy- Examples include opening the windows for fresh air and getting dressed in something that makes you feel confident.
  2. Make a Daily To-Do List- Include everything on your list, from folding the laundry to answering emails. If you’re anything like me, you’ll feel incredibly accomplished after seeing all the checkmarks next to each completed task.
  3. Coordinate With Your Partner- If you have a roommate or significant other, discussing a household to-do list is a helpful habit. Not only is it a way to share what you’ve already accomplished so it doesn’t get repeated, but it also allows you to express gratitude towards each other. Though a spreadsheet might be useful in the beginning, establishing your rhythm can be helpful to figure out which tasks are best suited for each person.
  4. Clear Your Mind- When I have too many thoughts I’m trying to focus on, I like to write down everything, creating a place to hold all the information and free up the space in my head. Other activities to clear your mind might include exercising or cleaning.
  5. Create a Nighttime Routine- Bedtime isn’t just for kids. Creating a routine for winding down in the evening has many benefits, your health included. When everything has a designated home (laundry bin, papers in folders, etc) you get to head to bed knowing everything is where it’s supposed to be. Marie even suggests thanking them for their hard work. Your evening routine can also involve reading, diffusing oils, or writing in a journal.

In her conclusion: “Prioritizing what sparks joy is at the heart of all the tips I shared above. Keeping this philosophy at the center of everything I do helps me focus on what I value. If you are struggling to figure out what sparks joy for you, my first piece of advice is to tidy your home. Once you are done tidying up, you will find it easier to keep your home – and mental space – clear and focused. By being surrounded only by the things that spark joy, your life naturally begins to achieve clarity.”

If you’re interested in reading other things about KonMari, I really enjoyed this article as well. We’d love to hear your thoughts about how finding joy has been influencing your day. Drop us a comment!

A while back we hosted the Madrona Open Pitch event with special guest Spencer Rascoff, CEO of Zillow Group, moderated by Shauna Causey and Mike Fridgen with Madrona Venture Labs. Before the event, Spencer, Shauna, Mike and I had a conversation and got on the topic of our children. It was kind of amusing to notice that the common thing among each of us was how we introduce and expose our children to entrepreneurship in some form.

Spencer shared that one month ago he started a podcast with his 10 year old son Luke. The podcast is called “Dad, I have a question!” In their podcast, Luke asks questions and then they proceed to have a conversation about it. Some of the topics are: Taxes, Savings, What is Blockchain, and the current topic is What are Unions (but not specifically State of the Union)…

If you want to listen to this podcast you can find “Dad I have a question” podcast on things like Anchor and Spotify!

We also talked a little bit about how as our children grow older we want to have different things that allow us to stay connected to them. I know that is so important to me. I would love to be able to explore different fun adventurous ways to connect with them. Some of the ideas that come to mind are doing a joint podcast, helping them create a YouTube Channel, or build a Amazon or Shopify Storefront and sell LEGO collectibles on it. All these things would be insanely fun me and with the intention of them really enjoying it too!

If you would like to see/hear the talk from “How I built my Seattle Startup” there’s a podcast by Shauna Causey and Mike Fridgen taking with Spencer Rascoff!

I was walking with a coworker during our weekly 1:1 (I highly recommend doing this btw), and the subject of imposter syndrome came up. We were recalling times being in new roles and having this unfounded “what if I don’t know what I’m doing” thought looming in the background. I’ve spoken with friends and clients for years about this concept and have come to the conclusion it’s happened to many us do, and often.

Imposter syndrome, also known by imposterism (and a slew of other similar names), is a psychological phenomenon in which people are unable to internalize their accomplishments. According to this article I found in Psychology Today, it’s not an actual disorder, “but the term was coined by clinical psychologists Pauline Clance and Suzanne Imes in 1978, when they found that despite having adequate external evidence of accomplishments, people with imposter syndrome remained convinced that they don’t deserve the success they have.”

This great post shares an interpretation of imposter syndrome in that it has multiple faces. In the article it describes how expert Dr. Valerie Young has categorized imposter syndrome into subgroups: the Perfectionist, the Superwoman/man, the Natural Genius, the Soloist, and the Expert and I challenge you to find yourself in the descriptions. Whether you are the CEO, web developer, wedding photographer, or entrepreneur inventor, the potential that you will be afflicted with imposter syndrome is high. Maya Angelou, Howard Schultz, and Sheryl Sandberg have even admitted to struggling with this phenomenon. As your resident health coach I’m happy to share that there are ways to get relief and build up the muscles to overcome it though. Take the time to remember that everyone feels imposterism and to combat it, practice positive self talk to remind yourself of your badass accomplishments and skills. Everyone is good at a lot of things and you are quite likely really good at the work to do. Your accomplishments didn’t happen due to chance, seduction, or some other external factor so don’t let imposter syndrome deceive you.

Check out this short Ted Talk video about imposter syndrome that I really enjoyed and if you have any advice or comments I’d love to see them below.

On December 10, 2018 Geekwire published an article about Microsoft seating first in Forbes ‘Just 100’ list of most responsible companies. To learn this, Forbes partnered with Just Capital and asked 81,000 Americans what they want to see most from America’s largest companies. Among the top answers were fair pay, treating customers well (while keeping their information private), environmental friendliness, and commitment to diversity. Of 890 of the largest publicly-traded companies, Microsoft ranked #1 which shows that while taking public interest to heart, it continues to grow economically and in public consciousness.

Categories where Microsoft did exceedingly well:

  • Environment – minimize pollution, reduce waste, and protect the planet
  • Worker Treatment – keeping worker pay and treatment at the heart of just business practices
  • Customers – maintaining fair treatment, privacy, and honest sales terms
  • Leadership – prioritizing ethical leadership and value creation 
  • Communities – providing community support at home and abroad

Though Microsoft like any other company has room to grow, the most noteworthy category I found was where they ranked lowest: products.

  • Products and services should be high quality, fairly priced, and beneficial to society.

Entrepreneurs create companies because they have a passion for an idea or product; success often follows if they can solve a problem facing their target market. Having been involved in the software industry for decades, Microsoft’s strong brand awareness and reputation for great products have kept them in competitive business all these years. Because of this it’s rather shocking to see that they ranked so low in the product category. If not for their product, why are their customers so loyal and their brand first-rate?

In an interview that came long the rankings, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella told Forbes in an interview “People are finally coming around to saying, ‘it’s not just the surplus you’ve created for yourself. What’s the state of the world around you?’ That’s where I feel like we’re at our best.”  With this is mind it seems ever more relevant to ask what your company is doing to support the state of the world around you? Having a product or service that solves a problem or that people enjoy is what put you into business, but how do you take it to the next level in how you give back to your employees, customers, and the environment. We’re curious at thinkspace what you’re doing and where you think you rank in these categories. Leave a comment below and let’s start a discussion on why your product isn’t always the sole driver of your company’s success.

 

 

thinkspace members who have met me know that I am Peter Chee’s assistant and that I’m relatively new to Seattle. What the majority of you won’t know is that my background is in holistic health and wellness along with a master’s degree in education. These concentrations share a common foundation in that your health and work ability/brain capabilities work united. A strong mind will allow you to create, innovate, inspire, and persevere; something that as an entrepreneur you should care about. A strong mind doesn’t come just because of mere force. In addition to practice, there are particular foods to eat that will continue to keep your brain strong and fighting disease that will allow you to keep charging away for many years to come, in business and in pleasure.

Through my health coaching program I learned a great deal from Dr. Neal Barnard, President and Founder of PCRM (Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine) and about how foods fuel us and either create health or disease. Deciding what goes on your lunch plate might seem insignificant, and while you might really want the bacon, beer, or birthday cake, I urge you to think about “brain foods” that will power you to be more successful, inventive, and robust.

What are some of these foods? The Cleveland Clinic suggests going green with “nutrients such as folate, lutein and nitrate that are found in foods such as spinach, lettuce and kale.” Dr. Barnard shares the importance of vitamin E found in nuts and seeds, and the anthocyanins that give grapes and berries their color. Each of these are foods that will add up to a big drop in the risk of cognitive problems Barnard states.

Eating well and plant-strong will keep your mind working hard for whatever new and exciting challenge presents itself next, and of course aid in heart health. As an entrepreneur working to build the perfect business, managing stress, long hours and late nights can take a toll and it’s easy to run through a drive through or cook comfort foods that have little nutrition. Though it does take a bit of an effort to start a meal plan or to prep vegetables, I’m here as your resident health coach to let you know that it gets easier with time and a sense of purpose. Head over to this online guide for endless recipes that are plant strong and enjoy the mental fortitude it will bring.

In December we held an event at thinkspace about personal branding. Alec Mountain, Meetup host and Founder of Product Blitz, shared insight and tips about personal branding: “the brand you build around yourself and ultimately, the reputation people come to know and expect from you.” Alec explained that reputation can make all the difference in helping you land more opportunities, create better connections, and live a more fulfilling lifestyle.

The personal branding trend can drive benefits to your company. Though I’m not a marketing professional, I do have fairly strong research skills and thought I’d invest some time into learning more about this trend. What I found was that there were three overarching themes in how to strengthen your personal brand: be an expert, be authentic, create content.

Be an expert. What are you you good at? What do people know you for? If you are able to answer this question, than you solved the first challenge, but now make sure you truly are an expert on it. Read about it, write about it, practice it. Your niche is out there and when you can dial in on the thing you are expert about, they will be out there looking for you. The more specific, the better. Imagine being in need of a vegan marathoner health coach (shameless plug). There can’t be too many of those out there and to dial that into my SEO will help those searching for me that much easier.

Be authentic. Speaking about your own experience can go a long way. Not only will followers and potential customers feel a connection to you, but they will also learn to trust you and your suggestions. That being said, content shouldn’t always be about marketing and trying to be “salesy.” Followers are interested in seeing what you do in your downtime, whether it’s hiking, snowshoeing, standup comedy, or where you eat.  For example, if you recently tried the new baked potato restaurant in Ballard, Papas Hot Potatoes, and want to scream about how exciting the menu is, make sure to share about it.

Create content. Without content, what do you have to share? Without content, what expertise are you able to offer? While blog posts such as this certainly count towards content, the ease and popularity of videos on Facebook, Instagram and Youtube make it a popular choice. Experts in the field claim it as the hottest piece of content to produce. Personal branding experts tell you to come up with a purpose for your video; choose whether you want to educate, entertain or inspire. I’ve created a few videos helping clients learn to cook basic meals, helping them overcome the initial intimidation of cooking from scratch.

Whatever the purpose, it’s most important to simply have one. Ultimately, personal branding is a vehicle to help build brand awareness and help you reach your goals. If content creation or personal branding is something you are passionate about, I’d love to hear what kind of content you create and invite you to share your expertise with the thinkspace community. Is your expertise in another area? I invite you to share it with us in your own guest blog post! Email thinkspace and let us know you’re interested.

Resources: Entrepreneur.com , Forbes.com, Briar Prestidge