LOVENOTES: Constellation Map Series by Stellavie

After many months of window shopping and screen drooling, I recently became a proud owner of two constellation maps by the excellent and charming artists at Stellavie, a design studio in Hamburg, Germany.

I went for the full set in gold & white, purchasing The Northern Sky and The Southern Sky maps as a pair.  It's lovely having the two side-by-side for comparison, and it doesn't hurt that snagging the prints in a set saved me 35 euros. Better yet, they use PayPal which easily converted to USD without extra charges.

A close-up on Map 1 - The Northern Sky

A close-up on Map 1 - The Northern Sky

The Stellavie team was kind enough to drop me an email inquiring how I found their work, and answered a couple of my questions on frame recommendations.

These prints are the first images I see most mornings, and it's a visually stunning reminder of the simultaneous immensity and minisculity of man. On the one hand, as Carl Sagan puts it, " a cosmic perspective, most human concerns seem insignificant, even petty." But on the other, Sagan also says, "Every one of us is, in the cosmic perspective, precious. If a human disagrees with you, let him live. In a hundred billion galaxies, you will not find another." Perhaps it is not our existence that is by any means special -- we are among the many starstuffs in this universe -- but it is our propensity to know and to create and to imprint starstuffs of our own imaginings that is remarkable.

Both prints taking residence on my bedroom wall

Both prints taking residence on my bedroom wall

I'm very excited to see what Stellavie puts out next, and very much hoping it entails glow-in-the-dark as they've done with this neat print.  Until then, I'll leave you with the entirety of an excerpt from Carl Sagan's Cosmos:

The size and age of the Cosmos are beyond ordinary human understanding. Lost somewhere between immensity and eternity is our tiny planetary home. In a cosmic perspective, most human concerns seem insignificant, even petty. And yet our species is young and curious and brave and shows much promise. In the last few millennia we have made the most astonishing and unexpected discoveries about the Cosmos and our place within it, explorations that are exhilarating to consider. They remind us that humans have evolved to wonder, that understanding is a joy, that knowledge is prerequisite to survival. I believe our future depends on how well we know this Cosmos in which we float like a mote of dust in the morning sky.
— Carl Sagan, Cosmos

My Classroom's Carpet

In the fall of my junior year, my classroom’s carpet and I began a more-than-casual relationship. What previously went unnoticed, what previously only came to meet the stomp of my slush-coated boots or trudge of my sneakers started to introduce itself to the entire rest of me.

As with many relationships, the one doing the introducing bears a major note of interest. She kept a willowy figure and a riotous classroom. She never quite simply entered a room–she always seemed to breeze in with a rush of energy or a tinkle of wind-chiming laughter.

When Patsy died this summer, I felt that wind-chimed breeze knocked right out of me. She was a phenomenal human. By day, she was called a professor–Professor Yaeger to be exact. But no one ever called her that. To us, she was Patsy, whimsical, brilliant Patsy. And though we never called her by it, she was a professor in the most outstanding sense of the word. She was our teacher, our guide. She led us fearlessly through the thorniest of literary theory, the densest of Marxist principles, but most importantly, she was always open to being led to another journey altogether. She welcomed our off-the-wall insights with open arms. She coaxed us to think beyond any walls our previous educationing had concocted.

She introduced us, me and this carpet. Patsy livened up our classes with movement. As we sleepy students untangled ourselves from our stiff chairs, she would tell us to sit on that carpet. To feel it. To grab it in our fingers. She would tell us to dance together! To make noise together! To breathe and be weird and be altogether renewed as we kicked down any precedented ways of thinking with fervor.

Patsy was very special. I’ll miss her very much. I remember looking her up before our very first class, on her very own slice of the internet that she formerly occupied here. On the screen, she seemed so intimidating to me. PhD from Yale, a whole laundry list of publications. But in that classroom in West Hall, she was anything but. She wanted nothing but for us to conquer that word, that concept: intimidation. She helped us turn it on its head in literature and in our lives, and in the social constructs of weirdness.

Patsy was also one of the few that didn’t consider me to be completely bat-shit crazy when I confided in her during office hours that I was working on buying this house with a retired NFL player and creating a new place for student entrepreneurs. For that, I am eternally grateful. God, how I wish I could have given her a grand tour, too.

And, I’ll leave you with this–a line from one of her first emails to our class two Septembers ago:

(bizarre doesn’t mean wrong...)


Originally published ~a year ago at

3 Years Strong

Earlier this fall, I found myself quietly taking note of my half birthday–marking six (!) more months left as a 19-year-old.  I took note of many changes: where I live, who I surround myself with, where I’ve been, what I’ve learned, goals fulfilled and goals still just that–goals. 

One of my favorite authors, Philip Delves Broughton, once told me that you are who are you by 18.  I generally agree.  I still feel the same.  My interests are similar, and though certain ideas and things have lost the old shiny newness they once held–my attraction to them can no longer be seen as fleeting, instead now more a long-term relationship tied to the fabric of who I’ve become.  One element that remains constant is Startup Weekend. 

This weekend we celebrate and commence another weekend of ideas and companies coming to life at Startup Weekend Ann Arbor III.  3 years ago, I was probably as crazy as I am today.  In the first 14 weeks of freshman year, alongside my dearest partner-in-crime Dan Lee, we raised over $5k to run this.  Since then, we’ve seen 10+ companies come through every year, over 150 pitches circulate, and countless supporters from Boston, Detroit, Ann Arbor, and beyond.  We’ve seen classes of students come and go, scores of morning nerves and midnight epiphanies.  It never gets old. 

Many thanks to everyone who continually make this possible for the greater Michigan community.  Thanks for believing in a crazy 17-year-old, thanks for believing in Startup Weekend, thanks for saying yes to this roller coaster ride. 

P.S. Another ride is currently under construction.  Details to come soon :)

A How-To Too Many

“9 Beliefs of Remarkably Successful People.” “7 Things You’re Doing Wrong on LinkedIn.” “5 Toxic Beliefs that Ruin Careers.” “7 Habits of Extraordinary Teams.”

Just one glance across Twitter feeds, glossy magazine pages, or general business directed articles yield a grandiose amount of listed advice. It seems that there are 7 secrets to anything and everything, 5 things you should always be doing before breakfast, and 8 constant takeaways to cram in. 

As I rummage my brain for anything of value I’ve consumed lately, none of it appears in a neat list form.  Yet psychologically, I, like many readers, am so instantly drawn to these articles proclaiming steps and bullet points and to do’s to sweep the world with a magic how-to wand. 

But where have these steps truly taken us? Are we any more enriched? Any stronger? Any more fulfilled?  Probably not.  In fact, likely the contrary. We’re bogged down by advice, stressed with more to do’s on top of to do’s, with words that will prove to be more than forgettable down the line.

Instead, there are many more ways to put our thirst for knowledge to practice. Try reading material scoping out the world beyond your typical line of sight. Facts are hard to remember, details even more so, but oftentimes what sticks is the great concept at hand. A biography can expose the instincts of the person in question, a novel or poem inspiring ideas otherwise lost in a mirage of numbered lists.

There is no neatly paved garden path for everyone, so why should we rely on broadly stamped how-to advice to constitute so much of our knowledge? Instead, we can sculpt our own garden, plant our own crops, pick our own fertilizer. A nugget here, a seed there, bringing together a vast array of insights.

They are called classics for a reason.  A reason why Aristotle, Thoreau, Franklin–all names that live through the ages.  Perhaps it’s time to put away the minute snippets and indulge yourself in the deeply cultivated words of our forefathers, history makers, and men of thought.

And off the grid we go

For the next six weeks, I will not have access to internet or phone…or really anything needing a power outlet.

For someone who wakes up to NYTimes on her iPhone, leaves not one tweet unchecked, Flipboards before bed, engrossed in tech startups on the daily for the past 3 years, with heavy doses of 200+ email onslaughts per day, this will be quite the foreign experience.  

It’s one of UofM’s great hidden gems–the New England Literature Program.  6 weeks, 8 credits of 3 classes, 40 incredible people, and 3+ mountains to climb.  

I’m a nervous, excited, scared shitless tangle of energy.  

I’m excited to correspond with friends by snail mail, to lay my fingers over not a backlit keyboard, but a typewriter, to spend time outdoors, to be in tune with a world without screens, to think, to write, to reflect.

I think more than missing any device, service, or habit, I’ll miss my family.  

Letters and mail are more than welcome, in the meantime!  Feel free to write to:

c/o NELP
P.O. Box 998
Raymond, Maine 04071

Opportunity Cost and the 4th Dimension

Econ 101 tells us it’s the foundation between scarcity and choice.

Intuition and gut tells us it’s what we want more.

We’re faced with infinite choices on a day-to-day basis, from the minute our alarm clocks thunderously announce the day, to our tired tumble under the covers after a long day…or not.  Depends what you’re willing to give up.

What textbooks and teachers alike often forget, however, is the factor of time.  Sure, you might give up producing fewer guns for more butter, you might take in a few more dollars by selling this new product line versus continuing an old one, but we forget to ask ourselves…how often is this event going to happen again? 

Whether it’s sacrificing a few days out of your week before two exams to attend the 2012 Startup Weekend Organizers Summit, or dragging yourself out of a few hours of productivity to grab coffee with a potential sales lead, seize moments that are scarce, not simply tangible goods or returns.  If the Summit only happens once a year, the only time you’ll see the greatest people you’ve ever met in one place, or when you’re only in the same town as Sarah once every five months, then get on it.  Chances like these are the ones dreamers look back and say, “if only I had…” or “we almost…"  Should have, could have, would have.   Don’t let yourself say any of those words down the line.

It’s these moments that create stories, build bonds, and take ideas like Zaarly and launch them into action.  They’re moments that can help you find a job.  They’re moments, settings, people, and places you can never reconstruct

So.  Are you going to be a would’ve, could’ve, should’ve kind of person, or are you going to say, ”and that’s where we did this"?

A Piece of You Can Save a Whole Dan.

Today balloons are being filled, laughter shared, love shown.  Today, my friend Dan is on nearly week 8 in the hospital, diagnosed with aplastic anemia.

I first met Dan through MPowered, and he subsequently worked alongside me to co-organize Startup Weekend U of M 2011, in addition to participating…and creating the one and only epic Drunk or Child.

Dan rocks.  I could go on and on for pages about how much I love him, and how much others do, too.  How generous he is, how funny, how witty, how thoughtful, how he’s always willing to give up his own time or resources to help someone else.

I could go on and on about all the memories we’ve shared.  The funds we raised, the late nights we pushed through, the way he can make anyone laugh and feel comfortable. 

And I could tell you about him.  His sisters, his family, his manly Infiniti coupe, how he always wears nice jeans and a troublemaking grin. 

Dan needs a bone marrow transplant to survive.  There is a 1 in 20,000 chance that you could be the one to give away a part of you to save a whole of him.  For those of you away from Ann Arbor, here’s how you can help.  It only takes a little piece of you to light up another life.

How do you let someone go?

Hi.  You’re not right for me.  This isn’t going to work because of a, b, and c.  Even more so now that you’ve just committed d.  Here’s a feel better package, but after that you need to leave.  Simply put, you’re fired. 

There’s no easy way to say it.  Whether you’re ending a business or personal relationship, your message is as clear as, “We are not a match.  You are not helping me, and I am not helping you.  Please leave.”

In my time serving on MPowered’s executive team, one of the deepest and lasting learning experiences has been in learning when to let go–if at all.  Whether it’s a peer, a fellow leader, or friend, it never gets any easier.  But there’s certainly ways to make the road a little less rocky, and taste a little more like mint chocolate chip.

  • Leave the emotions at home.  Tensions are high.  Emotions are the last thing this recipe for disaster needs.  Be cognizant of your body language, your tone, and most importantly, your volume.  It’s in our nature to mirror the person across from us, and once things have escalated, there’s no turning back.  
  • Use specific examples.  Be ready to refer to specific straws that have broken the camel’s back.  Avoid accusations, and instead point to ways that the person on the other end has broken your contract, agreement, or collaboration.  Facts will have never seemed so friendly, and instead of fingerpointing with “You did x” or “You didn’t understand y,” speak for yourself!  Try “I feel that when you did x” or “I think you didn’t understand y.”  
  • Anticipate reactions.  You can never fully prepare yourself for the reaction on the other end, but it doesn’t hurt to empathize.  There’s no reason to be unnecessarily harsh or meek if that’s not either yours or his/her style.  Be deliberate in your delivery.
  • Keep it in person, not on paper…or print!  Two words: email forwarding.  Sound scary?  It is.
  • Short, sweet, and safe.  Concise, to-the-point statements will carry you through, and lessen the pain for both sides of the table.  Now’s not the time for long-winded goodbyes, or a recap of an annual performance report.  Focus on the issues at hand and what has provoked this act.  
  • End on a positive note.  It’s over.  Why scold, nag, or be upset?  After all, this is a person you’ve worked with, and at least at one point (if not still) enjoyed being around!  Have a heart.  We all do.  And you never know when you’ll cross paths again. 

In most cases, be sure to come in with a decision already made.  Stick to your gut, always remember why, and don’t trip on the way over.

At the end of the day, this should be your very last resort.  Letting people go not only distorts your team dynamic, it also sets you back in performance and transitioning is certainly no easy feat–both emotionally and at work.  

Better yet–this can be easily steered clear of!  Set expectations early (even better if they’re in writing), and always check in!  Great collaboration is a two-way street, requiring signals and movement from both ends.

Great leadership is not about control or delegation.  It’s about inspiring the team, laying a foundation of common ground, common goals, and a united mission to build, create, and innovate.

Humble Pie: Part 7 of the Food Pyramid

Humble pie.  Tastewise, it may be on the same level as Popeye’s spinach and brussels sprouts.  But an extra helping or two might just be what the doctor ordered.

It’s a fine tightrope to walk between possessing complete self-confidence and complete conceitedness.  But possessing humility is a rare asset. 

By tossing the gem of humility in your toolbox, you’ll find that you’re learning, not to mention hearing, much more than before.  Throughout my summer at the Kauffman Foundation, I was continually both humbled by and struck by the humility of those that surrounded me.  Whether in a contained work environment or between the streets of South University and State, it’s all too easy to trip up on your tightrope of confidence + conceitedness.  

As a very wise Munro Richardson of the Kauffman Foundation has once guided me:

Be willing to say “I don’t know.”  Don’t worry about perceptions.  There is little admiration for those with an answer for everything–instead, try practicing listening.  You might come across a golden nugget you wouldn’t have had you only been practicing answering.  

In classes, tests, and exams, we’re consistently punished for saying “I don’t know.”  Yet avoiding such an admission is avoiding a learning opportunity.  We’re taught that the Hermione Grangers of the world are the ones to emulate, yet why is that she plays a supporting role in many of her adventures?

From the words of Danny O'Neill of the Roasterie Coffee:

Put on your sales hat and ask, “What can I do for you?”  Sellers and consultants are most often pegged as ‘good with people.’  They’re willing to step back, eliminating the “I,” and reconsider whose agenda is on the table.  Expect to give and take.  Too often, we are so wrapped up in our own goals that the true reciprocated value of a potential relationship is lost in the glories of “networking,” of overeagerly selling our personal wants.

And finally, with the help of Munro:

Pick your fights and pick your buttons wisely. In class discussions, team meetings, weekly updates, and more, that knee-jerk reaction to speak out against a differing opinion or idea may spill over in negativity or overconfidence.  Put in your own cost benefit analysis–is it worth it to pick this fight?  Rather than insisting on your way or the highway, will it pay off to play devil’s advocate instead—rooting for the underdog?  Will it pay off to compromise?  Put yourself in another’s shoes.  What’s the root cause of this opinion?

Jumping at every opening to argue your way might feel like a win, but you may load up on a large dose of backfiring.  By lending yourself to such situations, you’ve automatically labeled yourself as the overbearing antagonist.  Instead of being a problem pointer, try being a problem solver.  Sure, a dose of compromise doesn’t seem to serve as the tastiest complement to humble pie, but perhaps it will pave the way to a stronger relationship.  A new relationship is like a new hire—you need to be willing to provide guidance and commitment to make it work.

There’s no right or wrong way to go about snagging your very own slice of humble pie—and keep in mind, just like with any of Grannie’s famous pies, humble pie is simply pie; a dessert, not a substantial meal.  A small amount goes a long, long way, whether you’re headed to class, to an interview, or to a meeting and more.

Why I thank God I didn't go to Cornell

Almost a year ago to this very day, I sent a letter that has changed my life forever.

I remember the day like it was yesterday.  I delayed.  I took a shower.  Read a book.  Checked  I panicked like a guy whose wife just went into labor.  And finally, the moment of truth.

I sealed the letter, and off it went to Ann Arbor, Michigan.

Four months later, I packed my bags for the University of Michigan, in some Midwest town, to this place that I knew absolutely nothing about except that it was cold.  I didn’t even know that the school was split into two campuses, or that people were fanatics about football…and what was all this “Go Blue!” nonsense?

And yet–the longer I’m here, the more I never want to leave.  I’ve caught the Wolverine fever.  Although frustrated by the “college bubble” that we reside in, the campus and its neighboring Ann Arbor community has been incredible.  Just three months ago (a lifetime, really), in conjunction with MPowered, I’d organized the University of Michigan’s first Startup Weekend, and it was one of the most exciting and rewarding experiences I’ve ever had, and I’m honored to have been a part of it.

But this wasn’t the original plan.  On March 15th of last year, I thought I was the happiest girl in the world.  I’d been accepted to Cornell’s School of Hotel Administration, a dream I had long ago given up.  By March 16th, I’d all but hopped on a plane to Ithaca.  

Why did I do it?  Why did I choose a school I’d never laid eyes on, let alone an entire part of the country that I’d never stepped foot in?  I could have graduated from the University of Washington at age 19.  I could have entered the Ivy League.  I could have stayed right at home, right in my comfort zone.  And…I could have hated my college experience.

Instead, I embarked an adventure.  Sure, I’d miss Seattle, I’d miss the familiarity, the home-cooked food, the friends, and even the rain, but I needed to seek what was beyond my current scope of the world.  And I didn’t want to limit myself.  I didn’t want to set barriers early, both academically and socially.

I came thinking I would study Business and English.  Today, I’m not so sure.  Instead, the incredible faculty and friendships I have found here have taught me to explore.  To challenge myself.  To be unafraid of uncertainty, or failure, or criticism, or rejection, or most importantly, of compromise. 

And today, as I write this on the last night in my dorm room (aka messy hurricane of packing supplies), I don’t want to leave.  This community of leaders, of explorers, of change agents have impacted me in ways I could have never imagined.  In the past four weeks alone with MPowered, with our Center for Entrepreneurship, and with my fellow friends, peers, and risk-takers, I have learned more than ever about leading and building a team, the dynamics of this university, of entrepreneurship education, and much more.  But more than anything, I have had to make decisions.  As a part of MPowered’s exec team, no longer do my decisions only affect myself.  My decisions affect programs, projects, and people.   

The University of Michigan has provided an environment in which I have learned, thought, and created.  It has shown me my fears, my flaws, my failures.  It has enabled me to grow as a student, as a thinker, as a leader of an organization.  And it has shown me that with a little bit of smart risk-taking, a healthy dose of invention, and a dash of fearlessness, we can lead our very own action revolution.  

If Singapore and Beijing had a baby, it would be named Shanghai.

Louis Vuitton, Christian Dior, Jimmy Choo, Chanel, Gucci, Ferrari and Maserati…these brands have all made their home in one of China’s most economically developed cities, Shanghai.  

This past July, I had the pleasure of embarking on a month long trip throughout China, and Shanghai was by far one of my favorite destinations.  A big, bustling city with endless sights to see and people to meet, it was at the peak of tourism traffic this past month.  Currently hosting the 2010 World Expo (more on this in a future post), the city was loaded with tourists and businesspeople alike.

Shanghai plays host to some of Fortune 500’s biggest companies–including Walt Disney and Kraft.  During my stay, I had the chance to visit the Shanghai World Financial Center, located in the world’s second tallest building.


It’s a city that thrives on exchange: cultural exchanges, business exchanges, and more.  As China’s largest port and center for trade, its residents also have the highest disposable incomes in the country.  It’s no wonder companies flock here the way hawks circle a fresh target.  

Although recent statistics show a decline in exports, Shanghai still proves to be one of China’s greatest assets.  Just ask Ermenegildo Zegna, one of Milan’s biggest luxury fashion brands.

As CEO Gildo Zegna very simply puts it, 

China is a very important part of this growing process, together with India, and the New World,” Gildo says. “If you don’t get it (the market), I think you go backward. These countries keep you energetic.

Head designer Alessandro Sartori agrees:

Shanghai is a fashionable city. It is probably the most fashionable city in China. Milan is where we were born, and Shanghai is where our future lies.