This Is the Truth

by Kena Paranjape on December 4, 2014

in Inspired By, Your Life

Kena_BRIKA_launch

Starting BRIKA was a big step towards living my truth

“They always say time changes things, but you actually have to change them yourself.” ― Andy Warhol



My Amik has been gone for almost two months now. I miss him so much every day.  I’ve gotten used to moving through my day - working, laughing, talking and then suddenly crying. But don’t feel sad for me – a friend told me that my tears are only a reminder of Amik’s love for me. My tears now bring me comfort.  He’s still here.

I’ve always had a very low tolerance for BS in all forms.  I smell inauthenticity from a mile away.  But since Amik has been gone, I feel a radical transformation. My low tolerance for BS has become NO tolerance for it.

I don’t want to do anything that isn’t meaningful to me.  I want to follow my heart.  I want to tell the truth – to others but MOST importantly to myself.

Here’s two reasons why telling the truth is awesome:

  1. It sets you free. For real – you literally feel lighter when you live your truth because your actions, words, decisions become totally aligned with your values and the direction of your heart.
  2. It can completely change your course for the better. When you stop living according to what others think is important and what you think you "should" be doing and start focusing on what is meaningful to you, it can lead to decisions that literally change your life.

It is hard sometimes to tell the truth. It is even harder to face it in order to be able to tell it. Sometimes we pretend it isn’t there because it’s just easier to keep doing what we’re doing. The problem with pretending is that it doesn’t actually work.  Frustration, dissatisfaction and unease are all eventually a result of pretending. Facing your truths (you hate your job, there are people in your life you need to cut out, there is something you need that you're not getting) can be scary but it is scarier to think about going through our short lives hiding from them.

Don’t talk yourself out of your truth. Listen hard even if you aren’t ready to act on it yet. Say what you mean and what’s in your heart. Have no regrets.

“Of all the words of mice and men, the saddest are, "It might have been.” - Kurt Vonnegut


Technorati Tags: inspiration, regret, truth

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marie-curie_toned

“Life is not easy for any of us.  But what of that? We must have perseverance and above all confidence in ourselves.  We must believe that we are gifted for something, and that this thing, at whatever cost, must be attained.” – Marie Curie

I’m obsessed with reading about people who have created amazing things in spite of having a lot of craziness in their lives.  People who make incredible things happen even when the circumstances in their life are far from ideal. This curiosity led me to Marie Curie.  Ms. Curie devoted her life to pioneering research at a time when:

1) People thought women had no brains compared to men and definitely had less to contribute

2) A woman’s sole purpose was to be at home and raise a family and;

3) There were no Hilary Clinton’s or Sheryl Sandberg’s or work-life balance articles or working-mommy blogs to turn to for inspiration and support.

Marie Curie crafted her own life.  She believed in her work and in herself.

Here are 7 other things we can all learn from Marie Curie:

1. Have faith that there is something to be found/discovered/created even if you don’t know exactly what you’re looking for.

Marie spent years sifting through discarded uranium in a leaky wooden shed under hazardous conditions to prove the existence of radioactive substances. My story about this is a lot less risky but makes the point. A few years ago I started a blog.  A woman read it, liked it and sent me an email asking me to meet for coffee.  That woman is Jen Lee Koss, my now business partner and friend.  I didn’t know when I started my blog that it would result in starting my dream business, BRIKA (I didn't even know if anyone would read it!). Do your creative work and have faith that there is good to come of it.

2. The hard stuff can take you out OR it can feed your spirit. It’s your choice.

Marie Curie had her share of hardships – she lost her mother, sister and father.  Her husband (also a brilliant scientist), was killed by a horse-drawn carriage. She suffered from a miscarriage. She was denied a seat at the French Academy of Science because she was a woman.  And oh yes, she had an affair with a married man (yet another brilliant scientist!) and was vilified in the press. Sure, she went through a period of depression.  But her faith and confidence in herself gave her courage to keep going and to persevere. You know she won two Nobel Prizes AFTER all this right?

3. Create art for the sake of art…

And by art I mean anything with a creative output – a business idea, a recipe, a painting, a blog post. Marie Curie believed that pure research should be carried out for its own sake and shouldn’t be tangled up with industry’s profit motives.  She believed strongly that research discoveries should benefit all of humanity.  I had a conversation the other day with a close friend who has been to Burning Man.  She said the amazing thing about all the mind-blowing sculptures and installations is that none of the artists get paid for them.  There are no corporate sponsors involved.  People just create for the sake of creating.  And attendance to the event grows every year.  People want art for the sake of art.  People don’t want to always be “sold” something.  And they are more likely to buy from you later.

4. …but know when you need help to sell it.

Marie’s reluctance to publicize (market) her work and need for funding eventually stymied what she was able to do.  Until she paired up with an American, Missy Meloney, a huge fan and influential woman who took her on a tour of the US to raise massive funds for Marie’s Radium Institute.  Marie was not a salesperson in any way, shape or form.  But she needed to sell herself and her work to continue it.  If you’re an artist, not a salesperson, find someone or something to help you sell your work.  And learn from them.

5. You need a network or a scenius (thanks Austin Kleon!) to help you realize your creative dreams.

An artist needs to collaborate with others in order to be successful.  After her visit to America, Marie Curie learned that “who you know” is almost as important as your work. Instead of only relying on a small group of like-minded scientists, she reached out to a larger network, and although it was uncomfortable for her, put herself out in front of her work.  You can create art in a vacuum but you can’t sell it in one.

6. Everyone has a creative spark.

This one is for every person who thinks they need an Ivy League degree, or X years of experience, or a special certification to be successful.  Marie believed that “inside every peasant could be hidden a writer, a painter, a musician, or a scientist.”  Don’t waste your gifts waiting for someone else to tell you you’re good enough.

7. Compete against yourself vs against others.

We live in a hyper-competitive world where we are constantly watching what others are doing and comparing it to what we are doing.  I think that often results in creating only with the competition as a reference point – and who knows if they know what they are doing?  Marie told her daughters, “I have given a great deal of time to science because I wanted to, because I love research.”  What if we did the work that interested us, kept learning, got better at it every day and were dedicated to pursuing our passions vs having more facebook followers than whats-her-name?  What do you think you could create?

“Be less curious about people and more curious about ideas” – Marie Curie

If you're interested in reading more about Marie Curie, you can read Marie Curie & Her Daughters by Shelley Emling (the book that inspired this post although I'm sure there are many other amazing books about her!)

Technorati Tags: creativity, inspiration, Inspired By, Marie Curie, What I'm Reading This Week

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A Personal Story of Love & Loss

by Kena Paranjape on November 2, 2014

in Your Life

Amik at River

Two weeks ago, I lost my beloved Amik.  Amik was also my husband, but I didn't write "my beloved husband, Amik" because the word husband gives a title to what he was to me that doesn't say nearly enough.

For the first few days after Amik left us, I threw myself into planning his "Life Celebration" (I avoid the "f" word, because why give a title to something that only makes you feel more sad?).  Amik had been unwell for a long time, but whenever I looked at him, I only saw the sweet, full-of-life boy that I fell in love with.  And what I wanted more than anything was for everyone to remember and feel that too, even if they barely knew him or had never met him.  So I put hours and hours into putting together a slideshow of his life and wrote a deeply personal message to Amik to be shared at his service (and below). I asked myself why I wanted to share my personal, private thoughts and feelings. And I realized that even though I am sad and feel a void that I can't imagine ever filling, I am grateful. My loss is so profoundly painful but you only experience deep loss when you've deeply loved. And I know I am so fortunate to have experienced the kind of love that changes you and shapes who you are for the better.

Like any teenage girl, I knew a cute boy when I saw one.  Amik was cute and funny and athletic and smart. And like any teenage boy, he wanted nothing to do with me.  Over time (and a little maturity) we became friends and I was surprised when my superficial teenage crush quickly turned to love.  I remember distinctly the moment when I realized I loved him.  We were saying goodbye to each other at a train station after our first year at McGill.  I was heading somewhere by train and he was driving home to Toronto.  We hugged, said goodbye, and I watched him walk across the parking lot towards his car.  I sat down in the waiting room for 30 seconds.   Then I sprinted across the parking lot, crying, to hug him. He pulled away to ask my why I was crying and I couldn’t speak because there were no words to describe what I felt.

Amik became my doorway to the world.  I followed him to McGill where he had already made amazing lifelong friends most of whom are here today.  He was a born athlete and although I certainly am not, he wasn’t fazed. He took my hand and encouraged me to hike, bike, run, play golf and tennis and lied and told me I was good and had a natural talent.  (I personally think he just wanted me to keep wearing the tennis and golf outfits he bought for me.)  He took me on “deception tours” that involved long winding hikes that seemed to never end.  When I got tired and started complaining, he’d push me up the hill.  He loved to make me laugh.  When he hit on something that did, he would do his bit over and over until finally I had to tell him gently that it really wasn’t funny anymore.  But most of all, Amik always wanted to make me happy – whether that meant sitting in a women’s dressing room for too long while I tried on clothes, watching The Devil Wears Prada way too many times, or cheering me up after a long and stressful day.

When we graduated and he moved to Guelph, I started working in Toronto.  On the weekends I would go visit him and try to distract him while he worked furiously at solving engineering problems in order to beat his class rival. His hard work led him to California where he fell in love.  Amik LOVED California.  It was his dream place.  He mountain biked, road biked, ran, played ultimate, golfed, ski’d, and made the most wonderful, dear friends.  He thrived at work and truly loved what he did.  But the only thing missing for him was me.  I remember the first few weeks after I moved there; I was on my own during the day while he went to work.  By the end of the day I had exhausted my exploring and puttering and was downright bored and grumpy.  But then I would see him bounding around the corner of our apartment, looking in the window at me with the biggest smile on his face.  He’d wrap me in a huge hug and start “project cheer-Kena-up”.  And it always worked.

Amik never, ever held back his love for me.  He showed me almost every day through his words, his affection and his support and encouragement of everything I dreamed of or wanted to do.  During the periods when he wasn’t well enough to show it, I knew through his eyes that it was there and it was killing him not to be able to give it to me.  Even though I lost Amik way too soon, I’ve already had more than a lifetime of love and memories with him.

For those of you who knew Amik well I ask you to honor his life by keeping a little of him in your heart always.  Remember his beautiful smile and warmth, his silliness and laughter, his passion for everything from the mundane to the exciting, his complete love of nature and for the finer things in life, and his willingness to loudly say “YES” to the fight of his life, more than once.  And if you ever get lost, as he did too, just hang on tight for as long as you can until you find your way again.  It is never too late.

Amik, I can’t believe you are gone. But there is no need to be sad or scared. It is all a part of the universe in motion and you are now free to enjoy all the beauty of it that you loved so much. You are a beautiful, undying spirit that has touched my life and my soul in the deepest ways. You’ve taught me what love means. You’ve taught me about acceptance, the value of the search for truth and that true love withstands all.  I will love you and hold you in my heart forever. You beautiful life, spirit and heart.  You’ve been everything to me – my greatest teacher and my greatest gift.

A few days ago, after the hindu prayers that happen thirteen days after someone has passed, I drove north to Muskoka, alone, to a place Amik and I had gone together many times. I was scared to go, but at the same time I needed to. Just as I was approaching my destination, a strong, bright rainbow appeared right before me. Then, the next morning, while on a walk in the woods, I looked up and saw a fox watching me from about 15 feet away. He nodded at me and went on his way.

I asked Amik if he was trying to show me signs of his presence but I didn't hear him answer. I will keep listening.

Technorati Tags: grief, life lessons, spirit

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Photo by Screech Owl Design

Photo by Screech Owl Design

In my last post I shared that my husband has been in and out of the hospital for the last four months with a serious illness. It took me four months to share that with anyone other than close friends and family. I think it was because I didn’t want pity (it’s the worst) or to have to answer too many questions. But then something happened that made me realize that I was seriously depriving myself of others’ support and understanding. I was on a call with one of our artists, Jacqueline Schmidt, discussing an exclusive iphone case collection we were working on and I had to abruptly interrupt our chat to take an important call from my husband’s doctor. When I finally called her back, I felt the need to explain and spent a few minutes telling her everything.

Her reaction brought tears of gratitude to my eyes. She told me that she was so glad I’d told her what I was going through — “that if we don’t share these things, others can’t be there for us”. She offered her support and help in any way she could (but no pity!), and I know she meant it. Then she told me her own inspiring, heartbreaking but triumphant story, one that I hope she’ll let me share one day, or better yet, share herself. I hung up the phone not only feeling less alone in my fear and sadness but also feeling less scared and sad. I felt connected to and supported by Jacqueline and every other person out there who has ever gone through or is going through challenging times. All because I decided to share the truth about what was happening in my life.

I think so many of us feel that we need to show only a brave, confident face. The face of success, the face of a winner, the face of someone who can balance it all and who maybe has it all. It’s as if we feel that showing any vulnerability at all will somehow make us more vulnerable. But I’m learning that the opposite is true. When we only show that side of ourselves, we lose out on so much. We lose the chance to truly connect on a human level with another person, to give and receive understanding and support without involving our ego. These days, those seemingly insignificant moments of connection are my fuel. I am aware of them everyday — with my family and friends, the amazing BRIKA team, my co-founder and newest best friend Jen, my husband, the incredible artisans and designers we work with at BRIKA and most amazingly of all — perfect strangers I come across in every day life. In our quest to do it all, to be better or the best, these honest connections ground us and bring us back to a common, universal purpose to do it together.

PS. You can read my previous post here.

Technorati Tags: BRIKA, Entrepreneurship, inspiration, life lessons

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How I Know You’re Not too Busy to do Great Work

by Kena Paranjape on June 4, 2014

in Your Life

I run a start-up. Many of the cliché’s surrounding start-up founders are true. We are obsessed with what we do. It is an all-consuming endeavor in the most exhilarating way. You want to spend every moment connected to it — even when you’re not actually working, you think about how that time NOT working will benefit your work. You live it and breathe it because it is something that is coming from inside of you, energizing you. When I read about great artists who were deeply engaged in their work (even in times in history when that wasn’t an easy thing to do), I can understand and even relate to it. They sacrificed family, health and relationships for their craft (think Steve Jobs, Ernest Hemingway, the artist Francis Bacon). And while I am awed by that level of dedication and feel privileged to be able to learn from them, I could never choose that way of life…

For the past four months my husband (of eleven years) has been in and out of the hospital. I’ve been shuttling from the hospital to work back to the hospital and finally home late in the evening. I live out of a packed bag, staying at home, or with my sister or friend who both have homes near the hospital. My daily to-do list consists of action items to move our business forward and follow-up related to my husbands care. I go from a photo shoot to a doctor’s appointment to a team meeting. I take the time during the drive or walk from the hospital to make the mental (and emotional) transition from being with my husband to focusing on my work and team. Sometimes it takes me 15-20 minutes after I get to the office to get back into things, but it is a miracle to me that I always do. That’s how much my work and our team mean to me.

People often ask me “how I do it” and I never know how to respond. Life is complicated and messy but also exhilarating and joyful. There is so much we can’t control but for the lucky ones among us, there is still so much we can. For me, experiencing things so far out of my control has only fueled my passion and gratitude for the things I can — our beautiful business, time with my closest friends and family and my health. I used to believe in the concept of “work-life balance” until I started BRIKA. Now I understand that work is not separate from life — it is a very crucial part of it. If you are doing the work that is right for you, it actually makes life whole rather than subtracting from it. From my experience, great work even gives back to you especially when you need it.

P.S. It took me a long time to share this story with anyone. Mostly because I can’t stand pity. Then I realized that the benefits of sharing far outweigh any risk of pity (which we can always walk away from, by the way). I’m saving that story for my next post ☺

You can also find this post on Medium

Technorati Tags: Dreams, Entrepreneurship

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ProductsCollage

Hi friends,

I'm so happy you're here!  You'll now find me now blogging on A Well-Crafted Life, the blog for the ecommerce site I co-founded, BRIKA.  Visit BRIKA to find inspiring content and to shop for gorgeous products (a sweet selection above) all in one spot!

You can always reach me at kena@brika.com with any comments, questions or feedback.

Thank you for finding us!

xo

Kena

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Introducing BRIKA

by Kena Paranjape on September 25, 2012

in Your Life

Brika logo and tagline

Hi friends,

It has been a long time.  Too long, really!!  I hope you've been well.  I've been busy, but not normal day-to-day life busy.  I've been busy pursuing a lifelong dream.

I've always wanted to start a business and be an entrepreneur.  I've been so lucky (and have worked hard!) to have an amazing career in the corporate world, but all along (while learning a ton), I've been plotting, scheming and dreaming about my entrepreneurial escape.  In hindsight, I realize there were three things that I needed to fall into place in order to finally take the leap and make my dream a reality:

1. An amazing idea.  An idea that I was so passionate about that once it came to be, I couldn't NOT do it.  CHECK!

2. A brilliant and fun business partner that balances my skill set and who I "click" with (VERY important!).  CHECK!

3. The right timing. I've been through a lot of ups and downs in my personal life over the last few years, and at times, it just wasn't feasible for me to leave a job and launch a business.  Well, guess what?  The stars finally aligned....CHECK!

Since earlier this year, my business partner and friend Jen Lee Koss and I have been working away at BRIKA.  From the start, we knew we wanted to create a business with heart.  A business that was built on our deepest values and that we knew would resonate with many people (women especially!).  And that is how BRIKA came to be:

BRIKA is an online shopping experience that celebrates craft, storytelling and the belief that our lives are as beautiful as we wish to make them.



You can learn more about BRIKA as we develop by signing up on our brand new launch page.  Which brings me to this blog.  My beloved blog, In Life and In Fashion.  Today is my last post here.  From now on you will find my posts at BRIKA's new blog,  A Well-Crafted Life, so please come join me!

Thank you so much for reading all these years.  In many ways, giving me a voice to write about my values, beliefs and dreams is what brought me to this point.  My wish for you is that what you love becomes what you do.

Love, Kena

xo

PS. Please do like us on facebook and follow us on twitter and pinterest

Technorati Tags: BRIKA, Dreams, Entrepreneurship

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Little Chunks of Time: How do You Use Them?

by Kena Paranjape on June 18, 2012

in Your Life

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courtesy of emily.africaa.tumblr.com via pinterest

Since I've been working on launching a business, I find myself running between meetings all day long.  These meetings, unlike those in a traditional office environment, are super helpful and have been essential in moving our business forward.  The downside is not in the time lost in the meetings themselves, but in the little chunks of time in between. What do you do when you have 15 to 30 minutes free between meetings or appointments? For a while I found myself surfing the internet, hanging out in a coffee shop (waiting for my next meeting) reading free local papers, or even turning on the TV to catch the beginning or end of random shows.  But eventually losing all that time during a day left me feeling frustrated and I started to brainstorm ways to productively fill it.

  • Read: I bookmark interesting articles when I come across them and when I have a few extra minutes, go back to read them.  I've also taken to carrying my e-reader in my bag so I can pick up where I left off from the book I am reading.
  • Clean & De-Clutter: Do a quick scan of the fridge and clean out anything old, start a load of laundry, sort through mail,  clear off your workspace, go through your inbox.
  • Blog: I have to admit, it has been hard to focus on thinking up post ideas for In Life & In Fashion while so focused on thinking about the business!  That's why I've taken to using little chunks of time to come up with post ideas....hopefully this will help me to post more regularly. :)
  • Brainstorm: My partner and I have a long list of things we are constantly discussing and brainstorming.  I now keep a running list and when I find myself with a few moments, give some time to jotting down ideas and thoughts around some of our key strategies.
  • Make a Phone Call: I used to avoid making phone calls.  They feel disruptive and can be frustrating at times but they are also necessary!  I now use little chunks of free time to make calls - even if its to book myself a haircut (finally!!)

Here are some other great ideas on what to do with short time periods during the day:

20 Useful Things you Can Accomplish in 15 Minutes - from PicktheBrain.com

15 Big Little Things You Can Do in 15 Minutes - from Forbes.com

How do you best use your little chunks of free time in a day?

If you liked this post, please do share it with a friend. Thanks!

Technorati Tags: productivity, time management

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Lemon Love

by Kena Paranjape on May 14, 2012

in Your Life

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I don't usually write posts about food, but I had to make an exception after this weekend.  I made a lemon cake for a dinner party on Saturday evening and my hubs and I made lemon poppyseed waffles the next day for Mother's Day brunch.   After slicing, squeezing and zesting lemons all weekend, I kind of fell in love.  Lemons are lovely in so many ways!  They are fragrant, light, tangy, refreshing and the prettiest shade of yellow.  You can add them to sweet or savoury dishes as a humble ingredient, or as the star of the show.  You can pile them up in a bowl for a fresh centrepiece.  Or use them sliced many ways to decorate a dish.  Spring is the perfect time to bring more lemons into your life....here are a few ideas:

1) Pile lemons into any kind of pretty vessel around the house - a glass jar or vase or a silver bowl

2) Make this delicious cake for your friends and family courtesy of Martha (she makes the BEST cakes!)

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3) Enjoy more spring salads with the simplest dressing - a squeeze of lemon, lemon zest, a good olive oil, salt and pepper.

4) Brunch with these lemon poppyseed waffles

5) Wear something summery and bright!  I love the dress below....

What are your favourite ways to enjoy lemons?

Technorati Tags: brunch, cake, Lemons, Martha Stewart

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9 Questions with Joanna Track

by Kena Paranjape on May 4, 2012

in 9 Questions with...

Photo courtest of Toronto Star

Photo courtesy of Toronto Star

Joanna Track is one of my entrepreneurial idols.  She successfully launched and sold sweetspot.ca in a time where there were very few Canadian female innovators/entrepreneurs to look up to.  Today Joanna runs Dealuxe, an awesome (seriously, go check it out now if you haven't already!) online shopping destination for fashionable, contemporary apparel that she co-founded.  She is super smart and savvy but also incredibly genuine and generous.  I am lucky to be able to turn to Joanna while I work on launching my own venture!  Joanna was happy to answer 9 Questions for In Life & In Fashion, but first I had to ask her about the recent shocking news that Rogers is shutting down Sweetspot.ca!  Here is what she said:

"I was shocked to hear the news that Rogers has shuttered Sweetspot.ca.  Not only was the brand a trail blazer in the industry, it's strategy was built around women and digital, two areas that are not only highly lucrative right now, but ones that Rogers has publicly stated they are focused on.  I am devastated for the incredible team that was fostered over the many years, but I am confident that they will find amazing new opportunities."

I know I'm not the only one to agree with Joanna!  Rogers, what are you thinking??

Read on for 9 Questions with Joanna Track:

1.  What is your morning routine?

I go to the gym between 6 and 7am (either spin or circuit class), then home to shower, eat and spend a little time with my son, Teddy, before I head to the office.

2.  What five items should every woman have in her wardrobe this season? (You can find all of Joanna's picks at dealuxe.ca)

1. Coloured pant - make it a bright colour!
2. An oversized clutch
3. White jeans
4. Bright colour pump
5. Something striped - sweater or even a t-shirt

3.  What fashion rules do you follow?

For me, I have to be comfortable first.  If I don't feel good, it won't look good.  I also stick to and invest in my basics (blazers, shoes, dress pants) and I find trendy but inexpensive trend items to complement my wardrobe.

4.  What was the last book you read?

Steve Jobs.  I highly recommend it! (Editor's Note: I recommend it too! Read this post for my lessons learned)

5.  What inspires you?

The idea of building something.  For me, I love building a brand.  Taking something that's just an idea in my head and bringing it to life.

6.  What are the secret contents of your handbag?

1. Miniature Lollia hand cream - they are the perfect purse size and you never know when you'll have a dry skin emergency!
2. Xyla candies - for a sweet pick me up without the guilt

7.  If you could do anything other than what you are doing now, what would it be?

I have always wanted to work for the Four Seasons.  i think it's an incredible brand, and Issy Sharp is one of my business idols.  I think I could learn so much from him.

8.  What are your top 3 pieces of career advice for women?

1. You don't always have to move "up" to be successful.  Many times a horizontal shift will take you in a direction that is more interesting, and fulfilling.
2. The only ceiling is the one you put up yourself.
3. Be a consumate diplomat.

9.  What are your top 3 pieces of "life" advice for women?

1. Pay it forward.
2. Life is short, don't spend it all working.
3. It all works out in the end.  If it hasn't worked out yet, you're not at the end yet!

Read 9 Questions with Joe Mimran, Trish Magwood, Ali DeBold, and Mireille Guiliano.

If you liked this post, please do share it!  Thanks :)

Technorati Tags: Dealuxe, Joanna Track, Sweetspot

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