I was feeling really sorry for myself. Then I realized how lucky I was.

It’s 4pm on Friday after Thanksgiving. Having spent Thanksgiving with my husband’s family, we came to stay with our dear friends for a few days.

As I write this, the kids are playing upstairs and the adults are drinking wine and eating snacks in their awesomely relaxing living room. I am in the kitchen, where I found a plug close to the counter, and I am working. I have been working for the last 3 hours without taking a break and before then, I was working — on my phone or laptop, whichever I could get to easiest — from the car on our drive down to Thanksgiving, at night after everyone went to bed after the big turkey dinner, and early in the morning before everyone got up.

As an entrepreneur I work all the time but during this holiday weekend I was starting to feel really sorry for myself. I wanted a break. I wanted to not worry about anything for a few days. I wanted to turn off my work email and not check it. I wanted to not think about raising money or scaling user growth or prioritizing features or any of the other 100 topics that race through my brain at any given minute. I wanted to eat too much, drink too much, hang out with family and friends, watch stupid TV, and not worry about anything. And I caught myself feeling pretty bitter about not being able to do this. (I read this blog post by Michael Carney about why holidays for entrepreneurs can be anything by happy and my neck hurt from emphatic nodding.)

While feeling bitter and sorry for myself, I clicked over to Twitter and saw this tweet, from one of our awesome Happier users:

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I am not sure there are actual words I can find to describe how it feels to be able to create something that can impact people’s lives in a positive way. My fellow entrepreneurs will know exactly what I mean — it’s a magical feeling.

After thanking Neil I went back to cranking through my emails, where I found an email from another user, sharing with me how Happier has helped her gain a much more positive perspective on life after she went through a difficult few years. A few emails down was an email from one of our users who just signed up for our brand new gratitude course and was so excited to take it she wanted to make sure we got her email correctly.

And this is when I realized that instead of feeling sorry for myself I should be feeling really freaking lucky.

Yes, being an early-stage entrepreneur is one of the hardest things I’ve ever done — and this includes immigrating to the US and becoming a mom, both of which have challenged me in so many ways I am not sure I get it all yet. It is an endless emotional roller coaster, an endurance run that tests you in every way you can imagine and more, and it’s also just pure hard endless work. It’s exhausting and there are no breaks.

But to have a chance to create something, from scratch, that actually can impact someone’s life in a positive way, that can help people be more optimistic and with that optimistic mindset do more in their lives that makes them feel awesome is incredible. And I get to do it for a living. I am the lucky one. Tired, in need of way more sleep, but really damn lucky.

So on this post-Thanksgiving day, this is my thank you to my team, investors, advisors, friends, family, and most of all, the amazing Happier community, for being part of my feeling this lucky. And if you’re a fellow tired entrepreneur wishing you could have a little less crazy or stress or work in your life — which we all do, if we’re honest about it — ask yourself in what ways you’re lucky to be doing what you are. My bet is that your answer will make you happier :)

 

 

 

Three (small but life improving) new habits I’m trying on

Doing something instead of planning to do it.

So you know, it’s May and all, but we still have a bunch of warm coats hanging in the closets and the pile of cashmere and wool sweaters I was going to put away a month ago is well, still on top of my dresser. For the last few weeks I’ve been writing “Put away warm stuff” on my to-do list, which has clearly failed to get me to actually put them away.

I am really busy. (Ha, that is a funny understatement!) And putting away warm stuff isn’t a top top priority. But it’s something I need to do and it’s this to-do that’s just hanging out there and annoying me.

So this morning I was walking past our closets and mentally making a note that well, I should put my puffy winter coat away. And then I decided to just freaking do it. It took me a total of 10 minutes, I felt awesomely productive and this annoying to-do was no longer just hanging out there, taking up space in my brain. Small effort, big win. And what I realized is that sometimes when I put stuff on my to-do list I feel productive because it’s almost like I’ve actually done it. But I haven’t and the cognitive space that to-do occupies can be better used for something else. Like, you know, looking for new orange rings.

No computer or work at night one day a week.

(For a moment, ignoring the fact that I work all the time.)

I usually work in 2 shifts: During the day and at night. At night is either after I get home, spend a few hours with kiddo, and then open my laptop the minute she goes to sleep or after I get home late from work or dinner (on nights when my husband is on kid duty).

So one night a week I am trying not to do the second shift. For the past few weeks this has meant actually going to bed super-early, around 9 or 10. (Which is many hours earlier than my usual bed time). But you know, I have wild plans to maybe use that not working night for say, watching a movie or chillaxing with a book. Ambitious, I know, I’m a rebel.

Doing something less perfectly instead of not doing it at all.

I host a big Mother’s Day brunch for all of our moms and grandmas every year. I love it but it’s exhausting. It’s been a brutal few weeks so I was thinking that I can’t pull it off this year. Find new recipes. Get everything together. Cook, organize, cook more. No way. Then I thought about not doing it and that I will regret it later. So I decided to just make some of my usual recipes and not aim to wow everyone with new amazing stuff. And to do the lunch later in the day so I have more time to get cranking on it. And you know, less than a bajillion courses.

A friend of mine and I have been trying to find time for dinner for ages. We’re totally failing – my travel, her schedule, my schedule, her travel, and just general life stuff is constantly in the way. So finally we found an hour between errands to grab a coffee and catch up. Not the long relaxing wine-filled dinner we were trying for but so better than nothing.

Why I write thank you notes to users

teamphotoThe most scarce resource I have is time.

This is true for me as a mom, start-up CEO, and just person, period. I invest a lot of energy into being as efficient as possible and am a firm believer that yes, you should take your credit card out and have it ready to hand to the cashier before you get to the end of the line. Being able to save a few minutes by making an everyday task more efficient makes me happy because I can use those are extra minutes for doing something meaningful, or important, or fun.

Yeah, OK, I’m kind of a crazy nut when it comes to time. I admit it.

So why did I spend 2 hours this weekend answering support emails we got at Happier and an hour this morning writing thank you cards to our beta users? (Yes, literally writing, by hand – old school, baby!) There’s a solid argument to be made that there are a bunch of other “CEO tasks” I should be spending time on — you know, stuff like PR pitches and product roadmap and other really insanely important to-dos.

Thing is, I think writing thank you cards to users and answering their emails ARE some of the most important things I can do. It helps me feel closer to them and I think that, more than many other things, makes me a better CEO, better qualified to truly create a company that makes our users’ lives better. It helps them feel like we really really really care, and by we, I mean all of us, regardless of what each of our titles may be. And it helps my team understand that we are all responsible for making our users happy and all need to invest energy and time into doing it.

So yeah, I’ll go on a limb and say that I think it will make everyone a better CEO if they spend some time writing thank you cards to their users and answering support emails. Try it, let me know what you think.

The big day is here: Today we launch Happier :)

It’s a few minutes after midnight on February 7th, the day we launch Happier out of Beta loadingscreenand into the world.

A lot of the team is up and still cranking away and I am taking a break from prepping various emails for tomorrow to write this post. I wanted to capture and share the emotions I am feeling but after trying a bunch of beginnings realized that maybe it’s not possible to do. Excited. Exhausted. Overwhelmed. Stressed. Happier:) But it’s a lot more than all of that.

And then I thought that maybe the best thing to do is to share this email that I sent to our amazing Happier team. In many ways, it captures what and why and how this means the world to me. Here you go:

Guys,

Tomorrow is an insanely awesome and epically amazing day. (Did I use all the words I over-use?:)

Yeah, it’s stressful, and exciting, and sometimes it feels like we’ve been working towards it for a very long time.

But for me, the most important part of the day is the fact that we get to have it as part of this unbelievable team, that we have worked together creating something new and amazing and have had a lot of fun and overcome many challenges to do it.

Of course we want a bajillion users and we want them all to actually, for realz, be happier after using our app. And we have a ton of really hard work ahead of us to make this happen. But in the words of our very own Mike H., let’s enjoy the moment, each other, and the fact that yeah, baby, the world finally gets to meet Happier!

One more thing — at the risk of sounding cheesy, but fuck it, all dibs are off for the moment, right?

Happier is the most personal, epic, important awesomeness I’ve ever attempted outside of my family and kiddo.

The seed for it was truly planted in the red light district in Vienna, where we lived in the horrid refugee housing on our way to the US in 1989. (Yes, it is near the year some people on the team were born. I do NOT want to hear it.) As a very “mature” 13-year old I thought the right thing was to STRESS and AGONIZE about the horrible state of our uncertain lives – no money, no citizenship, no guarantee we’ll ever get to the US. On our third day there my dad woke up one morning and told us that we were going to the zoo because it was free and to see the Opera house because he has always wanted to do it. I told him he was insane. (We went anyway.)

He wasn’t insane. On even the worst days, you can find something positive and choose to focus on it and do more of it. I remembered this moment in Vienna for many years. When the initial little idea for Happier as a company and product started to swim in my head I didn’t fully understand that in many ways, it was that day — and my dad and how he chooses to live his life and get us to live ours — that inspired it. Not in the literal sense, but in the ‘it became part of me’ sense.

I don’t know if I ever told you guys this story and tonight seemed like the right time to do it:) But here’s what I really want to say:

I feel lucky, beyond lucky, every single day, including the tough ones, to be part of your lives and our work together and to have an opportunity to build something this amazing together. You truly humble me with your kickassness – yes, that IS a word, Colin, please pronounce it! You have all taken Happier from our little idea to this awesome V1 and I am psyched to see where we take it from here.

And now, get back to work, happier people!

World, please meet (and download and leave awesome reviews and tweet about) Happier!

happier team

One of the best things we’ve done as a team at Happier

IMG_6344It’s a new year and I like to look at the one before and find some good stuff – work and personal – to take with me into it. I always look at building our Happier team and making sure we’re all working great together as maybe the most important job I have. So I thought I’d share some awesome things we did as a team in 2012 that I know made us more kickass and yes, happier.

Here’s the first one:

End of year team feedback.

When I was at McKinsey a bajillion years ago they had us go through 360 reviews once a year. Your peers, bosses, and people who work for you would share feedback and then you’d go through it with your advisor. It was really long and pretty tedious – to both do one of those for my colleagues and to go through mine – but I liked the idea of anonymous feedback from my teammates.

So at Happier we simplified it to get to the core of what I think matters. Everyone on the team (there are 7 of us) answered these 3 questions about each teammate:

  • What do you love that this person does and want them to do more?
  • What would you like this person to do less?
  • What would you like this person to start doing?

By any measure it was one of the best things we’ve done as a team. Everyone said they found feedback they got insanely useful and felt that it was awesome to get from the team. I was the only person who read everyone’s feedback and was literally blown away by its honesty, supportive and constructive nature. And I am already seeing people implement some of the feedback into actions, including myself.

We’re going to do this twice a year, as a minimum, and I couldn’t recommend it highly enough, whether you have a team of 3, 10 or 100.

Why I like working during the holidays

I decided to skip my Monday quote tradition to share this thought:

I like working during the holidays.

It’s 11am on Monday IMG_6080the 24th of December. I’m standing at my desk (yep I stand), cranking away on my various to-dos while awesome chill music fills our sunny Happier office. Mia, our CEO Junior (aka my 8 year-old daughter) is watching Despero at our conference table and Yoav, our CTO, is cranking away as his desk next to me. I have gotten more done in the last hour than on a typical day because there are very few emails, zero phone calls, and absolutely positively no meetings.

With lots of love for all my friends who celebrate Christmas, every time this year I feel lucky to be Jewish. The world seems to go into a frantic swirl of shopping, traveling, and cooking but for me, it slows down and creates that incredibly rare opportunity to actually take time and think. If I look at what I’ve been doing at work for the past few days it becomes clear that these are the tasks that usually I struggle to fit in:

- Write up my notes for our 3 top areas of focus for 2013 (to prep for out team year retrospective and 2013 planning, v1)

- Write up the press release we want to share with the world when we are ready to publicly officially launch Happier in the spring. (This is one of my favorite exercises to do – think about how we want our product to be described before we are done building it.)

- Edit key Happier talking points — where the inspiration to build a happiness company came from, what our core goals are for the Happier app, etc. (I find it useful to constantly talk about these as a team and keep refining as we build.)

Each of these requires that I have some time without interruptions, time to actually think and re-think. And I find that when things quiet down around the holidays I get to do exactly that.

Actually, it feels like getting a gift:)