Genuine Insights

It’s All About Karma

Three Lessons from Bali, the Land of the Gods

My husband and I recently spent a week in Bali in celebration of 10 years of marriage. Strong in its traditions and daily Hindu ritual, the lifestyle in Bali is an experience of spirituality like no other place I have visited. The island hacks culture in the most extraordinary way, embracing its traditional identity while continuously adapting modern expressions of art, technology, music, and design to create an environment and energy of balance and harmony.

As we moved around the island it seemed like we were traveling through time. We began in the north in an area called Pemuteran Bay, which was our favorite part of Bali, culturally intact and not over populated with tourists. From there, we went to the cultural center of Bali, Ubud, which is teeming with hipsters, expats, and artists melding to create a robust collision of East meets West.

We meditated in century-old temples, swam with over a hundred different species of fish, observed the progress of a coral reef restoration project, and participated in a full moon ceremony which just happened to fall on our anniversary—Feb 14th—a day dedicated to Saraswati, the goddess of art and knowledge. We bonded with the Balinese Hindu people wherever we went, visited the amazing environmentally-focused expats’ Green School, absorbed the culture and art of Ubud, slept on the edge of rice paddies, played with monkeys in a monkey forest, and ate our way through the island, enjoying as many native Balinese dishes we could discover.

In between all that, we learned three extraordinary things:

It’s all about karma
Hindus believe in karma and reincarnation and if you want to return in your next life to a better life you better have good karma. To achieve good karma, you have to do right by others, take good care of yourself, actively participate in Hindu rituals, and meditate and pray daily. This made brilliantly good sense to us and we committed to try to adopt this approach.

You don’t need to be religious to appreciate this lesson, which is really just about cause and effect. For us, participating in prayer, ritual, and flower offerings created a great ripple effect of luck, which was a nice reminder of how much of life experiences are created by the energy you put out into the universe.

For example, upon arrival to the Denpasar airport, Stephen left his camera somewhere between the baggage area and customs, and when we realized it was gone, we assumed it was lost forever. At the airport eight days later, preparing to head home, we decided to visit customs to see if our camera had been found. After a few phone calls, a customs agent delivered our camera back to us. Apparently another customs agent had taken it, brought it home, and returned it because he didn’t want bad karma. Crazy but true—karma is a great accountability measure to live by. Remember there is a divine justice in life and the more good you do, the more good you will experience.

Tat tvam asi (I am you and you are me)
In Bali, all things are seamlessly connected and there is a feeling of togetherness and oneness that creates a calm, raw kind of happiness in people. This gentle bliss is felt in everyday life and informs the way people treat one another, as well as how they treat visitors, animals, and the environment.

Next time you are being challenged by someone—a colleague at work, a family member, or even a stranger—repeat this mantra to yourself, “I am you and you are me.” You will find that where your focus had previously been on your own discomfort or aggravation or anger, it is now on what the other person is feeling or thinking. Empathy is one of the most powerful human forces (second only to love, I think) and this simple perspective—I am you and you are me—allows you to tap into that force in all of the everyday moments that so often drag us down.

Don’t bring bananas to a monkey forest
We visited a sacred monkey forest in Ubud and upon entry bought bananas to feed to the monkeys. Looking back on it, I can see that this was a bad choice! Twenty seconds after putting bananas into our backpacks, a monkey jumped on Stephen’s back and stole his entire bunch. While my bananas remained safe underneath my shirt we continued on our hike to the monkey temple. Once we reached the temple, I decided it was there that I would share my fruit as an offering to these sacred animals. I had no sooner begun to take the bananas out when I was descended upon by monkeys from all sides. It was a little dicey for a minute there, but I managed to share the bananas with several monkeys. When I got to my last banana, I reached out to offer it to a big monkey, who gracefully, almost shyly accepted it.

Once he was done enjoying his banana, however, his demeanor quickly changed from cute, cuddly monkey to feisty, angry monkey and he jumped on my leg and dug into my pockets looking for more. Frustrated not to find the bananas he suspected I was hiding from him, he bit my leg. That quickly ended the fun and I had to go to the First Aid station to clean and dress my small wound. It all turned out fine, but you see why I can’t ignore the oddly profound lesson I learned—don’t bring bananas to a monkey forest.

Join me on a trip to Bali in February 2015

Stephen and I loved Bali so much we have decided to curate a multi-sensory group retreat for 12 days of personal growth through travel. If you are interested, please email me directly for details at

Ecco Hotels We Loved
Taman Sari Bali Resort & Spa
Wapa di Ume Resort & Spa

Read the rest of "It’s All About Karma"

Posted Mar 12, 2014 Tagged under: uncategorized

Hacking Culture

As contemporary technologies, communication tools, global relationships, and lifestyle options develop at warp speed, injecting themselves into our daily lives almost at the moment they come to exist, a new evolutionary meme is emerging that I call “hacking culture.”

As an active and somewhat obsessive observer of people, communities and organizations, I’m intrigued to explore a great shift in how we curate our lives and our work to blend everything that matters most to us. We are learning to accept our contradictions, which is causing a convergence of how we work, create, and live our day-to-day lives. The democratization of information is spawning a growing legion of global citizens who are choosing to design a radically different approach to their lives, ultimately forging a culture that is unique to the individual, not defined by the collective, as has historically been the case.

What we’re experiencing isn’t a trend, it’s an anti-trend. Traditions aren’t being challenged, they’re being ignored. Rituals are no longer an expression of what “we” do, but rather an intensely personal expression of who “I” am. This is a new modernism, defined by what a person cares about most today rather than what she hopes to achieve or obtain for tomorrow. It’s a “now” culture versus the culture created around an aspirational future.

Consider the people who are choosing to live “outside the lines.” They’re moving away from cities and suburbs and choosing rural communities-sometimes outside of their own countries-where they can live and grow their own food and care for their families. Leaving behind the conventions and restrictions of traditional society, many have created self-sustaining communities. Consider Finca Bella Vista, a fast-growing community in the Costa Rican rainforest where expats are living in tree houses.

This is a big, bold example of hacking culture and literally building an existence centered on leveraging and enjoying the journey of life along with other co-conspirers with shared values. Breaking all kinds of rules, crossing borders, erasing all confining lines, innovating new social and economic realities for themselves where less really is more.

People are hacking culture – they’re rejecting the conditioned mindset of conformity and mediocrity and instead are experimenting and finding practical, creative workarounds that enable them to live unique, fulfilling, extraordinary lives. They are engaging in subversive disruptions of the status quo and setting themselves apart from others, ultimately living life more freely. Free of the expectations of others, culture hackers are comfortable at the fringe and don’t aspire to be anywhere else. Many were always outsiders, minorities, rebels, game changers, geeks, and freaks who are now leveraging that outsider mindset to create original, modern approaches to life and work.

On culture

When we talk about culture, it’s generally assumed we mean the art, literature, and music kind of culture or the customs associated with the native environment in which one was raised. Webster’s defines culture as “enlightenment and excellence of taste acquired by intellectual and aesthetic training” and also as “the customary beliefs, social forms, and material traits of a racial, religious, or social group; as well as the characteristic features of everyday existence.” While I don’t quarrel with those traditional definitions, I would insist that in just the last few years, culture has expanded to mean the unique way of life an individual chooses. For one person, that may be expressed through the lens of design, yoga, and ethnicity. For another, it might be sexual orientation, entrepreneurship, and community service. It’s a custom formula that changes from person to person and is fluid and variable, not fixed.

On hacking

Hacking is by nature a word that combines its purpose (finding practical workarounds, turning something broken into something better, or just plain blowing stuff up) with the characteristics of the person doing the hacking (playful, clever, curious, restive, obsessive…and on and on). Hacking is at heart a solitary act of defiance. It’s just you, the hacker, pushing aside old assumptions, asking yourself new questions, and finding the quiet genius inside you to cobble together solutions. It’s just you – what you care about and what you want to do about with what you care about. da Vinci was a hacker. Edison was a hacker. Frida Kahlo was a hacker.

Culture was asking for it

The Arab Spring has arrived for many of us. No more waiting for “things to change” before we find satisfaction in our lives. No more senseless restrictions we put on our own futures. Instead we hack culture to level the playing field in front of us. If our society can’t figure out how to reconcile the haves and the have nots, and the separates but never equal, we have the tools, motivation, and inspiration to get it done by radicalizing our own day-to-day lives. We’re making choices that are reimagining and reconfiguring what our lives look like. Self-made millionaire entrepreneurs are choosing to live in ghettos. Ghettos are choosing to be centers of art and music. DJs are composing symphonies; groups of unrelated people are living together in urban communes. Scientists are collaborating with artists; technologists are playing with environmentalists. Gender bending and diversity is the new normal.

These are not the choices of dilettantes, hipsters, or people who can afford to make outrageous choices. These are acts of survival. We hack culture to make room for ourselves in the history of humanity. We hack culture to make our lives work in complicated times. We hack culture to make our lives matter.


It’s okay to be rattled by all this. When you think you’re seeing life as we know it fall apart, look a little closer and you’ll see that dysfunctional stuff is being deconstructed and reconstructed to have meaning and purpose. People are doing it for themselves, their families, and their communities. They’re finding the point of true convergence, where their unique values are acutely expressed in every aspect of their lives rather than in just one area. They know that there’s no win-lose, no pass-fail, no right or wrong. There is no “correct” destination.

A critical aspect of living a life of convergence is identifying the partners, employers, and communities where one can practice, experiment, and curate. Take this extraordinary young fat brain Eliana Murillo I’m working with at Google. Challenging the expectations of parents, friends, and managers, she collides all aspects of her life as a Latina hyper-creative digital expert. Challenging her cultural legacy, she hacks the personal and professional aspects of her life, all at once, in a way I have to admit I have never seen before. As a bold matter-of-fact, she blends all that matters most to her without apology and almost without being aware of it because her employer – Google – lets her hack everything around her.

A traditional organization would not know what to do with this young woman. But at Google, she is a beautifully rebellious rising star who is impacting business and communities in a multi-dimensional way. Google is a unique environment, to be sure. But it’s not the only organization where culture hackers can flourish.

I hope you will stay tuned as I explore the concept of “hacking culture” further, introducing you to people who can show you how it’s done and what might be in it for you! In the meantime, enjoy these resources that I like to call “proof points,” which demonstrate what hacking culture can look like.

Posted Jan 27, 2014 Tagged under: business, genius, inspiration, motivation, reflection, relationships, uncategorized

Big Insights Worth Considering in 2014

2013 was a year filled with great life lessons for me. In the spirit of sharing what I’ve learned during what was the most transformational year of my life, here are a few insights worth considering.

1. Only you can make yourself happy. The secret to happiness is to realize happiness is a state of mind, a kind of deep level of centeredness that is achieved through intrinsic value and never dependent on external factors.

My husband and I recently attended a retreat on Happiness at Esalen in Big Sur that was facilitated by author-psychologists Charlie and Linda Bloom. We learned that there are ten needs that are essential for one’s well being and happiness. Let’s pay attention to these needs in 2014:

1. Sustenance
2. Rest, relaxation, and rejuvenation
3. Safety, security, and protection
4. Community and connection
5. Play
6. Autonomy
7. Creative expression
8. Purpose and meaning
9. Learning, growth, and challenge
10. Love

“A disciplined mind leads to happiness, and an undisciplined mind leads to suffering.” ― Dalai Lama XIV

2. Practice mindfulness. As you enter the new year, commit to a meditation practice. I have learned that it only takes five minutes of mindfulness a day to experience the mental benefits of quieting your beautiful mind. So don’t wait until you “have the time” to incorporate meditation into your life. It doesn’t take time, it just takes the will and discipline to do it.

“Meditation is the dissolution of thoughts in eternal awareness or pure consciousness without objectification, knowing without thinking, merging finitude in infinity. “ — Voltaire

3. Embrace your mistakes. I made a boatload of mistakes in 2013 and instead of beating myself up about them I gave each of my mistakes my undivided and loving attention in order to learn as much as I could from them. Don’t sweep your mistakes under your personal rug. Instead, own them, love them, learn from them, and know in doing so that you won’t ever repeat them.

“Take the challenges that you face in life and use them to grow.” — Eckhart Tolle

4. Courage, clarity, and consistency make for a remarkable leader. Reflecting on the life and passing of Nelson Mandela, I am reminded of his leadership lessons. Mandela taught us that we can change our lives, our communities, and even the world by being courageous, having clarity of purpose, and by staying relentlessly consistent in our efforts. And if you don’t think of yourself as a leader, think again. You are in a position to lead others in big ways and small ways every single day. Take that to heart.

“I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.” ― Nelson Mandela

Happy 2014 Tribe!

Posted Jan 1, 2014 Tagged under: goals and goal setting, inspiration, lists, motivation

Can you be too curious?

“Stay curious,” advised Martha Stewart recently at the Invent Your Future / Indiana Governor’s Conference for Women I attended. I sat front and center to hear the amazing Martha speak along side lifelong friend Charlotte Beers and was inspired by their candid, sharp humorous advice. Both women spoke of the importance of living healthy and staying true to your passions alongside your talents, but what struck me most of all that was discussed was the great importance on staying curious.

I have to admit, I have an insatiable curiosity about how the world works and that curiosity has framed how I work, live, and parent but sometimes I wonder if my curiosity gets me into trouble.

Curious about curiosity, I pondered the notion of whether too much curiosity can be a bad thing. After six hours of racy-brain thinking about this, I realized that while curiosity—the need, thirst, or desire for knowledge—does divert energy and focus from other aspects of your day-to-day life, it is never a detrimental trade-off. Curiosity by nature demands your undivided attention, but the benefit of the time spent in curious pursuit is by far more valuable than the same amount of time focused on the mundane. The ordinary aspects of daily life require enough of our energy already; the turbo-boost benefit of indulging your curiosity is undeniable.

All explorers, investigators, inventors, designers, problem solvers, and research junkies are just curious souls spurred on by nothing much more than the charge they know they will experience as they gain knowledge and perspective from their pursuits. Curiosity combined with motivation lead to the extraordinary revelations—both personal and public.

Consider this: how can one be motivated if she is not curious and how can one ignore her curiosity without having a negative impact on her motivation. The two are dependent to the core of who many of us are as entrepreneurs, artists, writers, journalists, small business owners, chefs, scientists, and technologists. Yes, we are curious and we ask questions, and yes, we have a major crush on research but you know what? That’s okay!

Ultimately I believe that exploration of the unknown has no downside—in spite of the unfortunate outcome for that curious cat! In truth, you can never be too curious.

Posted Nov 9, 2013 Tagged under: uncategorized


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