“Buy it with your heart and then run it with your head.”

Photo by Michael Fenton on Unsplash

My friend Charlie O’Donnell writes a weekly newsletter for tech that I highly recommend subscribing to. An issue from a few week’s ago told the story of a man who wanted to buy a restaurant. A very specific restaurant that was not, as it happens, for sale. When he finally persuaded the owner to sell it to him the offer was insane. As he agonized over what to do his girlfriend told him “Buy it with your heart and then run it with your head.”

It’s such a great line. I get asked, pretty frequently, what made me quit my corporate marketing job at Return Path and start Path Forward. It was, without question, a “buy with your heart” decision. It wasn’t a completely illogical — it was a staff position that still afforded me the income and benefits I needed for my family. Matt, my Board chair, had secured a significant level of funding to get us started. (The guy buying the restaurant was simultaneously wrestling with the meaningless of all the stuff — including a Ferrari — he owned. Let’s be clear that it’s a lot easier to make a decision with your heart when you are starting in a place of material security.)

But it was a decision with a lot of risk, both generally (many new businesses, both for profit and nonprofit, fail) and specifically (I’d never run any kind of business and never even worked in a nonprofit).

And yet. I can’t explain fully why I was so convinced it was the right move, but it was one that was driven almost purely by heart.

But I’ve run it with my head. I’ve focused on building a great team, including finding an amazing VP who is good at all the things I suck at. I’ve focused on building our partnerships with employers as the engine of both short term revenue and long term growth. I’ve talked to literally hundreds of people seeking wisdom and advice so I can make good decisions and avoid obvious pitfalls. That isn’t to say I haven’t made mistakes. I’ve made PLENTY and I’ve made some really, really big ones. But I can honestly say that I haven’t made mistakes that were the result of running with my heart. The passion I have for our cause runs deep in me and it drives me in an intrinsic way. But the day-to-day decisions I make are driven by a clear-eyed sense of what I think will make our organization successful so that it can continue to fulfill its mission for years to come.

Investing In My Resolutions

One of my resolutions this year is to read more books. Not just read more — specifically book. I had children and acquired a smartphone around the same time roughly 10 years ago and the two combined to decimate my attention span and substantially wreck my book habit. I want to get it back.

So, with that, I’m actually investing in technology to help me, odd as that sounds. Everyone I admire who reads a lot of books points to their Kindle, along with the Kindle app on their devices, as the secret to reading more books and reading books more often.

Ordered one yesterday, should have it on Saturday. First book I’m downloading is “Winners Take All” which is one I’ve been looking forward to.

2019 Resolutions

Photo by Ian Schneider on Unsplash

In the New Year …

I want to learn new dinner recipes, especially vegetarian ones.

I want to go on relaxing vacations.

I want to do more writing.

I want to improve my morning routine(s).

I want to read more books.

I want to imagine new ways to advance Path Forward’s mission.

I want to try planning great weekends.

I want to be more patient.

I want to keep a daily diary.

I am going to continue exercising (almost) every day.

Making Room For Women’s Voices (Literally)

Image result for alison stewartOne of the media organizations that was impacted by #MeToo was WNYC — New York City’s public radio station. Three men were accused of harassment — Jonathan Schwartz, Leonard Lopate and John Hockenberry. Two of them — Lopate and Schwartz — were fired as a result (Hockenberry had left when his contract expired before the incidents were made public).

One result of these changes is more women on the radio. The lineup used to be:

  • 10am Brian Lehrer
  • Noon Leonard Lopate
  • 2pm Teri Gross
  • 3pm John Hockenberry

And now it’s:

  • 10am Brian Lehrer
  • 2pm Teri Gross
  • Noon Alison Stewart
  • 3pm Tanzina Vega and Amy Walter

In terms of hours it’s now 4  hours of women’s voices and 2 hours of a man vs. 1 hour of a woman and 5 hours of men. Also significantly, the one hour of a woman in the past was Teri Gross with a nationally syndicated show broadcast out of WHYY in Philadelphia. I love Fresh Air, but sort of shocking to consider that it was not very long ago that WNYC didn’t have a single female voice represented in it’s weekday line-up.

Parents: Take Your Kids When You Vote

While we are all on the subject of voting, let’s talk instilling the habit of voting in kids.

My parents always took my sister and I with them when they went voting. It made a big impression on me. (And Fred Wilson wrote a great post about taking his son voting.)

I’ve voted in every election I’ve been eligible for since I was 18. When I was in college I used absentee ballots. When I moved to NYC at 26 registering to vote, and figuring out where to do so, was one of the first things I did.

I’m such a dork about voting that I recently showed up at my local polling place (the JHS in our neighborhood) to discover that the day’s primary wasn’t being held in our district because there weren’t any contested races.

It’s a habit I got into because of my parents.

If young people and Democrats voted at the same rates as older people and Republicans we’d live in a very different country. Take your kids to vote!

My 8-year-old is smarter than I am.

Children’s Place may be the seventh circle of Hell. I’m sure had Dante ever gone he’d have written it into The Inferno.

Going there with either kid is painful. Going with both is … much, much more painful.

Me, to Sam: “How about this shirt?”

Sam: “Does it glow in the dark?”

Me: “Yes.” {Okay, I’m lying. I’m totally lying. It’s a shirt he will wear IN THE DAYTIME. Who cares if it glows it  the dark? He’ll never know the truth.}

Sam: “Where’s the sticker?” {Ah! Outsmarted by an 8-year-old. He knows the glow in the dark clothes have stickers on them. He’s clearly smarter than I am.}

Have Certain Elite Men Leveraged the Women’s Movement to Consolidate Power?

I’m pretty obsessed with how it can be that decades after women have reached and even exceeded parity with men in academia they haven’t come close to parity where it really matters — in the halls of power.

And the thought I find myself having lately is this: Has women gaining parity in  attaining higher education and consequent lack of parity beyond school led to a situation where a smaller number of elite men rule the world? Has power ultimately been concentrated in an even small number of hands?

I think about the famous Warren Buffet quote — “I was so successful because I was only competing with half the population.” Is it possible that today’s Warren Buffets are competing with even fewer people?

Why Aren’t There More Women CEOs?

It’s one of the more depressing stats I’ve come across: The S&P 1500 has more CEOs named John than women CEOs. Across the broader landscape of the C-Suite women make up about 16%. And we are now, in 2018, 30 years since women began to outnumber men in college.

One answer that is often offered is that women just don’t want to be CEOs. And one reason given for this lack of desire is the punishing schedule of a CEO.  This is seen as untenable with motherhood — either because men don’t do their fair share at home or because mothers just aren’t as wiling as fathers to spend so much time way from their families.

That’s a pretty big “or” in the middle of that sentence. But let’s take the second part. Women, mothers, just want to spend more time with their kids than fathers do. (Wow, when you write it like that it kind of makes those CEO dads sound like monsters, right? Hmm. Funny how a quick a little change in the POV of a sentence can totally change the frame.)

Is a CEO job really so all-consuming? This HBR study suggests yes … and also no.  The study, which examined time diaries of 27 large-company CEOs found they worked an average of 62.5 hours per week. That’s not a small amount, to be sure. But it still leaves plenty of time, in a 168-hour week, for sleep and family. In fact the study found the CEOs averaged nearly 7 hours of sleep per night. That leaves them with about 58 hours a week of time spent awake and not working. In one sense there lives are perfectly balanced between work and life. And the diaries show they spend a good portion of that nonwork time with family — about 3 hours per day. They also spend about 45 minutes per day exercising and a little more than 2 hours on leisure activities like reading, TV or hobbies. Yes, they did work on weekends and vacations. How much? About 4 hours on a weekend day, about 80% of the time and about 2.5 hours on 70% of vacation days. Importantly that leaves roughly 12 hours on a weekend and 13 to 14 hours on a vacation day.

Here’s my point: Does everyone want to work this way? No way! Plenty of people would find this absolutely grueling. But there’s no specific reason why women should be uniquely unsuited.

I also think it’s worth reminding ourselves that we don’t question whether or not the CEOs who keep these hours can be good dads. Why do we assume — both of ourselves and of others — that you can’t be a good mom and work this way?


I’ve been on the planet for more than 47 years and had never heard of Huitlacoche. Yes, somehow, this past week I heard about it twice. There’s a word in semiotics that explains this phenomenon that I’m too lazy to look up.