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How to Recover from a (StartingBloc) Hangover

December 13, 2012

StartingBloc NY '12


By Naeema Campbell (NY ’12)

Friend: How was that conference you attended?

Me: Oh, it was great! But, it wasn’t really a conference.

Friend: Oh, was is a retreat or something?

Me: Well…no.  StartingBloc was a transformative experience. We did lots of  leadership development exercises, we learned and practiced relationship building, practiced pitching ideas and we discussed design and social innovation. Seriously, it was just what I needed.  

Friend: Uh huh.You did that all in 5 days?

Me: Yeah, I’ll tell you more about it when I’m not so tired. It’s only been a couple of days since the program ended and I my mind is still on overdrive. Actually, my brain kind of hurts.


At the close of the StartingBloc NY ’12 Institute, Adriana strongly suggested that we take the days following the Institute as slowly as possible.  I don’t how many Fellows actually followed that advice, though. Many of us had flights, trains or buses to catch.  And we were already making plans to get caught up on work or projects that had been put on hold in order to attend the five-day Institute. So, I found myself rushing off to work the next morning in a cloudy haze of exhaustion.   n hindsight, the combination of challenging mental exercises and constant socialization was a perfect recipe for exhaustion or a ‘hangover,’ as it was affectionately called.


At first I was in denial that I was even suffering from a hangover   I had attended conference-like events before, but something about the Institute was different.  Perhaps, it was because I left with tangible goals to act upon, rather than just ideas to think about.  And to actually make those commitments happen, I first needed to get over the exhaustion (and also get my voice back). In the week immediately following the Institute, I tried a lists worth of exercise to try and get over this hangover but only three things helped.

Rest.  Like many other StartingBloc Fellows I convinced myself that it was a great idea to go back to work immediately after attending the Institute. To be honest, I underestimated how much mental and physical energy I had used to stay engaged and authentic for five uninterrupted days. Well, if there’s one thing you glean from this post – make time to recharge.  Take the day off or work from home (if you have that option). Be Quiet. Be Still. Your mind and body will thank you.

Reflect.  Set aside time to look inward. During the Institute, we were all challenged to remain present and fully participate in each session, and that takes a lot of effort. A massive amount of information was crammed into five days, so I found myself recalling random tidbits of conversation or ideas throughout the week. Strangely, it seemed as if every conversation, interesting encounter or new person I met after attending the Institute was as a catalyst for a new idea or connection to be made. To help capture those fleeting memories carry around a notebook to record all your thoughts, self-critiques and ideas that are going to run across your mind. If writing isn’t your thing, try making voice memos. Ultimately, your goal is not to write the next best-selling non-fiction book, but rather, you are simply trying to capture your thought process and remind yourself what you were thinking at that moment.


Reach Out.  It is easy to get caught up with your your plans and big ideas, but eventually you will need the help of others to execute them.  That is why the StartingBloc community is invaluable.  Put aside your ego and ask your StartingBloc Fellows for help. It behooves all of us to cultivate and nourish relationships with Fellows online and offline. Just remember to strive for authentic and high-quality relationships. Quite frankly, I have only been a Fellow for a couple of months, but the wealth of knowledge in StartingBloc is astounding!

So, did you suffer from the StaringBloc Hangover? How did you get over it?


Naeema Campbell is a NY ’12 StartingBloc Fellow from Orange, NJ. Her interests include young leadership development in the NJ philanthropic sector, equitable urban entrepreneurship development, and food systems change. She’s a firm believer in the power of social media so feel free to connect with her on Twitter (@naeemac) or through her blog at

7 Quick Reads That Will Get You Unstuck

September 25, 2012

By Carlo Diy (LA ’11)

The more time I spend in the social innovation space, the more I see that creation is a constant process of getting stuck and unstuck, stuck again and unstuck.  Again.

Sometimes, getting unstuck is as simple as going for a run or bouncing some ideas off of friends and family.  But on other occasions, the rut can seem much more permanent.  A day of indecisiveness can drag on for an entire week.  A week of sub-par productivity can turn into an entire month.  At least that’s been the case for me.

 In getting my startup social enterprise off the ground, 7 books have been indispensable during the most severe and most frustrating times of stuck-ness.  I find myself returning to them often.  Most of these titles would appear in a bookstore’s Business/Professional Development section.  And that, we’d say, is respectable.  But for at least 2 of them, you would definitely have to duck into the “Self Help” aisle.  And this, we often think, carries some kind of stigma with it.  Like: “Mmm Hmm…And how does that make you feeeeeel?”

Nonsense.  I have no idea how or why self-improvement has gotten a bad rap.  If you’re serious about doing meaningful work and being great for the people in your life, doesn’t all reading boil down to improving yourself?

I think it does.  And I know these books have paid for themselves hundreds of times over in different situations.  If you’re feeling stuck for similar reasons, I’d encourage you to check them out!



When you want to take the leap but need a push… 

Linchpin: Are You Indispensable? (by Seth Godin)

Every time I recommend this book to someone I say, “Be careful – you just might quit that job you don’t love.”


When you’re not sure where to start with your new big thing…

The Lean Startup: How Today’s Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses (by Eric Ries)

Lean methodology doesn’t only apply to tech companies.  Anyone trying to solve a problem for any group will get at least a dozen actionable and hugely important next steps from reading this.  Plus, check out the book’s cameo in the hilarious and brilliant viral video from the Dollar Shave Club.


When you think you don’t have enough connections…

Never Eat Alone: And Other Secrets to Success, One Relationship At A Time (by Keith Ferrazzi)

I used to think of “networking” as a skill set among those who did it right and, at its worst, a slick act among those who did it wrong.  Keith’s book not only humanizes “networking,” it made me genuinely excited to meet new people and take care of the people already in my life.  You’ll start seeing the help you need everywhere.


When there are too many loose ends…

Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity (by David Allen)

Millions of people have read this one and it doesn’t disappoint.  Implementing just 2 of the practices David Allen recommended made my work manageable again and spared me from countless future ruts.  If anyone can make a labeler sexy, it’s this guy.


When your idea just can’t get traction…

Made To Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die (by Chip Heath, Dan Heath)

There’s a science to designing an idea and communicating it to others.  The Heath brothers take you through that science in a lively, entertaining read.  The case studies alone will give you several concrete ways to make your idea more memorable and spreadable.  If you do what Chip and Dan say and still get no attention, it may be time for a new idea – and that’s fine.  Either way, you’re unstuck!


When there are too many unknowns…

 Uncertainty: Turning Fear and Doubt Into Fuel For Brilliance (by Jonathan Fields)

When friends and family ask me how it’s been to start a business, I tell them it’s been the most fun thing I’ve ever done WHEN I haven’t been terrified.  And that’s a big qualifier – because I’m terrified much of the time.  This book teaches you to build a scaffolding of “practices and structures around the way you work and how you live in the world that allow you to cultivate enough head space and baseline calm to keep pushing the envelope of creation without losing your mind.”


When you’re too tired…

The Power of Full Engagement: Managing Energy, Not Time, Is the Key to High Performance and Personal Renewal (by Tony Schwartz)

It’s easy to stop moving because you’ve run yourself into the ground.  If there’s no shortage of ideas and clear next steps to work on but you can’t muster the energy to do them well, it may be time for an energy audit.  After reading this one I didn’t just do more work, I felt more joy in my work and more joy in my downtime as well.

There you have it.  7 powerful un-sticking agents.  Try them out – your projects will thank you!  Your life will thank you!  And I thank you!  I’m continually awestruck and inspired by the amazing Fellows in our tribe and the work you all do.

Here’s to moving that work forward!


Carlo Diy (LA ’11) is the founder of HaitiHub ( which is devoted to creating more individuals and organizations that are fluent in Haitian Creole.  Aid in Haiti needs to be different.  Speak Creole.  Connect.  Do more.

Embracing Uncertainty at StartingBloc

August 2, 2012

By Kevin F. Adler (BOS ’12)

Dear StartingBloc NY’ 12 Candidate:

Hi there, I heard you got accepted to the StartingBloc NY ’12 Institute for Social Innovation.

Congratulations. (High-five).

Smiley asked me to share some words of wisdom with you. I said “okay.”

You probably don’t need some random person from BOS ’12 telling you to “keep an open mind” or “be present with each person and yourself” or “push your limits.” Maybe you do, but I bet you already know this or will hear it from someone else more insightful.

Since I planned to tell you to “keep an open mind etc.” when I told Smiley “okay,” I thought about telling him “actually, not okay” and backing out. I might have done that before the Institute, or questioned whether I had anything to say, or delayed it.

But that has changed (mostly). Because 90 folks like Smiley hold me accountable. And because I go for it more often. A lot more often.

So, I would like to share four pieces of unorthodox advice with you and your posterity.

Embrace uncertainty.

What are your expectations for the Institute? Mine were pretty low. I hemmed and hawed about whether to go even, or skip out once I arrived in Boston. I was staying with pals, so I had the option to have a change of heart and still have a great week.

Before showing up, I questioned the quality of the program, the people, the choice of venue, the ability of the organizers to organize, the accommodations, and the price. Communication among my team for the Institute was pretty choppy beforehand, and we only managed to put together a Google Doc with our case competition work.

Definitely seemed like a reason to chill out at the Cape for a week instead.

Show up with your resume on your mind.

Since I showed up with low expectations and pretty much nothing to lose (since I had already spent the cash and committed the time), I decided to be extremely open with where I was at in life. The stuff that normally exists between the lines. At the surface.

 Stuff like I know I have more to give, more to grow, but don’t know where to start. Stuff like the fact that I started to sense that the merger with the other startup would not be the right move, but I didn’t know what to say or what would happen if I said it.

Scary stuff like that.

Turns out others like me showed up and decided to do the same, too. Instead of trying to network or maximize the experience or anything too silly like that, I just was. Unlike my old status quo of thinking of the future and the past mostly, I was just present while meeting each person.

 So were the others (except for this one guy; more on him in three sentences). This made the connections I formed pretty remarkable, and authentic. We shared values, were honest with where we were at and whatever was holding us back, and offered genuine support. Serendipity had a 5-day slumber party in our Boston Institute.

By mid-day on the first day, I was starting to feel it, except there was this one guy Docks who looked like he was having the worst day of his life. He was slouched back in his seat, eyes kinda glazed over, maybe asleep. When one of the session speakers told us to partner with someone in the room who we thought we’d never hang out with in real life, I made a beeline for Docks.

Show up and find your Docks.

Docks asked me why I had chosen him. I told him that I thought he was either really tired, or had a horrible attitude. I wanted to talk to you since you were ruining my day.

Our dialogue was off to a great start. 

The first prompt for conversation was meant to be a softy: “if you could have dinner with anyone, living or dead, who would it be?”

I told Docks to go first, because I didn’t want to get all vulnerable and talk about mom if my partner was just going to be half-asleep. My expectations were low. I thought about vacation and the Boston version of that Jersey Shore beach (Cape Cod?). I kept an intent look, but in the back of my mind, I was slouching and my eyes were half-closed.

We looked at each other a few moments. Silence wouldn’t be the word for it, since so much was being said. He began to speak before sound came out, like someone who knows what they are going to say but hesitates as whether to say it. Then, I heard him: 

“My brother. I look up to him more than anyone else… and I miss him.”

I didn’t expect that.

Over the next hour, Docks and I had one of the best conversations of our lives. I know this because we both affirmed it. He pushed my limits. He took that lackadaisical look he had throughout the morning and focused it on me. If I said something that wasn’t the full truth or was a canned answer, his eyes would roll. And I’d go further. Then push him back. We gave each other a good shellacking.

 Go home, but never stop showing up.

Two months later, I am sitting in the San Francisco offices of my startup, Shortly after StartingBloc, we decided to back out of the merger. The founder of the other company agreed that the merger didn’t make sense given our vision, but decided to invest and serve as an advisor. He said he believed in our vision for how technology can be used to facilitate more authentic community, and wanted to help us as so many had helped him when he was just starting out.

I think back to StartingBloc often.

I think about the evening at the hotel where I interviewed other participants about how they’d like to keep the community together. And Dexter Zhuang and Will Harris and I brainstormed and refined the mission of (to make serendipity commonplace).

I think about Ngozi Joel Nezianya and the night I randomly sat with him in the hotel lobby and we talked for three hours while I waited for Pato Bachara to stop socializing in the bar and let me into the room. One is my accountability-buddy, el otro es mi amigo de rompebodas. Both are friends for life.

I think about LC, and Ted and Renee and Kevin-squared. Sonia with the sad dance and Ipsa with the happy singing and Meghan who can help people realize goals like no other. Chris from Ireland and Liz from Illinois.

And I think about Docks, who helped me keep an open mind, who demanded that I be present with him and with myself, who pushed my limits. I think about these people, and these lessons. And I also live them.

StartingBloc surprised me. Maybe it will surprise you too.

Whatever your expectations, just gotta show up.


Kevin F. Adler (BOS ’12) is CEO of, and is working to restore the strength of community in the digital age.  Follow him on Twitter, @kevinfadler.  

Get Excited for the StartingBloc NY ’12 Institute for Social Innovation

July 31, 2012

With less than two days before the StartingBloc NY ’12 Institute kicks off at the brand new Design for Social Innovation space at the School for Visual Arts in New York, candidates from all over the world are getting excited for five-days of exploration, innovation, and fun.  

Back in May, before he attended StartingBloc, Abhishek Syal (BOS ’12), who lives in Hyderabad, India, was asked why he was excited for StartingBloc and what he was hoping to gain from the Institute for Social Innovation.  Abhishek’s work and research includes two areas:  renewable energy and education for the disabled.  At BITS, Pilani, he researched for five years on technologies to help the blind to learn from maps and diagrams and developed a patent pending technology.  In 2010, he founded a non-profit ( to create, promote and deploy self-learning technologies for the disabled.

Here’s what Abhishek said about his feelings prior to StartingBloc:

:: Why are you excited for StartingBloc?

Social impact is made through creating shared value in a community where everyone is impacted positively, especially in areas of education, employment and empowerment. I envision creating shared value by leading a responsible technology driven enterprise. In this context, StartingBloc is the right Institute where I can get the skills necessary to transform my vision to reality by developing a community leadership mindset.

:: What are you hoping to gain from StartingBloc?

In addition to the innovative and extensive leadership training sessions like the Ideas Marketplace session (where the Fellows pitch about their passions), I hope to learn from perspectives of entrepreneurs, teachers and other StartingBloc Fellows from across the world.  This learning is essential to understand and create social impact.

:: What three words capture your emotions right now leading up to StartingBloc?

1. Passion
2. Eagerness
3. Curiosity

Recently, we asked Abhishek to provide some advice to the  NY ’12 candidates preparing for StartingBloc this week.  He was so pumped, he put together this awesome presentation, take a look!  Bottom line:  GET.  EXCITED.  See you in New York!


Networking abroadmystaringblocexperience from Abhishek Syal

Blended Profit’s Live Interview with Jonathan Lewis

July 27, 2012

StartingBloc is pleased to be a syndicated partner of Blended Profit‘s new program, GAMECHANGERS.  Each week, Blended Profit interviews new thought leaders focused on a variety of perspectives one could engage in when interacting with good business (the consumer, the investor, the entrepreneur, the student, etc).  The conversation is designed to push a constructive dialogue forward on how the good economy will reach scale in the coming years. They seek to provide the venue to reflect, challenge, and inspire our community members to think critically, uncover unmet needs/gaps, and ultimately change the way business is done.

Episode # 1 featured an interview with Mr. Sam Daley- Harris (founder of RESULTS, the MicroCredit
Summit Campaign, and the Center for Citizen Empowerment & Transformation) and Episode # 2 &
Episode #3 featured interviews with Daniel Epstein (founder of the Forbes Top 30 Social Entrepreneurs). Episode # 4 with Monica Brand (Director of Frontier Investments at ACCION/structured Compartamos IPO) was just released.

Tune-in TODAY, Friday, July 27th at 12:30pm EST for GAMECHANGERS Episode # 5: Live Interview with Jonathan Lewis by clicking-on this link.







Jonathan Lewis bio:

Jonathan C. Lewis is the Host of iOnPoverty which produces online videos for young professionals and students pursuing economic opportunity and justice careers. He is also President of the Opportunity Collaboration – a strategic business retreat and networking summit for 300 senior level anti-poverty leaders occurring annually on World Poverty Day and Board Chair of MicroCredit Enterprises –- an innovative social venture leveraging private capital to make tiny business loans to deeply impoverished people, mostly women, in 22 developing countries on 5 continents. Contact him at

For more information, check out:



June 5, 2012

Excitement is still bubbling from the Starting Bloc BOS ’12 Institute for Social Innovation at Babson College, and while Fellows have returned home to their respective lives, jobs, ventures, and initiatives that are changing the world, the inspiration and connection with the StartingBloc community has only just begun. Shira Bee (LA ’12) captured the beautiful power of the StartingBloc community in this post on her blog, and we had to re-post!

Getting to Point B

One week ago, I have had the insanely amazing experience of volunteering at the StartingBloc Institute for Social Innovation in Boston. StartingBloc is a self-described “people incubator,” that builds skills and relationships amongst young innovators who value social impact. After becoming an LA ’12 fellow back in February I decided that Memorial Day weekend would be the perfect opportunity for me to tap back into some StartingBloc inspiration, clarity of purpose, and connection.

A significant contributor to our connectedness at StartingBloc is our mutual learning and sharing over the course of the institute. So here is my list of the 10 best lessons learned and shared amongst a group of exceptionally connected people.

1. We are all grasping for guidance.

Whether we are recent graduates venturing into the unfamiliar “real world,” or many years wiser and exploring the ideas and actions that really make us tick, we are all…

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Advice For BOS ’12 Candidates: Get Excited

May 21, 2012

By Adam Smiley Poswolsky (LA ’12), StartingBloc Blog Editor

With only a few days until the StartingBloc BOS ’12 Institute at Babson College (May 24-28), we asked StartingBloc Fellows to share their advice for the newest group of candidates headed to Boston.   You’ll have to read on, but the bottom line is:  GET.  EXCITED. 

What advice do you have for Candidates going to BOS ’12?  

Know your passion.   –Deepak Ashwani (LA ’12)

Talk to people. Get to know other Fellows. This is a great opportunity to connect with people who share the same values and get energized by it.  It’s okay to be vulnerable and be yourself; the community will embrace you. And of course, have fun!  –Katharine Bierce (BOS ’11)

Be ready to meet a lot of new people and develop a lot of new friendships. Be open and vulnerable. Let all of your fears go and just be yourself.  –Anthony Thomas (NY ’11)

Remember to ask:  “How can I help?”  Initially, no one else knows why they are there either, enjoy the adventure.  –Clare Seekins (LA ’12)

If you hear someone say something during a session that really resonates with you, go up and tell them afterwards. It might spark an incredible conversation and at the very least will give them positive reinforcement to share even more. The more we all do this for each other, the more we can collectively discover.  –Shira Abramowitz (LA ’12)

Make the most of every single moment at the Institute; you can sleep when you get home.  Go in with an open heart and open mind.  Prepare to connect with others in meaningful ways, to challenge and be challenged, to learn and to teach. –Molly Ganley (LA ’12)

Push yourself outside your comfort zone and support one another.  Together we are changing the world!  –Dana Frasz  (BOS ’10)

Focus on how you’ll keep your personal momentum and energy going after the Institute.  How will you stay in contact with some of the Fellows you meet?  What will you do to help yourself catapult to ‘the next level’ of your success—no matter how you define success.  –Ronjon Bose (BOS ’09)

What I wish I knew before going to the StartingBloc Institute for Social Innovation:

Don’t expect to walk away with all the answers to your big questions.  The Institute is just the beginning. You might find that you leave with more questions than you came with, but you will also leave with a lot more connections and resources to help you answer them.  Be real with yourself and everyone else there. You can get a lot out of being authentic with a bunch of strangers. –Nikki Bruce (NY’11)

For me personally, it would have been helpful to go into StartingBloc with an idea—something to ask for.  I feel like that was one of my biggest takeaways from the Institute, becoming comfortable how to ask this amazing network to share their advice and resources.   Fortunately, I am comfortable now reaching out to other fellows and I can definitely attribute that to the confidence I gained at StartingBloc.  –Amanda Green (LA ’12)

My advice to the next group of StartingBloc Fellows is to start thinking about what you are passionate about. What is important to you? What do you want to achieve in this world? What impact do you want to make? Thinking about these questions enables you to have a better understanding of yourself as well as take advantage of the opportunity to learn from all the amazing speakers and from your peers. StartingBloc is a safe environment where you can tell people your dreams, ambitions, and ideas. –Mauricio Leyva (NY ’11)

Try to budget an extra day or few into your travel plans to stay in Boston and hang around. This gives you another chance to connect with Fellows post-Institute (in person or via email), and really give yourself the space to process and honor what you just experienced before jumping back into “real life.”  –Denise Duquette (LA ’12)

What are three words to live by during the Institute?   

Cherish. Every. Moment.  –Adam Parsell (LA ’12)

Have fun, be yourself.  –Jasper Yan (LA ’12)

Dance. Each. Day.  –Ronjon Bose (BOS ’09)

Connect.  Engage.  Dance.  –Katharine Bierce (BOS ’11)

Say “YES, and…”  –Denise Duquette (LA ’12)

Share your dreams.  –Mauricio Leyva (NY ’11)

Share the love.  –Shira Abramowitz (LA ’12)


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