Here at SWAAY, we want to figure out exactly how our entrepreneurial role models, like Dina Kaplan, attain their objectives and find success. You may have heard of Dina Kaplan and The Path because of articles you’ve read about “the happiest man in the world.” The Path represents a synergy between the inner peace and mindfulness of meditation, and the energy emanating from a vast network of creatives, founders, and influencers. Kaplan was able to make it happen because of the chain reactions that occur as direct effects of her “friendliness,” says Matthieu Ricard, a French writer and Buddhist Monk who is also a TED speaker. Already a huge fan of Ricard, she wanted to hear him speak, so she invited a new friend that she had just met to accompany her an event Ricard was hosting. That new friend happened to be the person responsible for Ricard's social media.
With respect to Kaplan, two key ingredients have fueled her success: social and mental agility.
Let’s start with social agility. Although it may seem like it, social agility is not networking. Although Kaplan admits that networking played a large role in her success, she careful to make the distinction. “Network” implies that you’re speaking to someone above you and your conversation is goal-oriented, and Kaplan is nothing like that. Throughout her life, Kaplan says she has acted on her genuine desire to meet and learn about new people. She likes to call it being friendly, but she also admits that being friendly doesn’t always work.
Photo Credit: Christopher Michel
Kaplan shares a story to highlight the difference between networking and social agility. After her two-and-a-half year trip around the world where she conquered literally every physical fear she had, Kaplan had a layover in Los Angeles on the way home to New York. When she met up with friends, she told them about her idea to start a community that made meditation accessible. Both friends, independent of each other, told her to get in touch with Charlie Knoles, a well-known meditation instructor. She followed their advice and next became Kaplan's business partner, with the goal of bringing their mutual love for meditation to the masses.
A bit after that, also in Los Angeles, Kaplan asked a favor of an executive at Paramount – to get her a pass to the set of her “favorite show of all time,” Glee. She did this through some networking on Facebook and LinkedIn. See the difference?
Social agility gets you lifelong friends; networking gets you a temporary contact.
It was social agility, not networking, that Kaplan credits to her rise into the role of COO at Blip.TV. She also cites social agility as the magic behind how she became one of Fortune’s Most Powerful Women in 2010. However, it is important to remember that social agility isn’t everything. Equally important is finding a balance between work and personal mental clarity. Despite managing six departments by herself, Kaplan was afraid to ask for help, and thus kept managing her busy life on her own.
“I’d been really bad about asking for things that were just good for me. People have this perception that I’m very outspoken, but I’m only good at that in business. There’s a perception that I always get what I want, but inside I’m frustrated because I don’t have the confidence to speak up.”
Eventually, Kaplan says she was so afraid to go to work that she would attempt to make eye contact with people as she was crossing the last intersection to her office, hoping that the fleeting connection they made would be enough for them to catch her if she suddenly fainted. She was relying on her social agility to save her, but only after she hypothetically passed out during another panic attack did she realize that her ostensibly perfect life wasn’t worth the crippling anxiety she had developed to maintain it. She didn’t know what was wrong or what was happening; she just knew she had to get out.
“I knew I had to go across the world, but I didn’t know why. That moment was pivotal in my life.”
So, Kaplan she quit her job, and she booked a one-way ticket to Bali, Indonesia. Mostly alone, she traveled the world, participating in exhilarating physical experiences that scared her even more than crossing the street to work did. By conquering every physical fear she had, such as scuba diving, zip lining, and bungee jumping, she was able to return home knowing that she could live her life being emotionally fearless. How was she able to do this? It was meditation that helped Kaplan refine her mental agility.
Meditation may seem like yet another spiritual trend that will disappear as soon as it arrives onto the scene, but no, there are proven benefits. Meditation has been reported to improve both mental and physical health, and even has business effects. It is said that Steve Jobs invented some of Apple's game-changing products after mediation sessions.
Those who have never meditated often hesitate to try it because they fear that it may silence their creative voice, but that is far from the case. Silencing that voice in your head, like building muscle, is a skill you must master by exercising your muscles (physical or mental) consistently, and Kaplan did just that. After having meditated throughout her trip and having spent over a week at a silent retreat, Kaplan was able to strengthen her mental agility. When she finally came back home, Kaplan began working on her new project: The Path. She was hoping to make meditation accessible to the masses, but she also understood that there would be some hesitation among the Type A members of her network.
She lured people in through the promise that meditation will literally makes you better at your job. “On the days I meditate, I’m 90 percent more efficient,” Kaplan says. She and co-founder Charlie Knoles are self-proclaimed meditation “addicts,” who feel the difference on the days they don’t meditate. She chooses her mental response on the days that she meditates, but the choice is not as clear on days that she doesn’t. “Meditation helps because you become very clear on what you want,” Kaplan adds, revealing that this is why she wholeheartedly feels that meditation is the best negotiation tool. “When you calm down things in your head, you can input people’s nonverbal signals, and you have a lot of power and tools.” In fact, Kaplan believes in the powerful effects of meditation so much, that she has actually said, “meditation gives you too much power. It’s dangerous for someone with bad intentions to meditate. Your path has to begin with values.”
Dina Kaplan was hoping to make meditation accessible to the masses, but she also understood that there would be some hesitation among the Type A members of her network
Kaplan credits “ The Path” to her friendliness, but it’s more than that. Kaplan’s alluring personality and mental agility, that has been fine-tuned through her daily meditation practices. The Path is now known as the pioneer of mindful networking. No longer invitation-only – The Path provides anyone the opportunity to experience the confluence of mental strength and physical calm. Kaplan started the meditation trend, and now there’s at least one meditation hub in every city where you can learn to choose your reactions throughout the day and exercise mental agility.
Photo Credit: Christopher Michel
"Steal the mesh underwear you get from the hospital," a friend said upon learning I was pregnant with my first daughter.
It was the single best piece of advice I received before giving birth in December 2013. My best friend delivered her daughter eight months previously, and she was the first to pass along this shared code among new moms: you'll need mesh underwear for your at-home postpartum recovery, and you can't find them anywhere for purchase. End result: steal them. And tell your friends.
My delivery and subsequent recovery were not easy. To my unexpected surprise, after almost 24 hours of labor, I had an emergency C-section. Thankfully, my daughter was healthy; however, my recovery was quite a journey. The shock to my system caused my bloated and swollen body to need weeks of recovery time. Luckily, I had trusted my friend and followed her instructions: I had stolen some mesh underwear from the hospital to bring home with me.
Unfortunately, I needed those disposable underwear for much longer than I anticipated and quickly ran out. As I still wasn't quite mobile, my mother went to the store to find more underwear for me. Unfortunately, she couldn't find them anywhere and ended up buying me oversized granny panties. Sure, they were big enough, but I had to cut the waistband for comfort.
I eventually recovered from my C-section, survived those first few sleepless months, and returned to work. At the time, I was working for a Fortune 100 company and happily contributing to the corporate world. But becoming a new mom brought with it an internal struggle and search for something “more" out of my life--a desire to have a bigger impact. A flashback to my friend's golden piece of advice got me thinking: Why aren't mesh underwear readily available for women in recovery? What if I could make the magical mesh underwear available to new moms everywhere? Did I know much about designing, selling, or marketing clothing? Not really. But I also didn't know much about motherhood when I started that journey, either, and that seemed to be working out well. And so, Brief Transitions was born.
My quest began. With my manufacturing and engineering background I naively thought, It's one product. How hard could it be? While it may not have been “hard," it definitely took a lot of work. I slowly started to do some research on the possibilities. What would it take to start a company and bring these underwear to market? How are they made and what type of manufacturer do I need? With each step forward I learned a little more--I spoke with suppliers, researched materials, and experimented with packaging. I started to really believe that I was meant to bring these underwear to other moms in need.
Then I realized that I needed to learn more about the online business and ecommerce world as well. Google was my new best friend. On my one hour commute (each way), I listened to a lot of podcasts to learn about topics I wasn't familiar with--how to setup a website, social media platforms, email marketing, etc. I worked in the evenings and inbetween business trips to plan what I called Execution Phase. In 2016, I had a website with a Shopify cart up and running. I also delivered my second daughter via C-section (and handily also supplied myself with all the mesh underwear I needed).
They say, “If you build it, they will come." But I've learned that the saying should really go more like this: “If you build it, and tell everyone about it, they might come." I had a 3-month-old, an almost 3 year old and my business was up and running. I had an occasional sale; however, my processes were extremely manual and having a day job while trying to ship product out proved to be challenging. I was manually processing and filling orders and then going to the post office on Saturday mornings to ship to customers. I eventually decided to go where the moms shop...hello, Amazon Prime! I started to research what I needed to do to list products with Amazon and the benefits of Amazon fulfillment (hint: they take care of it for you).
Fast forward to 2018...
While I started to build this side business and saw a potential for it to grow way beyond my expectations, my corporate job became more demanding with respect to travel and time away from home. I was on the road 70% of the time during first quarter 2018. My normally “go with the flow" 4-year-old started to cry every time I left for a trip and asked why I wasn't home for bedtime. That was a low point for me and even though bedtime with young kids has its own challenges, I realized I didn't want to miss out on this time in their lives. My desire for more scheduling flexibility and less corporate travel time pushed me to work the nights and weekends needed to build and scale my side hustle to a full-time business. If anyone tries to tell you it's “easy" to build “passive" income, don't believe them. Starting and building a business takes a lot of grit, hustle and hard work. After months of agonizing, changing my mind, and wondering if I should really leave my job (and a steady paycheck!), I ultimately left my corporate job in April 2018 to pursue Brief Transitions full-time.
In building Brief Transitions, I reached out to like-minded women to see if they were experiencing similar challenges to my own--balancing creating and building a business while raising children--and I realized that many women are on the quest for flexible, meaningful work. I realized that we can advance the movement of female entrepreneurs by leveraging community to inspire, empower, and connect these trailblazers. For that reason, I recently launched a new project, The Transitions Collective, a platform for connecting community-driven women entrepreneurs.
As is the case with many entrepreneurs, I find myself working on multiple projects at a time. I am now working on a members-only community for The Transitions Collective that will provide access to experts and resources for women who want to leave corporate and work in their business full-time. Connecting and supporting women in this movement makes us a force in the future of work. At the same time, I had my most profitable sales quarter to date and best of all, I am able to drop my daughter off at school in the morning.
Mesh underwear started me on a journey much bigger than I ever imagined. They sparked an idea, ignited a passion, and drove me to find fulfillment in a different type of work. That stolen underwear was just the beginning.