It’s been a long, long time

Hello Blog World,

I realized I haven’t posted in about a year. It’s been a busy one. I’ve been in Oxford, working on my MBA at the University of Oxford and that is now nearly finished. It has been an exhilarating and amazing experience every single day to live in this beautiful city. One reason that I haven’t written much here is that I have been blogging about my experiences on a regular basis at the Financial Times.

On a professional front, I’m proud to report that Skillbridge was sold to TopTal in April. It was a great experience to grow a company from almost nothing into something much bigger. And I was able to work with super talented people along the way. I’m gonna miss that.

My other big announcement is that a film that I have worked on for over 5 years has now come to fruition. Catch AMANDA KNOX on Netflix as a Netflix Original starting September 30. And if you’re in Toronto earlier in September, come check it out at the Toronto Film Festival where it will be premiering. It is so gratifying when hard work pays off.

I’m also happy to report that my passion for healthy living is still in order. I was lucky enough to have the Green Templeton College gym in my backyard this year, eliminating my need for ClassPass. I feel as good as I ever have.

As much as this is a time of endings for me (Oxford, Skillbridge, Amanda Knox), I am excited about many new beginnings. I don’t know where the world will take me next, but I’ll be sure to update you as soon as I find out.

Talk soon,

Stephen

 

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How to Quit Your Job and Live the Dream

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Reinvention is one of America’s most overused terms.

But reinvention defines some of the best things that have come out of America in the past decade. Yes, celebrities have reinvented themselves: Betty White, Jon Stewart, and Ellen DeGeneres, to name a few. But the rest of us, plebeians, also have the ability to reinvent ourselves, and it has never been so easy.

The most inspirational and functional guide for personal reinvention is certainly James Altschuler’s Ultimate Cheat Sheet For Reinventing Yourself that he published in Tech Crunch in October. His words are inspiring and the message is clear: A lot of hard work combined with laser focus and you can become one of the best in whatever your chosen field is.

Lately, I’ve been feeling the burden of tech, as it seems like America truly has start-up fever. When even our prisons are hosting start-up accelerators — and this isn’t to say that prisons aren’t strong markets themselves for start-ups — we either are in the midst of a very serious start-up bubble, or are enabling anyone to live the American dream (or some mix of the two.)

But what if you didn’t want to create a tech start-up? What if you wanted to get your hands dirty in something like product manufacturing? What does that really take?

My friend Michael Paratore quit his job at a law firm to become, in his words, a “peddler.” Yes, being a peddler doesn’t sound as lucrative as legal work, but Michael wanted to seize his opportunity that came when he accompanied his wife Michelle on a trip to India.

Paratore once found himself wandering around Bombay’s backstreets. It was there that he met a shoe peddler who would change his life. Michael discovered what he describes as the world’s most comfortable shoes, and he decided that he should manufacture and sell them in America — and around the world.

And now, one year after his journey began, Michael’s dream has come true.

His Mohinder’s Kickstarter launched, and I happily bought a pair for $50, knowing that they’ll probably the first ethically made pair of footwear I’ve ever owned. Mohinder’s will also likely help the Indian village cooperative comprised of second and third generation shoe-making artisans who manufacture his products. (The cooperative was set up by an Indian NGO that uses a micro-credit style model to ensure artisans are paid fairly and can “break the cycle of poverty” while helping the artisans build valuable business and entrepreneurial skills.)

Whether you need a few hundred grand to create the “first open sensor for health and fitness” on IndieGoGo, or $34,000 to create a funky and eco-friendly YogoMat (I’m still waiting for mine because of production problems), the internet democracy has enabled entrepreneurs to reinvent themselves. I don’t know if the guy who invented the open sensor was a garbage man, a science teacher, or had a PhD in physics before he launched his crowdfunding campaign. I don’t know if the guy who invented the YogoMat has ever done yoga in his life! C’est la vie. I, and millions of others, are helping people to reinvent themselves every single day.

We should all feel lucky that we live in a society where reinvention is completely acceptable. A hundred years ago, you wouldn’t find many people — unless they had just committed some sort of heinous crime — attempting to reinvent themselves. Now, it’s as easy as putting in some hard work and putting up your wares on a crowdfunding site.

If there’s an interest, then, BAM! You’re in business.

Hilary Rosen is Right to Call Out Ann Romney in Mommy Wars

In the wake of Democratic operative Hilary Rosen’s recent accusation that Ann Romney has not worked a day in her life, my thoughts drifted back to my days as a Women’s Studies minor at Penn. Finally, this is my chance to show that I really learned something.

Among the feminist writing I consumed at school, there’s one body of work that is particularly relevant to this debate: Arlie Hochschild’s classic study, The Second Shift. In this work, Hochschild reveals that women who work outside of the home are also disproportionately affected by then having to complete their domestic labor.

This why I am upset that Democratic heavyweights like David Axelrod would come out in defense of Ann Romney’s choice not to work. I don’t blame Ann Romney for marrying a man who’s salary and family wealth made it such that she didn’t have to work. I also don’t blame her for choosing to raise her kids without working.

Both political parties have failed American women by not understanding the realities of a society where the gap between rich and poor has risen considerably, forcing more middle class women into the workplace, but I will save my CEO compensation over-time analysis for a future article.

I do blame Ann Romney, Axelrod, and everyone else who has implied that women who are housewives, domestic engineers, or whatever other in-vogue term they are being called today work as hard as women who, for financial need or personal ambition, work outside of the home.

Why is Hilary Rosen being skewered from both the left and the right for stating the truth, that it is more difficult to work a paying job in addition to carrying out domestic duties? Let’s face the facts: More women are working outside the home than ever before, and women are becoming educated at higher rates than men.

Let us also remind politicians on both sides of the aisle, as well as the mainstream media, that we are not out of the recession just yet. One thing this recent recession showed us is that women were the backbone of our economy during these tough times, oftentimes working when men did not.

As the son of a woman who worked while raising me and the grandson of two more women who worked while raising their children, I am shocked by how this conversation has taken such an anti-working woman tone. Why are both Democrats and Republicans insulting the many millions of women who will be voting in upcoming elections? Someone needs to step up and say, “We know how hard you work out of the house and in the house.” For now, that someone is me.  I hope others join my chorus.