August 2020


Oh. My. God. Will you stop leaving your dirty dishes in the sink when the dishwasher is right there? Or if the dishwasher is clean, how about unloading it?

Sound familiar?

I feel like I’m negotiating more than ever before. Living in shared households and confined spaces creates real stress on all of us. 

According to our recent Parlay House speaker, Wharton Professor Mori Taheripour, successful negotiations can be maximized when we shift from an aggression mindset to conversations that include empathy, curiosity and human connection. When we see each other as allies and venture to understand each other’s needs, it often results in win-win outcomes.

She asked each of us to consider our own personal non-negotiables and to understand what our partner/business associate/kids’ non-negotiables might be as well. It’s likely that when we understand what will make each of us the happiest, we’ll realize that we aren’t really fighting over the same piece at all… and we all can get more of what we want. 

*  *  * 

What do dirty dishes really mean?

For me, the compromises are easiest when I have clarity about my emotions. With blood running hot these days, I might react to something small because I haven’t acknowledged that underlying my reaction is something that has deeper meaning to me. 

In my exclamations above, I’m not really upset about coffee cups, bar-ware or the salad bowl. I’m actually reacting to a life-long feeling that my needs, my time and my privacy often feel secondary to those I love. 

I understand that many of my feelings are part of a self-fulfilling prophecy triggered by me: I tend to show love through acts of service to others. Through nurturing. I like loving and giving and doing, so a lot of my choices put others first. Then, when I’m not thought of, I feel resentful and hurt.

When I react about the dishes, I’m really asking whether the dishes in the sink means you are not thinking about me. 

Dishes mean dishes, not love.

For my dish-leavers, I know there is no offense intended! Their heads are probably in a different place or their eyes don’t hone in on dishes in the sink like they have some deep meaning. 

But I’ll bet that when I tell them dishes are a sign I’m not being thought of, the people in my life are likely to make that sink shine. They want to make me feel loved in the same way I show my love to them, and they’ll see what dishes mean to me. 

*  *  * 

The onus is on me to make sense of my big reaction to a small thing.

I’m also hoping that opening up about my feelings and needs will open space for them to tell me what THEY need too. Because they are probably wrestling with things that seem small but feel big in the same way I am.

The more I know about their “big small things,” the more I can shape my behavior to make them feel seen as well as loved. We’ll need to negotiate less and can move forward with real needs being met for us both.

Small changes that begin from within (self-awareness) and are then expressed in loving ways that are about needs rather than criticism will increase the likelihood of win-win outcomes for us all. 

*  *  * 

How will you Parlay personal needs into mutual wins?

Share it Small: Take your time with this one. Unless your reaction to my insights is, “OMG, yes, it’s not about the dishes!” think about the things that are really bugging you and what that might really be about. If it’s really about the dishes, tell your peeps that doing a few dishes is a small thing for them but a big thing for you. If the underlying stimulus for the dish drama is about something bigger (as mine was), get clarity about that for yourself and then find gentle ways to let others into those feelings. Chances are, when they know about you, they’ll feel more connected and find ways to support you.

Share it Big: As I finished the first draft of this a couple of days ago, my good friend Carla Vernon happened to post something about her own frustrations with her dish-filled sink on social media. It was not a glamour post — it was a tongue-in-cheek expression of how, in the days of SIP, the little things are getting to her. Her post made me feel less alone (and it made me smile about our shared experience).

What can you share with others that sounds “small” but feels big? Chances are, by talking about your imperfections, frustrations and challenges, you’ll make people in your world feel a little less alone. And that will go a long way into reducing negotiations and increasing understanding for all.

Share it with Me: We all learn from each other. If you have had a revelation, a break-through, an insight, or a triumph, we can learn from you so please tell me about it here! I’m collecting stories of these cascades of good for ongoing community building and to trackThe Parlay Effect in action. I would love nothing better than to hear how you lifted, were lifted, or observed something in others that made you feel good and recognize your own power. 


July 2020


I have more on my mind than ever before. Fewer places to go means more time to think. And more time to feel. I have so many feelings these days that my brain feels foggy. It’s hard to focus and I’m inexplicably crying at the most random moments. My physical body feels slower and heavier for carrying all of this additional emotional weight.

Despite so many years of living through set-backs and finding my inner strength, this is a life moment when I am feeling particularly overwhelmed. Of course, there’s an explanation for this waterfall of feelings and flailing: so much is going on, so much is unknown and so much is wrong with our world. 

My personal angst cycles between: 

  • Personal plight: trying to find my center when the things that usually center me (familiarity, friends, family and routine) are so distant and disrupted 
  • Pandemic paradoxes: feeling fearful and frustrated about disparities in behavior between strict quarantine (which we can’t seem to sustain) and a return to deregulated behavior (that is threatening us all with new spikes in disease) 
  • Public predicament: being ill-equipped to help close the gap in the disparities of race, class, justice and access that continue to pervade our society 

I know that I am, and we all are, in yet another  “space in between” – trying to see through the haze of what we left behind and into a future where we hope there will be more answers than unresolved questions.   

*  *  * 

I can’t get to the clarity quickly enough. Living in the questions is daunting and exhausting. 

Yet I know that being “in it,” feeling the uncertainty instead of jumping at answers is where the deepest transformation happens. I’m trying to let myself “just be in it” without forcing resolution and action. Some days I do better than others, and that’s just how it goes.

On good days, I’m not making major life decisions. I’m trying to take small leaps of experimentation and evolution before making rash jumps.  

*  *  *

Leaping smart

Leaping is hard and leaping is scary, but for me, fear diminishes when the leap is coupled with thoughtful planning and moderation. Moderation is what we have been missing by living between poles: choosing between proverbial fasting and gluttony, caves and carnivals, fear and freedom. The lack of moderation is what I think is making my head swim between the fear and faith.

I’ve written before about how the research we did for The Parlay Effect  proved the value and strength of small yet positive actions and how those actions create waves of change that are accelerated by those who observe us and go on to replicate them.  

*  *  *  

Small steps show momentum and reduce risk at the same time

Let’s face it. We are leaderless on so many issues. What’s more, most of us don’t want to be leaders in the traditional sense. We wouldn’t want to (or know how to) walk the line between physical health, emotional health and social health.

But we can be leaders, inspirers and role models on personal levels that create a similar wave of change and movement.

Ease into it

Start with small but meaningful steps that make sense for you and are sustainable. Build from those successes.

Maybe take personal note of what you want to hold on to from this current moment. Determine what in your current cadence is really working for you, making you feel good, strong and successful. You might be making masks. You might be playing violin outside of your apartment building. You might be volunteering for a cause, lifting people who will benefit from a boost in visibility or connecting with someone feeling lonely on a deep and meaningful level. 

Whatever you choose, if it is positive and it feels good, do more of it

Then add an assessment of what isn’t working. Think about your tears and your frustrations because when they get swept under the rug, they seem to multiply like dust bunnies. There are likely numerous ways that you can change your situation, actions, attention and commitment to dial up your impact in your immediate circle about things that feel wrong to you without having to change the course of your entire life. Try small versions of change-making to see how they feel. 

Replicate what feels good by going deeper. Then talk about it 

Don’t talk about it to brag or get kudos, but talk to set an example of the changes that are possible. If you are mentoring someone, one of your friends might decide to do the same. If you have changed a dialogue that was diminishing someone else and turned it into an example of empowerment, do it again when people can hear you. If there is a cause that is really hitting the right notes for you in terms of activism and change, support them with both dollars and voice. People who see you taking action will be inspired to find their own voice and maybe join you on your journey.

We cannot be lost when we are conscious of where we want to go.

We cannot be lost when we begin to visualize a better future and to begin to walk solidly towards it.

We cannot be lost when we take part in shaping our next shared chapter. 

*  *  * 

How are you leading the way?

Share it Small: Put on your mask first. That means, if you are feeling rudderless in this transitional time, care for yourself and find your center. See the good in yourself. Praise yourself for positive choices. Celebrate small victories. Forgive your missteps and mistakes. When something feels good, right and positive, write it down. Keep a running list of the good that you can turn to when needed. Share that list with yourself on a regular basis as a reminder of your ability and progress.

Share it Big: As you process the things in your world that don’t feel as good, pick the recurring themes and think about what small role you might be able to change that could create meaning for someone else. Can you be a mentor to someone? Can you volunteer for a campaign, support a cause, speak up in someone’s defense or join forces to make someone with similar objectives stronger? Do that. The world is watching.

Share it with Me: We all learn from each other. If you have had a revelation, a break-through, an insight, or a triumph, we can learn from you so please tell me about it here! I’m collecting stories of these cascades of good for ongoing community building and to track The Parlay Effect in action. I would love nothing better than to hear how you lifted, were lifted, or observed something in others that made you feel good and recognize your own power.  

*  *  * 

I cannot help but share this poem which seems to beautifully capture what this month’s newsletter is about. My favorite line is, “What work have I come here to do besides witness?”. 

We cannot be untethered buoys nor be swallowed by the vast uncertainty of the future. We each must lead in the ways that we can.

On Sullivan’s Island

I heed a path trotted for me before.
I am this impared – forgetting
and forgetting and forgetting. What else
is this wave crashing into shore
but an attempt to cleve remembrance?
Overhead, the dark sky engulfs
the Low Country, once welcome spot
and terror for ancestors, always
a nest for the captors. Now,
baby strollers and casual dog walks
file before a single marquee meant to hold
place for history – leisure where once labor.
What work have I come here to do
besides witness? I go from shore to shore
seeking clarity, to stand on the threshold 
of past and present where land and sea
court death. I search my mind for what remains
of general sanity. There is nothing
but bondage. Ahead the sign reads:
“Deadly currents, deep holes”
and forbids the swim out. I could chase
the distance with salt. I could run 
face forward into what has already claimed me
without regret. This ocean swallows
the whole of me. I could join it 
or become another buoy signalling lost.

-Malcolm Tariq 


June 2020


April 4, 1968. 

I was a six-year-old white girl, living in a predominantly black neighborhood in Seattle when Martin Luther King Jr. was fatally shot. My parents, perpetual activists on topics including race, had been trying to help me understand the concept of racial inequity and to explain why one of our country’s most beloved change-agents had been murdered.

Later that week, at our local community center I saw a black man who looked remarkably like the images I’d seen of MLK on our grainy television. In fact, to my six-year-old self, he WAS Martin Luther King. I shouted, “Mom! It’s Martin Luther King and he is alive!” and sprinted to the front of the line where the man stood. I hugged him.

I have vague memories of the conversation that ensued between my mom and this stranger. Despite the embarrassing situation, they were able to talk openly about race, which was probably unusual in itself. They nervously chuckled and chalked up my inability to distinguish one black man from another to my youth. 

The problem is, despite the years and maturity I’ve gained since then, I still struggle to process the differences between my white life and life as experienced by people of color. 

I still say the wrong thing all too often. 

 *  *  * 

Just this week, I made the mistake of asking black friends to talk to me and teach me about how their experiences diverged from mine. They told me that asking them – the people in pain –  to do more work so that I could learn was an unfair ask. It opened up their wounds and put the burden of teaching on them. 

I was expecting people who were suffering to help me do better rather than figuring out how to do better myself.

For white people, the responsibility for learning and evolving is ours. 

*  *  * 

 So here’s what I’m going to do, and I hope you will join me. 

As part of our ongoing conversations and desire to bring women together as strangers who become connected and supportive friends, Parlay House will help shine light on women, especially women of color, who want to share their truths, their knowledge, their organizations, and their ideas. We will be more thoughtful about making sure our speakers reflect the diversity of our membership. We will provide leads for people to take part in permanent change so we can support their initiatives. 

We will be the facilitators for information and a conduit for all forms of support. 

We have begun to compile: 

  • Reference materials for learning 
  • A chronicle of organizations that need funding 
  • Connections to black-owned businesses  
  • Examples and role models of black and brown leadership that dial up their messages, their work and their light  

Let’s be honest. I fear making mistakes. These are charged times, and it’s easy to get it wrong.

But I am certain that the biggest mistake of all would be to extend acute lip service without being ready to commit to sustainable action.

When Dr. Serena Chen and I were working on the research for The Parlay Effect, we uncovered something that I deemed “the power of the witness.” Essentially, our quantitative research results proved that when inclusive, kind, generous, brave, and empathetic actions were observed by strangers, the observers tended to replicate those behaviors themselves, creating an outward cascade of good.

It’s easy to wonder how we as individuals can be part of crucial and monumental societal change when it feels so steeped in the discriminatory history of our nation and our unique experiences as humans. 

It’s especially easy to do nothing for fear of getting it wrong.

But with every new and improved action we take, not only will we begin to internalize those behaviors so that they become rooted in who we are, but those observing us will follow as well. 

Wangari Maathai, founder of the Green Belt Movement and winner of the Nobel Peace Prize wrote, “Finally I was able to see that if I had a contribution I wanted to make, I must do it, despite what others said. That I was OK the way I was. That it was all right to be strong.” 

*  *  * 

How can you be a strong and sustainable part of the solution?

Share it Small: Ashlee Eiland, (someone I do not know) posted on Instagram, “Say what you need to on social media. Then put down your phone and pick up your life. Not many will see you learning, confessing, repenting, uprooting, retooling, forgiving, inviting, empowering. But we will see its fruit. The hidden work is the heart work is the hard work.” 

If you are committing to doing something, post it, put down your phone, and get started.

Share it Big: As you read the books, listen to the leaders, consider your past actions and your future aspirations related to creating a more equitable and just society, invite others to join you. They might not know how to start, but they will help you extend your impact as you go about change together. 

Share it with Me: We all learn from each other. If you have had a revelation, a break-through, an insight, or a triumph, we can learn from you so please tell me about it here! I’m collecting stories of these cascades of good for ongoing community building and to track The Parlay Effectin action. I would love nothing better than to hear how you lifted, were lifted, or observed something in others that made you feel good and recognize your own power. 


May 2020

How ya feelin’? 

I’ve been asking that question a lot. 

My highly unscientific personal research indicates that half of the people I’ve talked to over the past couple of weeks feel that their days are consumed with guilt. Guilt for watching too much TV. Guilt for letting the kids do the same. Guilt for late-night snacking and guilt for drinking wine too early in the day. Guilt for not checking in on others or not changing out of PJs.

Even when the circumstances might suggest that it’s a good time to give themselves a pass, many of these friends are feeling guilty for resorting to whatever coping mechanisms are helping them get through this crazy time.

I suggest that they be as gentle on themselves as they would be with a friend who is feeling the same way. I hint that they should offer themselves absolution and forgiveness for whatever they are feeling guilty about.  

*  *  * 

My unscientific research has also revealed another kind of guilt that is less familiar. 

I’m calling it “thriver’s guilt”, and I am one of the afflicted.

Thriver’s guilt means feeling embarrassed about being upbeat when others aren’t. 

I feel guilty for enjoying the quiet. Guilty about taking pleasure in the break from social and work obligations. Guilty that we found a way, in the midst of crisis, to reframe Parlay House and therefore reach more people, more often. Guilty about newfound creativity, rediscovered interests, and for being happy when so many people are stressed and suffering. 

I keep quiet about my joy because I recognize it’s a privilege to feel happiness while so many are struggling.

I don’t have experience dealing with such a dichotomy of feelings and situations. And I’d rather not have to hide the fact that I feel at peace.

Providing myself absolution, forgiveness and permission to feel joy is part of the solution, too. My happiness is partially the result of my natural mindset and partially a conscious choice. It’s gained from having lived and been resilient despite uncertain times earlier in my life. 

But how do I come to terms with having been dealt a good hand? 

*  *  * 

Moving Forward with Thriver’s Guilt

After accepting that I can’t change the course of this virus beyond complying with best practices for social distancing, I have stopped trying to force the familiar. Without the ability to gather for my beloved in-person Parlay House events, without being able to hop on a plane to be in a new city each month, and without being able to surround myself with my dearest friends, I have accepted that no matter how tightly I hold on, I can’t take my life back to the way it was.

Step One: Acceptance

I’m letting go of prior expectations and thinking about what I’m drawn to rather than what I have lost.

For me, it’s been a bit of a regression. 

  • I’ve rediscovered my fourteen-year-old self who would design clothing and stay up into the wee hours of the morning, sewing an outfit for school that day. The sewing machine is out and outfit number two is in production.
  • I went back to the days with my mom and sisters where we would walk on the beach to find bits of shells and sea glass that would become treasures and memories. I’ve been turning those found objects into creatures that may be “bad art” but seem to have personality and expression that is an extension of us in some way.
  • My kids and I have been competitively and enthusiastically working together to complete seemingly impossible 1000 piece puzzles, realizing that there are assignments for each of us within the puzzle process where we excel. It’s a new version of connection where we are individuals and a team at the same time. 

Step Two: Action

Obviously, this time is not about me, me, me. It’s a time to get outside of myself and to practice The Parlay Effect to the best of my abilities.

That means I’m grabbing hold of people virtually, helping provide distraction and relief to friends and family who have not yet found their center.

There are many amazing people in my life who are feeling down because of what they have not yet done or what they might need to do at some unknown time in the future. They are stuck between “what was and what will be”.

For them, I commit to the gift of presence: 

  • Presence of mind to know that my gain isn’t their loss, and presence to know that if they are lost, I can help make them feel less alone until they find their path again.
  • Being personally present with them so that they feel heard and seen during their time of guilt and fear. 
  • Letting them know that I accept them as they are. They are a present – a gift to me – even as they struggle to find footing.  

When I can, I also try to borrow gifts to pass along. These gifts come as words that might sink in better than my own. I share humor, inspiration, and as often as possible, poetry. Giving them a respite by reading a poem like this one, provides context and hope while not denying their truth.

Wherever you are in the spectrum of guilt, and even if you are lucky enough to be guilt-free, this whisper of hope is for you.


I free you now
From the realm of the small and improbable
And desire
This cycle of start and finish
Of longing and grief
I free you from fear of the next
Let me release you from
This story written on vanishing paper
Of beginning and end
Of the small and entangled
No devil to greet you
No angel to scorn you
Nor god to judge you
Free of the raw and the cooked
Free of the right and the wrong
Left free now in the capricious winds
Of life and time
Free to drift from moment to moment
Free to come to rest on restless flowers
That never knew you
Free to stop, breathe and be still
If for a moment and know
You have lived

-Guillermo Veloso 

*  *  * 

How do you Parlay?  Are you finding ways to overcome your guilt or help someone with theirs?

Share it Small: If you have a trick for letting yourself off the hook, talk about it with the people you trust. My research shows that when we are present and speak our truths out loud, even when they are guilt-truths, other people feel less alone with theirs.

Share it Big: What’s your capacity? If you have happiness to share, make it a point to take action. Reach out as often as you can to be present for people who need a listener. Follow up with them again so that  they continue to feel seen and not judged.

Share it with Me: We all learn from each other. If you have had a revelation, a break-through, an insight, or a triumph, we can learn from you so please tell me about it here! I’m collecting stories of these cascades of good for ongoing community building and to track The Parlay Effect in action. I would love nothing better than to hear how you lifted, were lifted, or observed something in others that made you feel good and recognize your own power. 


April 2020


During my adult life, I’ve lived through three major moments of global trepidation and uncertainty: the September 11 attacks, the economic crash of 2009/2010 and the current Covid19 outbreak. In each case, our intertwined global community shifted from familiarity, safety and a reliable cadence into a discordant and uncertain day-to-day existence without adequate tools to cope.

Today’s message is about moving past fear. 

*  *  *

Because while fear is real, it gets in the way of action.

My brother-in-law Gary (who is a psychiatrist) told me about some important historic research by Yokes and Dotson. In an attempt to understand the correlation between fear/anxiety and performance, they conducted a study. Their results showed that while a little bit of fear enhanced performance, any substantive levels of fear caused performance to plummet at disproportionate levels. Fear gets in the way of thinking. Fear gets in the way of doing.

He said that one of the most common presentations of fear is ”fear of the unknown”. Essentially, people start anticipating things that haven’t happened and likely won’t happen. They start playing for the future, thinking too much about the “what-ifs” and driving themselves crazy about things they can’t control. Since the number of possibilities is endless, the “what-if game” becomes a perpetual spiral.

What’s more, if you are thinking about the future, you are not connecting with whomever you are with and whomever you care about right now. The trick to moving from anticipatory fear to present calm is to stay in the moment.

The antidote to fear is connection.

*  *  *

While the current risks prevent us from being physically connected with each other beyond our intimate families, this time of physical distance can be a catalyst to finding emotional depth. Depth in knowing ourselves and better defining our values. Depth in becoming comfortable with the unknown, (that “space in between what was and what will be”). And depth as we double down on communication and intimacy.

It’s times like these when we stop taking people and privilege for granted and can ask questions like what we’d like to be doing more of, what we naturally do well, what really gets our blood boiling and most importantly, who we’d like to spend more time with in the future. It’s a time to think about what we are grateful for.

Write those thoughts down so that you remember them when things get back to normal. This virus will pass, while these are long-term values and goals that will stay with you far longer.

Beyond this internal exploration, we also know that there are a huge number of small activities you can undertake now which will have big results for others. They all start with kindness.

*  *  *

Kindness is contagious.

Kindness doubles when you share it. You can share it in your household, online, via phone, through FaceTime and even through actual written letters. Dr. Gary told me that kindness is clinically proven to reduce stress, anxiety and depression by triggering the production of serotonin, endorphins and oxytocin.

The work Serena Chen and I did as part of  The Parlay Effect  also proved that when we act in these small, kind ways, other people emulate our behavior and behave similarly, creating an outward cascade of good. That’s the kind of “virus” I can really get behind. The Parlay Effect kind.

*  *  *

What’s your Parlay Effect?

Share it Small: Start flipping fear to calm by reaching out and connecting with people you care about. Use your extra time for a longer-than-usual conversation. Hearing from you will undoubtedly pull them back into the moment as well.

Share it Big: Instead of perpetuating fear (and possibly spreading misinformation), let everyone in your extended world know not only that you are safe, but share a personal insight, a present thought, a new project or a future goal with them. Tell the world about kind actions that are tiding you over. You can even initiate group puzzles and games online to be connected and share some laughs. Kindness and connection will trump fear and isolation every time.

Share it with me: I’m collecting stories of these cascades of good for ongoing community building and to track  The Parlay Effect  in action. I would love nothing better than to hear how you lifted, were lifted, or observed something in others that made you feel good and recognize your own power.


March 2020


I’ve had a number of responses to this newsletter from people who feel that human interactions aren’t always as positive and supportive as I report. A couple of recipients have even asked to be removed from the list because my view of the world feels like a disconnect for them. “Women don’t lift each other up,” they told me. “In fact, we spend most of our time trying to tear each other down.”

This insight really made me stop and think. Was it true for me?

I realized that while most of my friends are supportive and kind, there are still a few people in my life who seem to get joy from making it much harder for me to be open and vulnerable. They try to diminish my joy, detract from my story and create divides between us.

I want to bite into why we bite each other. 

*  *  *

Arielle Fuller, Parlay House’s Chief Relationship Officer, noted that this pattern of women being each other’s worst enemies reminds her of rotting fruit. “When one little tangerine in the bowl starts to mold or rot, the destruction quickly spreads to the nearby, healthy fruit. It doesn’t just pass on the rotting: it leaves all of the surrounding fruit in a weakened and less appealing situation.”

What can we do to stop the spread of destruction? 

*  *  *

Step One: Be Self-Aware

When we feel “less than” or have self-doubts, other people may inadvertently trigger us. Their apparent confidence or happiness is a reminder that we’re not feeling the same way ourselves. We might lash out at them because they remind us of our own pain.

Brene Brown has said that people who tear down others are often struggling with something similar themselves. If they feel bad about their body, they are more likely to be hyper-critical of someone else’s body than they would if they were happy with their own. They grab hold of others to try to pull them into the same sinkhole that’s trapping them.

Step Two: Don’t Hide Your Hurt

For me, the best way to combat this behavior is to acknowledge that the behavior upset me. When someone “bites” me with judgment, criticism or aggression, I literally say “ouch.”

That “ouch” validates my pain and acknowledging it is my first step in healing. It’s also an opening for the person who hurt me to know how I felt and to course-correct if the insult was unintentional. Importantly, that “ouch” is also an opportunity for me to self-reflect to think about whether I was their trigger in a way I could change.

Step Three: Look Behind the Hurt

If I feel hurt by someone close to me, I might probe to see whether there is something going on that is causing her to lash out. If I don’t know her well enough to ask, I assume that something about my actions was a trigger for her, opening up her own wounds. Acknowledging that her reaction might not be directly about me frees me to feel empathy for her rather than pain for myself.

Finally:  Stop the transactional assumptions about happiness, confidence and success.

Many of these “bites” happen because we are competing instead of collaborating. We assume that there are winners and losers. Success and Failure. A bigger share of the pie and…

The fabulous truth in this day and age is that the size of our shared pie is growing, and more for me doesn’t mean less for you. And vice versa. The more we lift each other to new achievements, opportunities, and experiences, the greater the pie grows. Another woman’s gain is no longer our loss. Another woman’s gain is actually a gain for us all.

How do you like them tangerines?

*  *  *

Do you Parlay?

Share It Small: The next time someone seems to be tearing you down, practice responding with an “ouch.”  The best-case scenario is that you get an apology or can course-correct in a way that preserves the relationship.

Share It Big: Fight the “Scarcity Mindset” by reminding the women in your life that we can grow opportunities for all of us rather than fighting to split the existing pie. Remind them at work, on-line and at home. We are stronger when we lift each other.

Share It with Me: I’m collecting stories of these cascades of good for ongoing community building and to track The Parlay Effect in action. I would love nothing better than to hear how you lifted, were lifted, or observed something in others that made you feel good and recognize your own power.


February 2020

This month’s thoughts are dedicated to Katie. I don’t know her last name. 

Katie works at the front desk of a hotel where I was planning to stay beforemy TEDx Sonoma talkin January. In fact, I had already checked into the hotel and put my clothes away before I realized that the venue was almost as far away from my hotel as my actual home in San Francisco. Frantically, I called around to find a closer place to stay, threw my things back into the suitcase, and drove 45 minutes to the new hotel. 

As I unpacked again, my heart skipped a beat: I was due at rehearsal momentarily–and I had left my dress shoes at the first location.

Speaking on a stage in front of nearly 800 people is nerve-wracking, and knowing that whatever you say will be launched into the world on YouTube through the TED Network, viewable in perpetuity, cranks it up a notch. Doing it in a dress and barefoot (or God forbid, in my running shoes) was about to push me over the top on the stress-o-meter.

That’s where Katie comes in.  

*  *  * 

When I called the original hotel to see if they could locate the shoes, it was Katie who answered the call. She listened with obvious tenderness and empathy. In the next breath, she offered to turn the catastrophe into an adventure, bringing the shoes to me herself when she finished work and making it a night out with her husband. 

I learned three important lessons here. 

The first was how wonderful it felt to be seen in this generous way. I was on the receiving end of Katie’s empathy and concern. As was noted in the research conducted for my new book The Parlay Effect, I was moved by her generosity and immediately began to ask myself whether I would have acted in the same way. Before I knew it, I began to look for opportunities to do something similarly meaningful for someone else. Her action raised my game.

The second was that I felt guilty about accepting so much. I mean, this was a pair of shoes, not life and death (although the fashionista in me could argue the reverse). How could I possibly let a stranger do this for me? 

And third, by taking a challenge and turning it into an adventure, Katie lessened my burden. Instead of being overt about the favor she was offering me, she presented it in a way that made it sound fun for her as well. That made me feel better as the recipient and hopefully, made it fun for her too.

This story ends by me realizing that I hadn’t actually left my shoes behind after all. (They were hiding in my bag, attached to my outfit.) Katie didn’t need to switch up her evening, and I didn’t need to be barefoot on stage. 

And this story doesn’t end, because I still feel the glow of having met a stranger who was willing to shift her life pattern for me, and I am still looking for ways to put that out into the universe myself.  

*  *  * 

 Do you Parlay?

Share It Small: Find a way to turn a challenge into an adventure and share the way you flipped things upside down with someone who often sees the glass as half empty. 

Share It Big: As you find these “positivity hacks,” tell people about them! We know that witnesses of positivity start to replicate it themselves, so be the change you wish to see and do it out loud!

Share It with Me: I’m collecting stories of these cascades of good for ongoing community building and to track The Parlay Effect in action. I would love to hear how you lifted someone, were lifted, or observed something in others that made you feel good and recognize your own power. 


January 2020

For many of us, that question can summon up a range of feelings, from self-consciousness and embarrassment to insecurity and even paranoia. What are others seeing? Do I seem like I have my act together? Am I being too aloof or self-absorbed? Was that joke actually funny? Do these pants make my butt look big? Damn. When I feel I am being watched, I am so hard on myself! 

This was especially true as I got close to completing my book, which launched last week. What would people think? Is it good enough? Did I have enough to say that is meaningful? Of course, I was my worst critic yet again.

In order to give my confidence a boost, I decided to augment my work and my observations with the help of an esteemed social scientist, Dr. Serena Chen of UC Berkeley. She and I crafted an online research study where we reached out to almost 350 random strangers (ages 18-44 years old) to validate and provide clarity about the cascades of good, meaning and connection that I witness at Parlay House gatherings. In essence, we were trying to track what happens when small yet thoughtful actions are passed from one person to the next.   

*  *  * 

One of the results of our research particularly surprised us. We learned that being “watched” by strangers should not send you straight to self-scrutiny and panic. In fact, we found that being watched can actually empower you. 

Respondents to our questionnaire — people who had not necessarily instigated an act of good, nor been the recipient of an action that had lifted and empowered them — told us incredible stories of how inspired they felt when they saw others acting in unexpected and meaningful ways. Stories of how they saw one mom with limited resources pack up and share her baby’s too-small clothes with another young mom. Or how a colleague at work saw the struggle of a new employee and set out to privately mentor and coach him. Observing positive actions not only lifted the witness emotionally, but it inspired them to see that they, too, had the capacity to do something meaningful for someone else.

Initiating their own cascades, they mentored, coached, empathized, included and shared. They acknowledged their own vulnerability to make another person feeling shaky know they were not alone. They acknowledged someone who is rarely appreciated. Small actions that lifted someone and were likely replicated by the recipient and magnified by those who saw it happen.

So the next time you are second-guessing yourself, wondering what people who “see you” will think about you, have confidence. The times when you take a few minutes to lift a colleague, a neighbor, a stranger or a friend with a kind word or action, someone is watching.  And benefitting. And feeling empowered to believe that they, too, have the ability to create connections that lift them as individuals and as a community.

The world often seems daunting, and our ability as individuals to address the troubles that plague us can feel so huge that we don’t know where to start. But the “power of the witness” should give us all hope. Small actions that you take can create ripple effects that are not only pay-it-forward linear but multiplied exponentially by those who witness you and are inspired to become givers themselves.  

*  *  * 

Do you Parlay?

Share It Small: Start your own cascades that lift those around you and inspire witnesses to do the same. 

Share It Big: Amplify the positive actions of those around you by telling others what you have witnessed and how it inspired you. By being vocal, you may well inspire more “Givers,”  ”Receivers” and “Witnesses” to keep the momentum going.

Share It with Me: I’m collecting stories of these cascades of good for ongoing community building and to track The Parlay Effect in action. I would love nothing better than to hear how you lifted, were lifted, or observed something in others that made you feel good and recognize your own power. 


December 2019

Last month, my godmother Rachael responded to my One Small Thing email with the insight that she appreciated receiving my notes because they were like paper children: conceived, nurtured, and sent out into the world. I loved this visual analogy because both “birthing” a child and writing an insightful note require me to be willing to reach down deep inside to think and to feel before I launch something into the world. Being a parent/mentor and writing One Small Thing forces me to see myself, and then see you as you respond to me.

When I get responses from you, it’s a most precious gift. The gift of attention.

In this season of giving, as well as all year round, there are very few gifts that I treasure as much. It’s amazing how far the gift of attention — the gift of truly “seeing” someone and really “being seen” — can go.

*  *  *

Jordan Manfredi, a spunky young woman who reached out to me blindly and offered to help me launch Parlay House in NYC, told me about a time when we were in the midst of hosting one of our New York events when I saw her across the room, nodded and smiled. It was a secret language that said, “I see you and I value what we are doing together.” That acknowledgment, according to her, carried her for months.

Vicky Tsai, the powerful founder of the Tatcha beauty brand, told me a story that I feature in my new book, The Parlay Effect, about how an encounter with a taxi driver in Kyoto taught her that every interaction is a gift.  The driver’s attentive listening to the journey she was on, and the unexpected personal gift he delivered to her of his own photography, ended up setting the stage for the culture of her company.

Tamsin Smith, an artist, poet, and a dear friend, observed that this process of seeing and being seen is the essence of what we do at Parlay House.  “So many little conversations from Parlay House events live on. One that comes to mind was a casual hello from a woman I hadn’t met during the event when I was on my way out the door. She told me she didn’t know anyone when she arrived but had made new friends. I asked her what brought her to the gathering in the first place, and she said, “The power of yes.” Wow. Yes.”

These observations – about cascades of seeing, including, and saying “yes,” were what led me to reach out to Dr. Serena Chen at the University of California, Berkeley, and do the research presented in my book. I wanted to know how this cascade of “seeing others” unfolded into the world. One of the many things we learned in our research together was that the power of “seeing” someone was a gift that everyone, regardless of age, experience, social status, or wealth, had the power to give, and that it was a gift that cascaded outwards — not linearly but exponentially, from the giver to the receiver and then to the next recipient. It’s a new model of giving that lets go of monetary value and the need for “transaction,” and replaces it with our individual ability to pass something of great meaning on to someone else. Best of all was learning that these cascades are not only continued by the recipient but replicated by those who witness the process.

So this season, as we face the holiday tension and the question of “Is this gift enough?,” my One Small Thing would be to reframe it with the affirmation that “I am enough” — and then know that “seeing” someone else is one of the greatest gifts you can give. You are enough because you have the ability to give the gifts of interaction, of inclusion, and of seeing.

*  *  *

We hope you will share these gifts, which are a way of putting in motion what I call The Parlay Effect. In fact, I’m going to call this communications series The Parlay Effect from now on.

If this rings true for you,

Share it Small:

See someone in a way that lets them know they are seen. It may be a wink and a nod across the holiday table. Or taking a walk with someone who recoils at large family events but might feel lonely doing nothing. Or an easy “give” is to pack up some of your holiday leftovers for a few folks around you who might be hungry – not only for food but for attention. Hungry to be truly seen and cared about.

Share it Big:

Be open about your efforts to see others. Our research shows that people who witness these acts of empathy and acknowledgment tend to replicate it themselves. It might actually be a better-than-usual use for social media – sharing positive actions that cascade outward in The Parlay Effect.

Share it with me:

Reach out to me at anne@parlayhouse.com to tell me your own stories of seeing and being seen. Your experiences and examples become the fuel for others. And that’s what keeps the fire burning.


November 2019

I Know What You Do, But Who Are You?

When you walk into a room full of strangers, how do you introduce yourself? For many years, my lead sentence was that I was “the CEO” or “the Mom.” I hid behind the cape of a title, a role, or a function because I didn’t feel I would be admired or accepted without those trappings. I wasn’t good enough or interesting enough as-is.

I was hoping to be seen as Superwoman. Able to leap buildings in a single bound or something like that.

But when I lost my CEO job during the recession and my children grew into independent adults, everyone could see that behind the costume, behind the cape, there was no Superwoman. There was just me.

I had to find ways to define myself that felt more closely aligned with my human values and my human-sized strengths.

The formula that works for me is STRENGTHS X VALUES = PERSONAL SUPERPOWER.

I found that aligning my natural abilities with the things I cared about created space for me to find a diverse range of amazing women with whom I could truly connect and be my human self. That space is called Parlay House, and we meet on a recurring basis in cities across the globe to talk about the very human truths we share. We’ve found that as we’ve grown, with one woman taking time to bring another into our circle, we touched off an inclusive cascade that lets all of us define and frame ourselves in more meaningful and relevant ways.

*  *  *

I’m Not Alone.

Over the course of the last few years, Parlay House members have told me very similar stories about finding new ways to reframe and value themselves.

Jamie Higgins told me that, “In 2016, I left my lucrative 20-year career on Wall Street to become a stay-at-home mom. For the first time in my life I didn’t have an answer to the “So, what do you do?” Well, at least not an answer I was proud of. To keep depression and regret at bay, I threw myself into volunteering at my children’s schools, but I still felt lost, not feeling understood in that community. Then I realized that if I wanted to materially change my life, I needed to do different things. Enter Parlay House. I was so nervous driving into NYC that night. Nervous that I had no business as a “boring stay at home mom” to be with these dynamic women. I was wrong. I was welcomed and supported and I even made a great friend. I continued to get out of my comfort zone and try different things. I started taking writing classes to ignite an old passion. Then I wrote and I wrote some more, and now I’m almost finished with my first novel. I stopped fighting the fear of being lost and started enjoying the circuitous routes and dead ends. That’s when the magic happens. Now, I’m happy to say I’ve arrived at my next destination.”

Ivy Wolf-Turk wrote, “At a time when I was struggling to re-enter the world after serving time in Federal Prison, feeling isolated, with all options of my old life foreclosed, the thought of joining a community of loving, open, kind, and welcoming women gave me hope. I had heard about Anne’s personal struggle and the beginning of Parlay House in an article I read while incarcerated. It gave me a sense that there were women who would be interested in “who” I am, rather than what I “did”! It changed my perspective on what might be possible, and after experiencing Parlay House I was invigorated to pursue my passions and dare to dream again. I met many remarkable women who embraced me and supported me in ways I could have never imagined!”

Ivy went on to found Project Liberation, a non-profit organization that helps women re-enter society after prison.

*  *  *

You Are Enough

My One Small Thing for November is that when the culture says to spread myself as thinly as possible over the next six weeks, instead of trying to be Superwoman, I’m going to find a few small things that feel like part of my core truth. Like welcoming strangers into my home and having fewer, more connected conversations.

Where is the intersection between your strengths and your values?

SHARE IT SMALL: Might you be brave enough to take off your mantle of being Superwoman with one person you trust, as a way to try out being fine as your human self?

SHARE IT BIG: If you are feeling extra gutsy, get some clarity around this season and hone in on what you are best at doing. And then ask others around you for a hand. It will likely turn out that doing things together provides you relief from trying to be everything to everyone and create more opportunities to truly get to know those around you.

SHARE IT WITH ME: I’m gathering stories of Parlay Effects– outward cascades of good, including our continued self-awareness, self-respect and self-love. If you’ve found a way to reframe your quest to be a superhero into finding a few superpowers, send me an email so that I can witness and learn from this all-important cascade. It’s what I call The Parlay Effect.