Monday, May 18, 2009

Why Community Matters & The Power of Vulnerablity

For those of you who don't know me and for those that do,  I have been on the road for the past 5 months on an extraordinary journey.  On December 3rd I left my life in Corona Del Mar, CA after a sudden and painful end to an engagement.  As a coach and communications consultant I was devastated by the fact that I didn't see the signs, and that I didn't see it coming.    

I had no idea what I was going to do and had no idea of where I was going to go.   I had just completed 4 consulting contracts and one client remaining.   We were going into the holidays, with a troubled economy, fear and insecurity was everywhere.   I didn't have a whole lot of money in the bank and a few thousand dollars in receivables.   Where was I going to go?  Where was I going to live?   What was I going to do?   I was suddenly all alone and not sure what to do. 

The original plan was to go back to NY for the holidays, fly back to California and drive back to NY after New Years and stay with the folks until I could figure out what I was going to do.   What unfolded for me over the last 5 months was nothing short of magical. I found Community.  

I decided to sell everything.  If it didn't fit in my 2002 Toyota Forerunner is wasn't coming with me.   I left my 79 VW Bus and Surfboard and packed my ski's, golf clubs, 2 pieces of artwork, some clothes, a surprising number of shoes, boxes of pictures, some important files, other various memories, my macbook pro, and my Iphone and started heading east.  

This may sound silly to some, but one of the first things I did was change my Facebook status from engaged to single.   It sent a ripple to those that knew me as I had just recently proudly posted an article that featured my fiancée and I in our college alumni newsletter talking about how we were at school together, how we met 16 yrs later and decided we were going to be married on Colgate Day June 13th 2009.   It all looked good online, great story, successful consulting practice, great fiancee, great dog, surfing all the time, living on the water, great sunsets....    

I was amazed by the number of people that I hadn't spoken to in years in some cases over 20 yrs that reached out to offer their support and share a story or two about their losses in life.... i heard about lost pregnancy's, family illness, dogs that have past and other heart wrenching events from some good friends but also from old long lost friends that I had reconnected with online.   Late night chats online, phone calls on the road, and messages back and forth really kept me tethered to something more powerful than anything that I have ever experienced.  I found a greater community.   It was in those people and stories that I found my strength and connectedness.  I wasn't alone and I suddenly I became inspired.   

It was December when it really hit me and I received the inspiration to start the Pink Elephant Project.   I have been fascinated by social networks and the reach of the web, but there was something missing for me in the networks that I was a part of.   What was missing was my participation!  I started off very cautious online, not wanting everyone to know my business and was worried about keeping up the "right" image.  Those concerns started to fade as what I was experiencing and looking for was connectedness.    As I started to share with others, others began sharing with me.   The more vulnerable I was willing to be, the more vulnerable others were will to be with me.   I don't know if it was just the timing and the uncertainty that we were all feeling with the elections, the economy, and our futures or something else but it seems that we were all searching in our own way to make sense out of the current situation.    There was a certain humanity that was being expressed in the emails and chats that I had never experienced before.   There was also a certain generosity and good will that I experienced from my community that redefined what most people would ever think was possible. 

I was on the phone with a good friend of mine somewhere along my journey who basically said... The violins aren't playing to loudly for you anymore... lets see you've been to NYC, Zion National Park, Aspen, Telluride, Durango and Santa Fe over the past couple of months skiing and playing in the mountains... let me give you a little insight to my life.  :)   

I had started on the road January 3rd  on my way to NY and  headed off to St George, UT to visit some dear friends of mine from my days in Alta, UT I hadn't seen in about 10 yrs.  It was lovely, I had a beautiful room right at the mouth of Zion National Park, great food, great conversations, I shared with them my story and they shared theirs with me.     I would spend half the day playing and connecting and half the day working on the Project.  While I was there it occurred to me that I didn't really have to be in NY and that I had such an incredible community in the Rocky Mountains after living and skiing in the Rockies for over 13 yrs.  I knew  that there would be nothing better for me than to stay in the Mountains and work on the project.   After all, I had everything I needed and owned in my car.  I had my Mac Book Pro, My IPhone and a virtual assistant who was turning my thoughts and ideas into organized coherent paragraphs.   All I needed was a place to lay my head down and an internet connection. 

I kept updating my Facebook status and connecting with friends sharing my experiences, the inspiration of the project, and the financial and emotional challenges that came from the break up and being on the road.   I was living a day at a time with no schedule or real plan other than to make sure I was doing what it took to get the project off the ground and take care of myself.   Incredible housesitting and petsitting opportunities seemingly came out of the blue in some of the most beautiful houses in the rockies, free ski passes, comped meals and drinks at incredible restaurants, wonderful home cooked meals, connections with extraordinary people.    This was hardly couch surfing and what I learned about was a new currency.   The whole time I was operating from a place of contribution and vulnerability.  I saw how I could help my friends and they gladly reached out to help me.   

As my housing, food, and skiing needs were being met something even more miraculous was happening with the project.   I had and have no budget for the project.  There was a laundry list of things that needed to get done that cost money.   I needed to get a web presence, I needed legal help, I needed design help, I needed accounting help, I needed fulfillment help, I needed marketing expertise and I just needed to know that I was moving in the right direction.   I started posting my intentions on line in various forums and began connecting with new people that seemed to be interesting.   I kept sharing my vision with others and kept sharing my story from a place of vulnerability.   What I received was nothing short of miracle after miracle from people that I have never met before in person.   The website is about to launch, creative has been completed, expert social marketing and social networking folks have been spending time with me strategizing, friends have been editing copy and offering their guidance and support, events are being scheduled, the totems have been ordered.   What I estimated would cost me $75K to get started has been accomplished by a team of volunteers and family spread throughout the united states and mexico for a fraction of the cost in just a few months.  

Its been 5 months and just 2 days ago I fully unpacked my car for the first time since January 3rd.   The ski season is over and spring has sprung.  I feel reborn and feel inspired as I reflect on the difference I made in peoples lives and the difference they continue to make in mine.   I find myself happily back in Santa Fe and reconnected to my community that I had been a part of for 13 yrs.   Today I also have a new community and a different understanding of what's possible when you decided to put yourself out there and make a difference. 

Resources continue to be a challenge for me personally and the project in these uncertain times but what I have come to know is there is an abundance in this universes and that the universe seems to show that abundance in unconventional ways.    In its latest gift I have the good fortune of helping a friend with some gardening in exchange for a beautiful room in a beautiful home in Santa Fe.  I've got my feelers out for consulting and coaching opportunities and if need be I can always find something to keep me going.  I've just been looking for the signs, doing the next thing in front of me, and standing firm in my commitment to see the Pink Elephant Project launch successfully.   So far so good!  

The Pink Elephant Project is nothing short of an expression of the idea of what's possible when a community of like minded people get together in the fulfillment of a common goal.   The reason why I picked the "Courage and Commitment to Communicate"  is because what the Project is about is not easy.   Its going to take the first group of courageous pioneers to bring the promise into their families and workplace and the commitment to come back to share their story with the community.   When this movement actually becomes a movement it will be because of the community found the "Courage and Commitment to Communicate" with each other and found their power through one another love, compassion, vulnerability and.... SHARED HUMANITY.  

In gratitude to those who have been with me on this extraordinary journey.  Shasheen


  1. Thanks Shah, it is great to read this. These are new rules operating today... I am in a similar place... the market has fallen out and so has my salary. But the offerings are always there, if you keep your eyes open, aren't they? In this quiet time, having closed my gallery to partner with another, moved to a new city where I knew no one, ending a relationship that couldn't survive my move, and now without the community I was part of and financial stability I expected [and upon which I based my rent, etc.]... things are a whole lot different than I envisioned when I moved here 6 months ago. Interestingly, the universe provides. First the tax refunds came back, in the amount of my rent, another payment came in that was the amount of the second month's rent. Yet most importantly, through this quiet time, which has not been exactly fun, I've been incredibly creative, am working on a new idea - have done the same thing - reached out to dozens of women to interview them on a wedding project, and been amazed at the response. It's always there, if you just ask... I just forget to when I get busy. So I love what you are doing, and it is a reminder that there is a reality there that will catch you if you expect it and ask for it. Most importantly, and hardest to do, is to be vulnerable... but that's when the connections are made. Funny how counter-intuitive it is. Nice work. I am not surprised, from our brief meetings at Colgate.. Sara

  2. Beautiful my dear one! Just beautiful! I'm on this journey with you. I know it shall be lovely if nothing else!

  3. Most eloquently said. I admire your strength and courage to pick up and just go.. and roll out a new path for yourself. We can all gain strength from that- I know I can. Very inspiring. Thanks for sharing this with all us.

  4. Dear Shasheen...

    "From the Heart" is a common closing regard you've used in our email conversations.

    Everything about you exudes, 'from the heart'.

    Your ability to share the way you do; your willingness to tell your story, to show up, to go for your dreams and to trust their coming true is remarkably inspiring.

    Please, keep sharing...continue to weave the story, trusting it to be true and allow the community you speak of to grow exponentially as this movement continues to wake up and inspire the masses.

    I'm honored to have met you; thanks so much for reaching out. The Pink Elephant Project has magic in it's vibration. With all of us united, sharing the's going to rock the world in the sweetest way!

    Grateful to be a part of the journey!!

    Here's to living from the heart, with joy!

    In Harmony... Debra

  5. Thank you, thank you, thank you for sharing! :)I enjoy reading your stories and what I get from them and our conversation we had a few weeks ago was your willingness to be "vulnerable." I also remember this conversation during our Introduction to Leadership Program as well. The invention of creating a possibility of being vulnerable arrived and you are that. It is a good thing (big smile).

    Bravo from coming from this place. The willingness to be open and real with ourselves and others causes great shifts in how we truly contribute not only to our own lives but to others as well. Another thing that I am hearing from your message above is the art of allowing and being in the place of surrender to allow things to unfold naturally in the current of life itself. So much more powrful than resisting to what is so and what you want to create in life to make it your playgrond.

    Lastly, what I hear is "ask and it is given." When we are clear on what we want and have the courage to go after it, it is amazing how things just flow on the course of abundance.

    With love always,
    Uma Devi

  6. Right on. I am so glad that I just read this today as I was in a bad mood for the first half of my day. I'm exactly where I'm suppose to be as my Aunt Kathy used to say - even when it feels dark and not so 'nice'. There is a great song that a friend just burned on a CD for me for my birthday - not sure who it is but I love the chorus which goes 'And I'll receive bright glittering gifts from the dark'. I really believe that. We are living in an incredible time - not so secure or predictable - but incredible. I am your fan, friend, and east coast hostel in Boston if you are ever here. Big love, Catherine

  7. Thank you for sharing your experiences with me and everyone else who cares about you. This journey you are on is a powerful one and you have so many friends supporting you through it all.

    I have also been driving a strange curve through the road of life and can totally relate to you and your experiences. When my sister passed away and I lost my job of 8 years all in the same 24 hours I entered new and unknown waters. Everything that I thought was true and real was definitely not true and real. In a sense, I woke up (literally) and realized I had so many opportunities AND STILL DO! Friends came out of the woodwork and I was overwhelmed by their kindness, love and support.

    Thank you for your honesty. Kat

    PS - you are a fantastic writer

  8. Shash...Thank you for sharing your story, it provides and starts your project off with example and with grace. it's my deep pleasure to call you a friend. Please know that you have a pillow and WI-FI here my friend. I will keep you in mind now that I have a better idea of what's up. Looking forward to seeing the results I know that you will gain for yourself and us humans. xo Tamera

  9. Shasheen Thanks for sharing. This gives me some insites in to my own Journey.