Breaking Things 101

I understand that here I take the risk of outing myself as a spiritual person. I do acknowledge that in life coincidences are inevitable, and in that (ahem) spirit, if you're less of a believer but still like a great story, you might instead prefer this one about a serendipitous series of events involving, ironically, a treatise on nihilism:

+++ Otherwise, here's a true story.

A hundred dollars was a small fortune to me then.
Susan said we could get a group discount if we all bought one, bringing the cost down to what for her and most of the others in the class was an extremely affordable $80-ish each. I hadn’t spent that much on anything other than food and rent since I didn’t know when, and I had been intentional about minimalism for the previous few years, but I wanted beautiful prayer beads. I eventually convinced myself that an object on which to anchor my spiritual practice was an apt and worthwhile purchase to celebrate graduation from yoga school.

I chose the African Jade mala, for strength and good luck.

My yoga class back in the DC days. I'm all the way on the right, in purple.

My yoga class back in the DC days. I'm all the way on the right, in purple.

When our malas arrived and Susan passed them around, we were all gathered in my kitchen in DC. A few minutes later, sitting on the counter with my new beads around my neck, I announced that I was quitting my crappy job and raising money for my first startup.

I hadn’t acknowledged that decision until it was spoken, vibrating in the air around me, glittery almost. I was surprised and kind of weepy with the gravity of it. 

From that moment forward, all of my energy shifted to the single-pointed focus of building this company. Anyone who has ever attempted a life transition like this can likely relate to how helpful it can be to believe (and I did and I do) that, by invoking the assistance of a higher power, you can somehow influence events that are clearly and for all practical purposes outside of your limited human control. This might sound crazy, but looking back it almost feels like the mala delivered itself to me at that exact moment for a reason; to keep me focused, to help me keep the faith. Since I had to fundraise at the time, I found a Sanskrit abundance mantra, "om shrim maha lakshmiyei swaha," and I prayed with those beads and that mantra with such fervor as I walked down 14th Avenue every day that people started thinking I was nuts. Maybe I was, but what happened later gives me pause.

Fast forward to last month, four years and tens of thousands of the same prayer later, and I’m in a different kitchen, this time in San Francisco, also with close friends and also wearing that mala, though now noticeably worn. 

We had just finished building Conversation Starters, Danielle LaPorte’s first app and my company's highest-profile product to date. It was a pinnacle moment for a hundred reasons. I literally wanted to break out in song. At one point I declared that I was, as far as I knew, as happy as I could possibly be, not just because of the company but because of life in general. My exact words were, “There is nothing more that I want out of life than this.” Yuliya asked if she should take a picture of that moment, and I said yes, and she did.

This is the picture  Yuliya  took, commemorating happiness with  Karen  and  Jess . You can see my phone in my left hand and my mala around my neck.

This is the picture Yuliya took, commemorating happiness with Karen and Jess. You can see my phone in my left hand and my mala around my neck.

Conversation Starters wasn’t released yet, but sitting around Yuliya's kitchen table that day, my friends and I wanted to be the first to use it. We passed my phone around the circle, choosing one question from the app—an app based on finding, creating and living your desires, no less—each. I went last. When it was my turn, I gently tugged at my mala, which I do often, and it broke.

Dramatically! All 108 beads bounced loudly across the tiles. Straight out of a movie. 

At that point, my mala was the single most energetically charged and personally significant item I owned. Cue my second weepy kitchen moment.

I honestly still can’t get over the timing. My mala is broken. It’s done its work. And I feel deeply, deeply blessed.

To everyone who has worked with me over the past few years to build life-affirming software for people's phones all over the world and to everyone I haven't met who I'll work with in the future, thank you thank you thank you thank you.


PS: A shorter version of this story is also published on Danielle's blog. <3