Andrew Lacenere and I met two years ago on a sail in September of 2015. During the many sailing trips that followed, Andrew and I dreamed into existence what would become Ocean SF. Then, in July of 2016 my husband died of a sudden heart attack, leaving me in a predictable tailspin.
My daughter’s needed me desperately, and I couldn’t foresee leaving them for the long hours in the city that my background as a Director of Marketing required, nor could I imagine giving up the passion I had for the company I had just started.
The Sailing terminology I learned at the Olympic Circle Sailing Club taught me the terminology I needed, and I decided to stay the course.
I committed myself 100% to Ocean SF, and stayed the course I had previously set. I had worked for many startups in the past, and I knew what would be required of me, and that it would be far from easy. It would take everything I had to give, and then some, but if I had to work around the clock at least I would be close to home, and as my own boss, I could prioritize my time.
Today, I attended a summit for entrepreneurs in SF as the guest of UBS, and there I met Julia Hartz, co-founder and CEO of Eventbrite. Among other things, Julia raised 200 Million in capital for a recent acquisition. Smart, funny, beautiful, and inspiring. What a difference a year makes.
Fear is the killer of love. I’ve known this for a long time, although staying open to love without fear feels like playing the goalie in a game of ice hockey without any protective gear.
The same is true in business. I’ve been working very hard to bring Ocean SF to fruition. I’ve invested my time, money and heart. Along the way, I’ve tapped some of the best players from my past and have put together a remarkable team.
We are making some beautiful things, not just for our product line, but from an environmental and socially responsible standpoint, we truly are building something very unique, and creating value not simply in what we produce and sell, but in driving our vision for environmentally conscious businesses in general.
Our sustainable mission and love for the ocean is part of everything we do and represent. It is the reason why we do what we do.
Now that we are long past the point of no return, I am aware of my fear of letting go and allowing the changes that are necessary for a business to thrive and grow.
A direction must be chosen and committed to, and faith and trust in the unknown is no longer simply an ideal, but a necessity.
Yesterday, I had back to back meetings, I am hiring people to lay the financial future of the company, as we get in position to take money from investors. Andrew and I can no longer alone, do all of the work required, in every aspect of the business.
To grow the business we need help, and this means trusting other people, committing to a course and executing regardless of our reservations. We understand that we can endlessly weigh the consequences of each decision, but ultimately we must decide, and each decision at this point, has enormous potential to influence our success and future.
During my morning meeting, as I was listening to my financial adviser talk about venture capital, I was nervously tipping the legs of my chair. My mother always warned me that one day, I would break the chair, but it’s a bad habit of mine, that I’ve not been able to break. Predictably, the chair gave way, and I literally fell onto the floor. This is not something I’ll soon forget.
I was unharmed, but afterward, I spent time contemplating the significance of this event.
In the end, I decided to be fearless. I’ll stay calm, make wise choices, trust myself, and other people. I will remain open to change and be willing to take the risks inherent in moving toward my goals and dreams. This is of course, an evolution of sorts, to find my courage and consistently and confidently act on it.
I’ve spent a great deal of time mapping out the events of the past. For a long time, I wanted to find the exact point in time, even the exact moment, when things took a turn for the worst, as if I personally could go back in time, and reverse the damage to create a better outcome.
Well, there is no exact moment to find, and if I could find it, I couldn’t do anything about it, as that is now the past, so I’ve reconciled myself to taking the gifts of those moments with me as I move into my future, and leaving the rest behind.
As much as I wanted to separate myself from the past, for the last few months there has been an echo, and it made me feel like nothing I did could ever truly erase the memories, both good and bad of what went before. Now, I can even feel that fading, as my new life takes shape and my hopes, dreams and plans begin to materialize. As I become much more interested and invested in the future, even the recent past becomes a series of events not worth holding onto, or paying attention to.
Recently, I’ve forced myself to slow down. I sleep more, and I’m genuinely conscious of my own well being, and need to rest. I know I will need my strength as our company Ocean SF takes off and the demands placed on my time and energy increase.
This is that quiet place between the future and the past, or the calm before the storm.
Over the weekend, I was on the Race Committee for the Express 37 Nationals.
I started doing Race Committee when my friend, Tom Nemeth volunteered me last summer for the Santa Cruz 27 Nationals, and it’s proven addictive.
I’ve crewed a few races, but prefer the vantage point and perspective, of the Race Committee boat. I love to see firsthand the passion and dermination exhibited by each crew and boat as they compete.
The Race Committee boat is typically comfortable and well stocked, and the company excellent. There is plenty of time to socialize, and I am typically surrounded by past Commadores and sailors with much experience and many crossings, and the stories to match.
My job is usually to check in the sailboats before each race, because of this I am able to learn their names and can identify each one at a distance by the color of the boat and sails.
The sailboats come sometimes just feet from the Race Committee boat, and their skill in maneuvering such a large craft with so many variables and people elegantly balanced on deck is just short of miraculous. It’s evident that it’s taken years of training and experience on the water to be able to do this. The tacticians who compete at this level are highly skilled. Being comparatively new to sailing, it took some getting used to, but now I am relaxed and confident as the boats glide inches from our boat and each other as they check in, and get in the most advantageous position for the start of each race.
We were on a Nordic Tug boat, which alone was a novelty, the races however, were exciting, and unpredictable with several false starts and a few postponements. There were several upsets, and everyone was surprised when our BYC home boat, Stewball failed to win race 6, however, the competition was fierce, and a wonderful time was had by all as the winds were perfect for a yacht race.
Expeditious, and skipper Bartz Schneider, of San Francisco Yacht Club, won the regatta, but it was very close.
I was happy to see several more women sailors then usual, and I made a few new friends, and deepened ties with the people I already knew.
As I sat on the upper deck in the sunshine watching the sailboats come in, I realized, I am living the future I had so desperately wished and planned for these many months with the same spirit of preparation and determination.
Even though, I teach business marketing to graduate students, this is not that sort of post. After my husband died, I desperately searched for anything and everything that could bring me peace and happiness.
I’ve seen it before, family members who use alcohol to sooth painful feelings. I’m not going to lie. I drank a fair amount of gin, however, what I found to be the best antidote to pain, by far, is devotion to, and engagement in, meaningful work.
For example; I love writing this blog. It’s allowed me the use of talents I had developed over many years of writing as a business analyst, technical writer, marketing director, communications manager, and more.
Yes, writing is a passion. But, work must have a broader meaning and purpose to provide happiness.
Over 30,000 people read my blog now. I do no advertising or promotion. I have readers from all over the world, including places like Nigeria, Malta, New Caledonia, and so on, in a total of 64 countries.
This isn’t something I expected when I wrote my first post on grief in August of 2016. But, as I began, and discovered how much it helped me, while helping other people in such an unexpected myriad of ways, I continued. Now, it is simply part of my life’s work, like making sailing clothes, or raising children.
When I was little, I always knew I would be a writer, I started writing in a journal daily at 12. It’s a passion, but how to align a passion with the vision we have for our life?
I could not write a novel like my late husband asked me to. I could tap out an interesting short story and that was all.
For work, I could write detailed memos, user guides, any type of collateral, training programs, press releases, systems manuals, marketing updates, business articles, and later website pages and electronic newsletters.
When I worked in the Financial District of San Francisco, in my twenties, that was my passion. I loved my expensive wool suits, silk blouses, and heels. I loved living in the city and kicking around all the interesting neighborhoods on the weekends.
Later, working South of Market Street, for several start ups was my passion. I wore black Mary Jane flats, and flared jeans, and smoked cigarettes in the ally with the French founders from Google.
I didn’t find this work particularly meaningful, but it paid well.
After years of consulting work, and raising children, I craved action. I no longer wished to sit behind a desk, no matter how lucrative. I like to ski, or hike winding trails, or more recently sail.
Two years ago, I was out sailing with my sailing instructor, Tom Dryja, and Andrew Lacenere. I had just met Andrew, so Tom mentioned that Andrew was a clothing designer. I remember this moment, in the same way, we remember all important events, and after Andrew explained his vision to me, I told him I would help him.
Today, apart from writing this blog, there is nothing I enjoy more than making clothes with Andrew, and our pattern maker, Emma Garrison.
It’s been a slow process, but I’ve been able to align my passion for writing, with my passion for quality clothing, with my passion for the outdoors, and create my vision of a meaningful life.
It’s not something I could have planned, and I often wonder how it will all turn out, but, I do know, it will turn out well in the end, because I truly love what I’m doing. And, I wouldn’t have missed one single moment of any of it.
The secret to winning at poker and at anything in life is to have better cards. Since, I’ve been left to my own devises unexpectedly to support my children and myself without warning, I think a great deal about things like increasing my market share, and making my adventure clothing company Ocean SF attractive to investors, while leveraging my assets, and managing my resources.
The truth is the best way to win at any card game is to have better cards than the other players, this is of course a metaphor for what I am trying to do, and to me it means that I must have a better product than my competitors, and I’ve worked hard to make sure that I do, our technical mid layer jacket, is by far the best on the market.
My mother used to warn me to play my cards right. At the time, I didn’t really understand this, but now I do.
Here are some tips for life and card games:
Games are about taking risks, don’t take too many risks, but if you play too conservatively you will lose
Other players can bluff, but the person with the better hand always wins
It’s my late husband’s birthday today, if things were different, I would be having a party for him tonight and cooking ribs, BBQ chicken and smashed potatoes with bacon and cheddar cheese. He would have a mint chocolate chip ice cream cake with his name on it.
That was the past.
Yesterday, the men’s signature jacket prototype arrived for Ocean SF. Which after a year of development was quite a milestone.
This is the future.
I am on the advisory board for a new nonprofit my friend Nick Firestone started in partnership with Tesla. The organization will bring renewable energy to hurricane impacted communities. So, yesterday I went to the Yacht Club to help with the filming of his video documentary, but on the way, I stopped by the sailing club to give my sailing instructor, Tom Dryja his jacket.
Because Tom and Nick are also friends, Tom came along, and after filming, we had dinner with the video crew. This is not the life I thought I would have, but it’s a very good life nonetheless. I’m grateful to have work I love, inspring people to spend my time with, and countless other blessings.
Later, the girls and I will have a three way call to say a prayer for their father, as we will all be in different places this afternoon.
Berkeley, California based OCEAN SF founded with the ambitious purpose of converting the old world order of synthetic fabrics used in outdoor apparel, most specifically dangerous polyester fleece garments, to the latest milling technologies to make fabric that is both technologically advanced and all natural to empower sailors and adventurers around the world. The company, started as a performance sailing apparel company, states their first principle for founding was performance. “Nothing performs better than wool when it gets wet. Synthetics may dry fast, but fail to keep one warm when they get wet, and we felt there was a serious performance gap in the market, not to mention a style one too,” says co-founder Andrew LaCenere, an avid offshore sailor who has relied on the performance of wool over synthetics for years.
The company’s purpose has evolved throughout their initial R&D, however. Buoyed by a study last summer conducted by Patagonia that showed how washing polyester fleece in a laundry machine is a major source of plastic microfiber pollution, OCEAN SF has set its sights on converting the entire adventure apparel market into something more sustainable and better for, among other things, the world’s oceans.
“The big players in the adventure apparel market now know the risks their garments pose to the natural worlds that they are supposed to help people enjoy, and to us these inconsistencies are completely disqualifying,” says co-founder Sydney Chaney Thomas.
The company has made other efforts to support Ocean preservation, including helping to found the NFP The Trident Project, which focuses on ocean and environmental research and education.
When I was a little girl, my mother would routinely forget to pick me up from school or leave me waiting for an hour or more in the parking lot with my furious girl scout leaders.
So, when friends let me down or family left me at the airport, Toronto, Vancouver B.C., or Oakland, all was quickly forgiven, as this was not unusual in my world.
Yet, these were offenses that would, for most people, have earned a line through your name, in the words of my friend’s mother, you would be crossed off the list.
It causes chaos to be surrounded by unreliable people. I’ve learned it takes a lot of energy to wonder if your relatives are going to show up for you or not.
Overtime, I learned to manage with or without them, and found ways to protect myself from the disipointment of birthdays left unacknowledged or milestones unattended.
In my family of origin, I became a good giver, but not a receiver, thus blocking the natural and healthy flow required in good relationships, both core components for deepening trust and love.
Even, in my marriage, my husband was very reliable, but most of my circle was not. Leaving me with a very skewed sense of where to put my energies and loyalties.
Now that I have a fully reliable inner circle, at the very least it is luxurious to have friends to remember my birthday, or make my children homemade ice cream when we visit, or never leave me stranded at an airport, but having people to count on is necessary for a secure, happy and productive life.
When I met my friend Jeff, he came to my house to cook me dinner, and then he cleaned out my refidgerator. When he returned to LA, he sent me an entire set of pots and pans, because, in his opinion, someone who has written a cookbook should own better cookware. And, he’s picked me up from the airport on time, plenty of times.
Additionally, I spend a lot of time with my business partner and our circle of sailing friends, and they are the same way, they are reliable, not just sometimes, but all the time.
Of course, in sailing and in life, there are times when you must show up for each other. After all, if you miss castoff you will be left behind.
Stable and predictable relationships make the hard work and time consuming efforts of following your dreams that much easier, and once achieved, that much sweeter.