Smooth Sailing

The last months of the year surprisingly brought a tremendous amount of fun. My precious daughter was home from college, my friend Jeff was home from Colombia, my business partner and I attended some very interesting and enjoyable Capital fund raising events, and it was my birthday which brought a few weeks worth of parties, lunches and celebrations.

Now, everyone has left and it’s just Siena and I again. When I’m not spending time with her, I am working ten or more hours per day on our nonprofit The Trident Project, and Ocean SF, and on the book I am writing about grief.

I believe in setting intentions, achievable goals, and then tracking to these on a daily basis, so I am also planning my course of action for 2018 and in particular the months ahead.

Over the last eighteen months, I consistently thought of my progress as being one of laying a strong foundation. I had no other intention than to lay this foundation. I spent a good deal of time thinking about my own happiness and what I needed to do to one day arrive in a future where I could use my talents, share my wisdom and make a difference in the world. My nonprofit The Trident Project, our sailing apparel company, Ocean SF and my blog were all born from this intention.

Recently, I’ve been thinking about my character and how to improve myself in this regard. Over the past year or more, this hadn’t entered my mind, but now I want to be a better, stronger, and kinder version of myself. To do this I am turning to my books and writing to find this wisdom, and spending time by myself again.

After a week of near solitude, over the weekend I spent time with friends. On Friday night out to dinner with the girls, then Saturday on the water with the Race Committee for the Midwinter Yacht Races. I helped to check in the racers, then went to the bow and raised flags for the start.

It was beautifully calm in the morning and then, luckily, the wind picked up for the race that afternoon. I spent time with my friend Fran, it was her birthday, and we sat in the sunshine, and wind, eating lunch as she told me about her life. It was truly a beautiful and idyllic day.

Afterward, I met my business partner and his girlfriend for drinks. We’ve been friends now for long enough to have some very funny memories, many of these included our early days sailing and hanging out at The Olympic Circle Sailing Club, where I met our mutual friend and my Sailing Instructor Tom Dryja.

While I was in his class he would say things like, “Sydney, that’s a beautiful knot, but it’s upside down and backwards.”

Over the course of my many days learning from him, 18 sails that first winter, I gained much respect for him, and his ability to teach the complexity of sailing to even a dyslexic like myself.

Eventually, I could tie all my knots correctly and now I own a boat.

This proves to me at least, that if you set foot in the direction of your dreams, they truly can, and do, come true.

I look forward to 2018 being one of smooth sailing not just for myself, but for everyone.

Love and blessings.

Newfoundland, Sailing & Gooseberry Jam

I’ve had a walk down memory lane recently. My cousin, and I have been chatting, he’s twelve years my junior, but we’ve always had an affinity for one another. When he was six he would hide from me, but I could always hear his laughter and quickly find him. When I was twenty I spent a summer in Vancouver B.C. and I spent a lot time with him, and his little brother Jeff and their dog, Lucy.

Now, he’s the father of three little girls and he calls me every so often to check in. No two people could be less alike. Mostly, we talk about raising our girls, or our favorite topic business. He’s also a very successful entrepreneur. And I’m not surprised, he was wicked smart as a kid. Now, he has a beautiful wife by his side, and they work together building their business and raising their children.

We talk a lot about the large family we come from. My mother was the oldest of twelve, and his father was the oldest son, Daniel, named after our grandfather, landing at number five. My cousin has a different perspective being younger and having grown up in Canada, in both Newfoundland and Vancouver, British Columbia.

I love to hear his stories of the things I missed. Not only is he wicked smart, he’s wicked funny as well, and everything he says carries our ancestral shared sense of humor, which is our birthright.

Talking to him recently made me nostalgic for Newfoundland, my mother, and her people. I pulled out the Pulitzer Prize winning novel, The Shipping News, by E. Annie Proulx from my bookcase. She writes there is no place like Newfoundland, six thousand miles of coast blind-wrapped in fog, snow in May, a place of ghosts and magic.

That’s the Newfoundland that I remember.

However, what I miss the most is the language of Newfoundland, when Proulx wrote the novel, she said she went to sleep with the dictionary of Newfoundland under her pillow, for over a year, to get it right. But, it’s not the same to read it. I wanted to hear it. So, I watched the movie, it brought back memories of my grandmother’s house and her fresh bread, warm from the oven, smothered in butter, sour cream, and gooseberry jam, and the way they spoke there was almost musical, a melody to their words that can’t be explained.

Of course, there were always parties, and it was so much fun, with so many people around, and everyone inevitably gathering together in the warm kitchen drinking tea or whiskey from a tea cup with a saucer, no less.

My grandmother’s house was rambling with five bedrooms upstairs, and three below, she always kept it in perfect condition with freshly painted walls, and fresh wall paper in the hallways. It had a stately mahogany staircase and even a tiny telephone room at the second landing, where you could talk in peace, the floors were covered in red and blue rugs, the furniture in velvet.

My mother’s room was small and cozy at the front of the house, but my grandmother put me in my grandfather’s room the last time I was there. It was large with a fireplace, and a view of Portugal Cove Road, and the Memorial University Medical School Campus, and beyond the sea. My grandmother slept on the other side of the house overlooking the pond where the children ice skated in winter when they were young.

Last night, I went to sleep dreaming of Newfoundland, the icy tundra, the hypnotic crash of waves on rock, the smell of fish, weather and salt. It felt so strange to wake up to sunny California, my Meyer Lemon tree and the Christmas party I am planning.

Somethings remain in our blood forever.

I know these roots are what made me a sailor, I knew this the first day. I felt it immediately, I was completely comfortable, and at home on a sailboat.

The past always informs the future.

Love and blessings to all.

Marin, Tim Parr & Caddis

Being your own boss has many benefits, one of them is meeting up with interesting people in beautiful places. Today, in Marin, I sit outside in the sunshine having lunch with the legendary Tim Parr, who’s been a driver behind iconic brands like Patagonia, Kona, and L.L. Bean to name just a few.

He’s just launched another company called Caddis, an eyewear company. It’s all about lifestyle, check out their Architects and Custodians page here, it’s about creating change, generating ideas, and spawning creativity.

I’ve been trying to get a meeting with him since last summer, after an introduction by mutual friends, the Finegold’s of Tart, as he is very experienced in working with Merino wool. It was certainly worth the wait. He gave me some great advise for Ocean SF, aside from reassuring me that we were on the right track; he advised we take our time, and make the highest quality product possible. It will take as long as it takes. True that.

We’ve taken a great deal of time to create a sustainable product that is both beautiful and environmentally responsible, and after a year and a half of working diligently, orders will begin shipping in the next few weeks.

It’s been a journey, with many twists and turns along the way, but ultimately there is nothing more rewarding than seeing a vision you created with friends on a sailboat come to fruition. This is something Tim Parr completely understands.

What an inspiring guy. And he bought me lunch. What’s not to love?

Check out his company at caddislife.com.

Love and blessings to all.

Whoever Said it Was Easy Must of Had it Pretty Good

The life of an entrepreneur is wrought with untold obstacles, stress, and fight or flight inducing fear. If this were easy, then everyone would be doing it.

I’ve worked for four start ups, all of them successful, but I took note of the downfalls, the set backs, and the inherent doubt and confusion involved. So, I knew exactly what I was getting into when I started Ocean SF, but the lure of following my own dream, making a meaningful mark on the world, and being my true authentic self was too great. Safety and security and a known path in life can be beautiful, and I’ve done that as well, but stepping onto an unknown path is another matter all together. Taking this risk has summoned my upmost courage.

From the beginning, the obstacles along the way have not deterred, or surprised me. I expected them quite honestly, and regardless, I continued on knowing in my heart that I was on the right path, and there was no turning back.

Now, the fabric that we went to hell and back to manufacture has shipped. We looked all over the world for this fabric from LA, to NYC, to Italy, France, China and Bangladesh. We had everyone looking for it, and we rejected countless samples. Finally, we had no choice, but to acquiesce, and mill it our selves in our custom colors, most significantly Safety Orange. It took four solid months! Believe it or not, you can’t buy sustainable wool fleece, not like ours and not anywhere in the world. You can buy polyester fleece all day long for cents on the dollar, but it pollutes drinking water, and does not keep sailors, or anyone else warm if it gets wet. There is nothing like it for performance outdoors.

Our fabric is custom milled for Ocean SF of 100% Merino wool. The exterior is tightly woven to keep the wind out, the soft interior to keep you warm, while regulating body heat. Anyone can wear it for any sport. It’s beautiful, machine washable, and so on.

I’ve been conducting focus groups. And no surprise, everyone who sees our jackets, touches the fabric and tries it on absolutely loves it. Thank goodness!

To see the light at the end of the tunnel finally, feels so good. If it were easy everyone would be doing it. Follow your dreams people! Find what makes your heart pound and do that.

Love and blessings to all.

Calling All Angels

Enter the world of Ocean SF, our beautiful, chic, environmentally sophisticated clothing company targeting the affluent American sailing market, plus all our fellow adventure seekers!

We are raising capital to expand our clothing line beyond our popular sustainable signature jacket made with our custom milled 100% Merino wool to include silk, linen, cashmere, and cotton casual apparel for all outdoor activities on and off shore.

We are opening our first round for friends and family with only a minimum investment of $5,000.

Angels can contact me personally, or via our webstore at oceansf.co, or at hello@oceansf.co. We will put you in contact with our financial advisor who will fill you in on all details.

Love and blessings to all.

You Are My Sunshine

Even before my husband died I had strange incidents of synchronicity, or meaningful coincidences. Yesterday, I had a meeting at Berkeley Yacht Club with a woman I met at the Project Entrepreneur Summit. Julie runs a company called the Healing Farm, and I was telling her the story behind the purchase of our beloved sail boat, Solana. I wrote about this nine months ago when it happened, but it is even more relevant now that Solana is in the water and such a big part of our lives.

Grief is a tricky emotion. Sometimes, the pain subsides and it’s possible for me to go about my day like a normal person, but other times it is crippling. For me, the saddest part is raising my daughters alone, and there are times when the weight and sorrow of this is too much to bare. This is compounded by having lost my own father when I was nine years old, and my mother twenty years later.  If I allow myself to think too hard about these losses I am left with a stunning sense of abandonment. One day in particular, I was in the later mindset. I was running errands and crying while doing so.

People in my small town are, as a rule, very kind, so no one appeared to notice as I did my shopping while crying. As my tears fell the checkers would only look at me with compassion and ask softly if I might need a bag for my purchases.  While picking up wrapping paper at Home Goods, I saw a coffee cup that said, “Sunshine heals” and around the rim, “You are my sunshine” and I decided to buy it for myself to cheer myself up.  I paid for it, and took it home with me, and later that night, I was texting Andrew, my boat partner and business partner, and I asked the name of the boat he wanted to buy, and he said, “Solana” or “Sunshine” in Spanish.  I was drinking out of the cup as I read this, and then my eyes slowly glanced down, there was a sun on the front with a smiley face. ☀️

This was definitely in the category of rare moments I will never forget, and now having since bought and successfully restored our beautiful sailboat Solana, it makes that moment even more meaningful.

As I’ve moved forward on this difficult journey, I’ve followed signs like these, they are like guide posts along the way, I don’t know if it is the Universe or God, or my own belief in such things, but they are always with me.  One day, I was singing a song in the house as I was getting ready to leave, and when I got in the car, it was playing on the radio.  Whether, it is a song, or meeting someone new who is so encouraging of my writing or my company Ocean SF, it makes me feel like I am on the right path.

Buying Solana was one of the best decisions I have ever made.  We now have our meetings for Ocean SF on our boat, and it will soon serve as a mobile pop-up store (more on this later). And for The Trident Project, our non-profit, it will be used to troll for plastics and gather water samples for Berkeley Labs.

The cup I bought so many months ago, now sits on the desk in my office, and holds my colored pencils, and as for the tears, well, sometimes, it really is alright to cry.

As the months go by, I am grateful for the beautiful and supportive small town I live in, all of the friends I’ve made sailing, and starting my sailing apparel line, and for our little yellow boat, Solana.

Love and blessings to all.

Chaos Theory, Love & Business

As I love nothing more than educating myself on any subject, I’ve spent a good deal of time reading about what makes a business successful.  Not only is Ocean SF, the company that will support me well into the future, it is also the business that will support my children through the remaining years of high school and college, and those first shaky years after graduation.  I have been working very hard on Ocean SF for well over a year now.  It is no mere hobby.

What I have learned is; love is a great attractor to success, and passion is the most important ingredient in business. Having purpose and a clear vision follows these. Studies now show that the control managerial styles of the past are no longer viable.

“Applying chaos theory to organizational practice tends to go against the grain of most formal management patterns. Order can be confused with the more popular notion of control. It is hard to open ourselves up to a world of inherent disorderliness.”

My business partner and I do most of our meetings on our boat now, or on the boats of other people.  We talk for hours about our company, our vision, sustainability and our brand.  Because Ocean SF is such a great love of mine this doesn’t feel like work.  Recently, we had dinner at the Yacht Club with a group of friends.  Andrew and I had met prior to this and then joined a group for drinks on another boat before dinner.  At the end of dinner I looked around our table and noticed that we had been talking about our business for two plus hours.  I finally apologized, but our friends told us they are used to it.  I am thankful for so much support from everyone around me.

“Typically businesses are organized around structure and design. Charts are drawn to illustrate who is accountable to whom or who plays what role and when. Experts break down organizations into the smallest of parts. They build models of organizational practice and policy with hope that this atomizing yields better information on how to improve the organization’s functioning. However, chaos theory implies that this is unnecessary, even harmful.”

When my business coach told me, if I were in her accelerator program I would be flunking, I just blinked.  I knew that I was not turning in my documents as requested.  But since I was paying her $220 per hour for each private session, I didn’t feel I had to. After two decades running projects I was absolutely sick of spreadsheets and project plans and working just the work, so other people might think I’m working.

After years of working as a Product Manager, Project Manager, and Marketing Director, I didn’t feel that my business needed a share drive full of documents and a group of people to update them.  I was operating from a, “what absolutely, must logically, happen next,” form of management.

Startups are overwhelming in the sheer amount of work required by the founders, and to organize it well I simply base my efforts on priority.

I would literally think, “what do I have to do today, so that it won’t bite me in the ass later,” and that was all.

“Self-organizing systems are those enabled to grow and evolve with free will. As long as each part of the system remains consistent with itself and the systems’s past; these systems can harness the power of creativity, evolution, and free will—all within the boundaries of the organization’s overall vision and culture.”

My business partner and I are very different. He knows things, that I don’t know, that I don’t know.  However, together we agree on just about everything.  This is a refreshing change from working with other people where I’ve spent time defending my position, or saying nothing, but feeling my work was pointless. Andrew and I just decide.  He takes over, or I take over, or we collaborate, with little discussion.  We share the exact same vision.

“Informal leaders emerge in an organization not because they have been given control, but because they have a strong sense of how to address the needs of the group and its members. The most successful leaders understand that it is not the organization or the individual who is most important, but the relationship between the two. And that relationship is in constant change.”

Ocean SF is a community of the like minded; sailors, adventure seekers, environmentalists and entrepreneurs.

Love and blessings to all.

Read more: http://www.referenceforbusiness.com/management/Bun-Comp/Chaos-Theory.html#ixzz4yY2mFqlg

Yacht Racing and The Midwinters

Aboard the Bobbi Tossi

I joined the Race Committee in July of 2016. Yachting is not what you think, but simply a group of people who love the water, sailing and competitive sports.

It’s a cross between golfing and skiing. The people are down to earth like my fellow all-walks-of-life ski and snow board buddies, from my ski instructor days in Tahoe. Racing is similar to golfing as rules and handicaps apply, and mean that even if you win the race, you might not win the race.

The people are young and old, and from all over the world, with an incredible array of personalities and politics.

On Saturday, I was on the Mark Set boat, to set the race course before the race. We traveled a mile out and dropped a buoy with an anchor and then headed a mile down wind to set the second and watch the race. At lunchtime, we joined the rest of the committee on the committee boat sitting in the sunshine eating sandwiches, chips and dip, and lots of cookies. Sailors like cookies it appears.

I spent the entire day on the water in the sun and wind. Afterwards, the Race Committee convened to the bar. I changed out of my foulies, and looked in the mirror, my eyes were an even clearer blue green then they were before. There is always this feeling of lightness in the air near the water.

From the Yacht Club, I watch the sun go down, and sit with Bobbi and John, and talk about their nine PAC Cup races to Hawaii. Then, my friends join me, and we leave together to go to dinner.

A day like this is a cure for almost anything. I woke up this morning with a sense of happiness, grace, and gratitude.

Love and blessings to all.

Small Town

From Sanctuary with the Ocean SF crew

When I first moved to the Bay Area and began working for Bank of America as a Systems Analyst, my boss, a Sr. Vice President at the time, told me, “Sydney, San Francisco might look big, but it’s a small town, don’t burn any bridges.”She’s long since retired, but a trip through my LinkedIn account confirms her wise words. We are all connected here. Even before LinkedIn became a part of our lexicon, I experienced this. All of the Wells people had formerly worked at Bank of America, all of the Voice Over IP employees had worked together at AT&T or Pacbell. Everyone knew everyone. As tech took over employees were tapped from these industries, or they formed their own start ups, and worked together again. I would get calls from people I had worked with years before to join them again.

It was always important to me, that I worked hard and maintained my excellent reputation, so I could return to my consulting practice as was necessary while I raised my family. Luckily, I never really stopped working, and I’ve gained friends and contacts galore along the way.

Now, I have my own company, Ocean SF, and if I need anything, I have a rich network to call on, and the reverse is also true. I’m always here to help my students, friends, and colleagues as they start businesses or change careers. I’m willing to help in anyway possible. This is the culture I have lived in for most of my adult life, and I’m very proud to call this my home.

In the Bay Area, it’s how we do business, we connect with and help each other, no wonder LinkedIn (click to read their history) was founded here. Of course they tapped their friends from PayPal and other networks, in the same way my friends; Craig Nomura, Mike Hession and Seth Freeman, experts in their disciplines have joined Ocean SF to form our Advisory Board.

As always, thank you to everyone who has helped me along the way.

Love and blessings to all.

Yoga & Healing Trauma & Finding Balance. 

I went back to yoga after a several year hiatus. I started six years ago at a studio in Walnut Creek. At the time, I knew I needed more self care, and it was a start.

It was the first time in my adult life that I became aware of my body as an observer. I would watch my hands as I planked, or watch my knees and ankles to ensure my bones were perfectly aligned. I was instantly good at it. My first class was a level two and I went through the motions with ease. Those classes were an hour and a half long, and the entire process of finding parking in Walnut Creek and so on, took almost three hours, or the entire morning.

It was a commitment to myself that I quickly gave up as the demands of my family intervened that first summer, making doing anything for myself, an impossibility. People have the illusion stay-at-home-mothers have all the time in the world, but they do not. They are staffing hot lunch, or organizing the back to school cake walk, or driving carpool for the volleyball team, or having kids over after school.  Finding time for yoga was priority #25, or lower in those days. After that first winter of going regularly, I went only periodically, if at all.

Last summer, I broke my wrist, but I promised myself I would return to yogo when I had healed. This week I took my first class from Esther at Humble Yoga. With my business partner in Montreal, I had a little more time, and more flexibility.

It’s been a stressful time in my life. Some of that stress was negative, and I had to dig deep to with grace handle the demands on me, now however, those demands are mostly positive. Having to meet with large banks who are interested in my company, or going to events where I meet tech billionaires increased my blood pressure like you would not believe.

Staying up all night preparing decks was just part of it, even deciding what to wear tested my cortisol levels. As an environmentalist, I didn’t want to go buy anything new. It seemed an oxymoron to pitch a sustainable clothing company wearing a polyester dress made in China. So, I went to the consignment store and bought a vintage dress by American designer Nanette Lepore. It was not cheap either. It was black, sleeveless and beautifully tailored, perfect for the warm October day.

This particular meeting went well, but all of it landed me by the end of October deeply depleted. I did all of the things I usually do in times of stress. I carved out time to be alone, I stayed home instead of going out. I walked my dog in serene settings, I cleaned up my diet and lowered my caffeine intake, I went to church, and yet even sleeping was stressful. I would wake up and not be able to go back to sleep. Then, because I would be afraid I would wake up, and not be able to go back to sleep, I couldn’t fall asleep.

Recently, I read that yoga heals trauma. They are teaching it in prisons and it’s having an enormously positive impact. It teaches so many good things, to breath oxygen into every part of our being is not even the most beneficial aspect, it teaches awareness and the ability to control the mind body continuum. Trauma is trapped in the body and yoga, studies show, is the antidote to releasing it.

As a single mother trying to support my family, I still feel guilty taking this time out for myself. But, when Esther asked our class to think about why we were there, the dominant thought I had was to find balance. After three classes, I do feel more balanced. I also feel rested and relaxed. If I can heal the trauma of the last year or so, that would be an added bonus.

Namaste.

Love and blessings to all.