When I returned to New York City after a month in Toronto, I was ecstatic. Not because Toronto wasn't a great city - but it isn't home.
Thrown back into the hustle and bustle of city living, I immediately set about filling up my calendar with plans. Social plans, blog plans, fitness plans, family plans. But one thing I've really been craving is learning. I miss being a student because I miss the mental stimulation that comes from lectures and note taking and critical thinking.
Living in a city as culturally rich as New York, I've realized that there's absolutely no excuse not to seek and gain more knowledge. I can complain about missing class and research papers and guest speakers - or I can make it a priority to find opportunities to learn.
Boozy brunches and nights that don't end until the morning are great as a twenty-something living in Manhattan. But I don't want to look back on my time living in this incredible city and feel that I didn't experience the full-scope of what it has to offer.
So I'm here to suggest to you a wonderful event series that every business-savvy, fitness-loving, twenty-something should do their best to check out. The Speaker Series at SWERVE.
This event was the trifecta of things I am constantly seeking:
Fitness, Food & Learning
SWERVE is by far my current favorite spin studio in NYC. Every time I take a class I'm reminded of it's amazing amenities, incredible instructors, meaningful metrics, satisfying smoothies - I could go on and on with the alliterative accolades.
For the past four months, SWERVE has hosted a speaker series which gives you the opportunity to take a class, drink a smoothie, and listen to a guest speaker "whose journey shows the value of embracing uncertainty and relentlessly pursuing a goal." All for $40.
Cue the endorphins and inspiration.
Challenging, motivating and sweaty as usual. I somehow ended up with close to my PR score despite not having been to SWERVE in months! I credit the amazing riders around me who were absolutely crushing it and our instructor Erin who made the entire room feel like rock stars. It was impossible not to let it push me (and my legs) past what I expected.
Before the ride, the entire class was allowed to choose between the Purple PB, Kalin' It and Iced Matcha smoothies. They were lined up along the bar and waiting for us when we finished class.
SWERVE's smoothie bar is K-I-L-L-E-R and I even go for breakfast sometimes without taking a class. This was my first time trying the Kalin' It smoothie and it was wonderfully sweet despite being very green.
My favorite is still the Skinny PB. What I love about the smoothie bar is the fact that all of the nutrition information is listed on the menu!
Talk with Jared Grusd
This was the highlight of the event, for sure. For 45 minutes the CEO of the Huffington Post talked to the group about his career in a way that was so down to earth, so real, and so engaging.
Jared Grusd's career has included positions at some pretty notable companies - Google, AOL, Spotify and now, The Huffington Post. NBD.
Throughout the night I found myself nodding along with points that he made about navigating career choices and decisions.
His answers weren't always what you'd expect from a CEO, and I thought I'd share some of the major points that he made during the talk and subsequent Q&A (because I took notes, obviously!)
Risk and Reward
FOR THE FIRST PART OF HIS CAREER - HE DIDN'T REALLY TAKE A LOT OF RISKS
Finishing undergrad and going to Law School wasn't really a risk - it was a safe option for someone who wasn't sure of what they wanted to do with their lives.
First attempting to go into entertainment law because of connections in LA was another safe move.
It was refreshing to hear Jared admit that sometimes, taking the safer route really is the best option. He didn't spin some fairy-tale story about taking tons of risks and gambles that catapulted him to the top.
But Jared's story did include some big decisions and opportunities. The first real "risk" came when he jumped off the corporate ladder he was climbing (in the world of law) and went down a few rungs to start over at Google. At the time, it wasn't a guaranteed success story, and meant a pay cut.
AT A LOT OF COMPANIES, YOU FEEL LIKE YOU'RE CLIMBING A LADDER. THE PROMOTIONS AND PAY COME AT JUST THE RIGHT TIMES TO MAKE YOU FEEL LIKE YOU CAN'T GET OFF.
But there's nothing preventing you from starting over somewhere new if it means the potential for new opportunities that will eventually get you further.
People Are Important
BUT HE DIDN'T REALLY HAVE ANY MENTORS.
The fact that Jared so readily admitted that he didn't have a mentor throughout his journey was a little jaw-dropping. Sure, it's nice to think that we'll have someone to give us eye-opening wisdom and hold our hand down our career paths - and maybe some of us will be lucky enough to find that. But we're also capable of figuring things out on our own.
That being said, now, Jared says the most important thing when it comes to being a successful CEO is authenticity and creating a solid team. To do that it's important to
KNOW YOUR STRENGTHS AND WEAKNESSES AND SURROUND YOURSELF WITH PEOPLE WHO ARE GREAT AT THE THINGS YOU AREN'T GREAT AT.
While building that team, Jared looks for people with an "X-Factor" because,
"I'M REALLY ATTRACTED TO AWESOME PEOPLE."
He then told a story that I absolutely loved, which involved a woman's "X-Factor" being her homemade guacamole which she competed with at fairs and festivals.
When I hear "X-Factor" I usually think that I don't have anything to "WOW" people with. No insurmountable obstacles that I've conquered or stories of bravery and leadership.
But as Jared spoke and gave examples, he made a great point. It's about showing that you have a passion.
PEOPLE WITH A PASSION OUTSIDE OF THEIR JOB ARE ACTUALLY BETTER EMPLOYEES. THEY WORK HARDER BECAUSE THEY WANT TO BE SUCCESSFUL AND HAVE TIME TO PURSUE THOSE PASSIONS.
Jared himself is an IRONMAN and triathlete and while that might sound like a hobby to some people, it proves a lot about someone's personality when they pursue challenges and have passions. Even if those passions are guacamole.
I loved that Jared was so honest in his answers. When asked how to go about changing a bad company culture, his answer was
YOU'RE PROBABLY NOT GOING TO BE ABLE TO CHANGE YOUR COMPANY CULTURE.
Instead, there are some factors to consider when deciding whether or not you want to stay despite a less than ideal work environment.
AM i RESPECTED BY MY BOSSES AND COWORKERS?
Jared's biggest pet peeve is bosses who treat their subordinates as if they have all the power and control.
DO I HAVE THE RUNWAY AND ABILITY TO GROW HERE?
AM I FAIRLY COMPENSATED FOR MY WORK?
Realistically, it's hard to find a job that fits all three of those criteria. Satisfy two, and you're doing pretty well. Only achieve one, and it might be time to start thinking about whether or not it's what you really want.
When It's Time to Move On
This was my personal favorite part of Jared's talk - when he explained why he decided to leave his job at Google to work for AOL.
By his mid-twenties he had reached a position at Google that he had assumed he'd spend his entire career seeking.
Many would sit back, buy a set of golf clubs, and ride out their days until retirement.
But I identified with the part of Jared that thought,
i'm not stimulated. this is an amazing company and it would be amazing whether i am here or noT.
So he left for a place where his contribution would be felt - a place where he could test himself and where he needed to "create momentum from nothing."
Look Where Nowhere Else is Looking
Jared's two biggest tip for success was
find value in places that no one else is finding value
To be successful, you cannot accept the status quo. You need to constantly be searching and seeking and looking for solutions and ways to solve problems that no one else is paying attention to.
He credits his growth at Google to this concept of finding a slightly better way to change a light bulb.
I left the Speaker Series at SWERVE feeling ready to conquer the world, my career, an IRONMAN - I wanted to do it all. These were just a few of the points that Jared touched on in his talk - I learned a ton more about his personal story and career as well.
It's crazy what some inspiration, motivation and thought-provoking conversation can do for you.
I highly recommend SWERVE's Speaker Series and look forward to seeing who they bring in next!