Studies show: Sticking a bead up your nose indicates entrepreneurial spirit

Every family has one.

The child who sticks beads up her nose.

In our family, the child looks like this:

annabel in the yard

Of course, she always has a good reason. In this instance, she wanted a nose ring.

You know, like the one Jasmine has in the Disney makeup tutorial I let her watch 50 times a day?

Which made a lot of sense until I went back and watched that video (while simultaneously criticizing myself for being the kind of mother who allows my 5 year old to watch such junk), and realized that Jasmine doesn’t have a nose ring — nor does any other Disney princess.

Obviously.

So, either she was referring to the Goth makeup tutorial that was recommended to her in the “Related Video” section on YouTube or she just wanted to stick a bead up her nose to see what would happen.

Either way, I still have no idea exactly why she would stick a bead up her nose.

Perhaps, she’s just curious. Perhaps that’s also why she swallowed a penny when she was 4 or why she cut off own hair when she was 3.

Marry her natural curiosity and stubborness with her Israel upbringing, and you got a start-up superstar in the making.

But she also possesses a virtue most entrepreneurs could use a little more of.

Humility.

When she realized last night that the bead was good and gone far up her nostril and no 5 year old digging was going to get that sucker out, what did she do?

She asked for help.

“HELP! There’s a charuz stuck in my nose!” she cried to anyone who would listen. Charuz is the Hebrew word for bead. (Guess who was the one who figured out what she was saying? Score one for the immigrant mother.)

My husband, two sons, and I all gathered around to her to evaluate the situation.

You could see she was scared and wished she had never stuck that bead in her nose in the first place.

But she didn’t cry. She didn’t scream. She just listened.

First my husband looked inside. “I can see the bead,” he told us, silently thanking God for small favors.

“Hold the other side of your nose, and blow,” I told her.

She had never done this before. It was new to her.  Up until now, as much as we’ve tried to teach her how to blow her nose, she’s only been able to sniff in.

She gave it careful consideration, as all four of us showed her how to blow out our own noses, instead of sniffing in.

My husband held her other nostril, and then instructed her, “Now blow!”

She looked at us, seeking our backing and support.

We all smiled expectantly.

Truthfully, what I expected was a trip to the emergency room.

But, she did it!

She blew the sucker out on the first try!

A snotty, but glittery pink bead flew at G-force speed across the room.

We all cheered and danced around her. Siman tov uh Mazal tov!

We kissed her. We hugged her. We congratulated her.

And of course, we listed off again all the appropriate and inappropriate things for inside one’s nose, mouth, or any other orifice. And we emphasized that beads don’t belong in any of them.

For now, at least.

After the incident had passed, and relief had washed over all of us, my daughter came up to me and said, “I was so brave, wasn’t I?”

I hugged her, and agreed. “Yes, you were very brave.”

“You know what was really brave?” I asked her.

“What?” she said.

“Asking for help. Sometimes that’s the scariest thing for someone to do.”

“You’re right, Mommy,” she replied, not necessarily because she agrees, but because in addition to being curious and humble, she is also wise.

She knows that next to “I love you” and “You’re pretty,”  “You’re right” is the answer mommies love most.

An Israel Story Only I Can Tell

The title of my blog references my aliyah.

Aliyah is the Hebrew word used when a Jew moves from somewhere outside Israel to Israel.  If you have been to a synagogue on Saturday, you might have heard the word also used to reference someone being called up to the Torah for a blessing. The word aliyah literally translates as elevation or ‘going up.’

My going up was from New Jersey.

Depending on how much of a Jersey fan you are, you might not have difficulty seeing how moving to Israel from New Jersey was ‘elevating.’ (I’m staying out of that debate.)

On the other hand, depending on how much of a fan of Israel you are, you might have a lot of difficulty understanding why my husband and I picked up our three young children and moved here. (I’m staying out of that debate, too.)

We’re not particularly religious. Nor are we ardent Zionists.

We are reasonably observant moderate Jews from New Jersey, emphasis on the word reasonable.

This — reasonableness  — is what Israel, and the world that talks about Israel, needs more of. So, you can say, we’re contributing to that cause.  When I blog from Israel, I hope to share stories that most people outside of Israel never hear. The stories of the people who live here: Our daily lives, minus the conflict, minus the politics, minus the fear.

I don’t blog often about what I do during the day when I’m not blogging. I’m the Chief Marketing Officer for an investment group that invests in and develops start-up companies.

A lot of new olim (immigrants) try to break into high tech when they move here because a) it’s a great marketplace for English speakers and b) Start-up Nation is where it’s at.

Not me, though.

That wasn’t my plan at all.

My plan was to move here, get adjusted, learn Hebrew, grow an organic garden, and write a few freelance articles for The Jerusalem Post.

However, a few months after landing here a job opened up at a nearby company and the job description basically described me. My husband encouraged me to apply for the job. I did. And that’s what I’ve been doing for the past 2 1/2 years all day, 5 days a week — helping grow start-up companies.

I never write about my job because it’s not what I think about when I am not working. I like to leave my work at work.

Mindfulness, and all.

But last night, something incredible happened that is still with me today.

Two companies who I’ve worked with — portfolio companies of my employer, The Trendlines Group — won awards for best start-ups of the year. Out of dozens that were eligible, the award was offered to three companies, and two of the companies were from our group.

That in and of itself is something to take pride in — companies who I’ve worked with are now award-winning companies. But my greater pride comes from the types of technologies the companies are developing. One, Sol Chip, has created a tiny chip that harvests energy from the sun in a way that’s going to change how we use electricity everywhere from offices to farms. The other, ApiFix, has revolutionized treatment for adolescent scoliosis. It’s literally going to change the lives of hundreds of thousands of young girls with severe curvature of the spine.

These are the kinds of companies Trendlines invests in — companies really poised to improve the human condition.

These are the kinds of ideas and technologies that come out of Israel.

Not just technologies that help you find your way from the bar to the post office.

waze

But technologies that will save your life some day. If not yours, than your child’s or your neighbor’s.

Technologies that will one day be used not just in Israel, but everywhere.

Even in countries that are anti-Israel.

This. Is. Quite. A. Story.

And so, I blog about it.

You see: The Israel story — and my story living here — is even more complex than you ever thought.

When I moved to Israel, I braced myself for potential backlash from friends who, for reasons of politics or ignorance, might see my move to Israel as a statement, or worse, as a mistake.

But that didn’t happen.

What did happen was a door opened.

I got to be a part of an Israel that people who live outside Israel hardly ever see.

And I got to be someone who shares that story.

So, thank you.

Thank you for reading.

And thank you for letting me be a reasonable voice in a very noisy, and complex world.

team at awards jm

Part of the Trendlines team with Chief Scientist Avi Hasson and Israel’s Technology Incubator Program Director Yossi Smoler, June 2013

ocs award

Daily practice

The other day I discovered the blog of writer, investor and entrepreneur James Altucher. Someone at work forwarded me a tech-related post Altucher had written; and after exploring his blog a bit I realized that 1) he has a foul tongue (and I like it!) and 2) has much more to offer than subjective evaluations of the market and tips for entrepreneurs: He’s insightful and introspective.

In particular, his August 20 post, “How to be a human,” was chock full of topics of interest to me — the end of the world, the fate of humanity, and the fear and anger that leads a person to spew hatred at a stranger on a public forum.  Certainly, as I am not addressing on this blog a virtual audience the size of Altucher Confidential, I don’t come up against as much public defamation as he might. But in the 15 years that I’ve written for public audiences — in newspapers, magazines, and extremely opinionated blogs — I’ve certainly set myself up to be taken down. And it’s a lot less fun than when someone shares your blog post on their Facebook wall; or when a more celebrated blogger mentions you in their weekly newsletter.

Altucher claims not to care; not to be impacted by what others write to or about him. He instead acknowledges their anger as representative of and outlets for dealing with past trauma (ie. “Their fathers or mothers didn’t love them;” Other kids beat on them; “Girls or guys didn’t like them or called them names.”)

Altucher credits his humanity for providing him with the ability to rise above his own past traumas; to stop him, he writes, from lying, cheating, stealing, and even killing. In particular,  Altucher credits what he calls “The Daily Practice” as the force by which he remains sane and suitable for society.

His “daily practice,” Altucher claims, is “the only way I’ve ever been able to rise above animal and be human.”

I like this. I like this a lot.

I absolutely agree with Altucher that the world is full of angry, scared, depressed people that often act like animals, but moreso I like how he offers useful tips in a frank, yet accessible voice. Tips that might, just might, lead an Average Joe to be more contemplative, seek help, or better yet, take action.

(In fact, he reminds me of someone I know and love who strives to do the same.)

In questioning the nature and formality of my own daily practice, I realized there is one thing I have committed to each and every day since I moved Israel — Something that is often difficult, very frequently humiliating, and yet so nourishing for my soul.

Every day, I choose to have one uncomfortable conversation.

Typically, my uncomfortable conversation is in Hebrew, but sometimes not. Sometimes the uncomfortable conversation might be with my English speaking neighbor or boss, on a topic that makes me squirm, like money.  And sometimes it’s on a topic I’m emotionally invested in, and the uncomfortable conversation is with my in-laws and or my kid’s teacher.

The more uncomfortable the conversation, I’ve found, the more I learn about myself. The more uncomfortable the conversation, the more I grow.

Particularly for me, the uncomfortable Hebrew conversations have been humbling…which I think my soul really needs. Like Altucher, my daily practice has taught me how to be more human. In particular, to listen, to feel, and to do both with compassion.

But uncomfortable conversations, I think, could be a useful daily practice for almost anyone.

For my shy husband, for instance, the daily practice of having an uncomfortable conversation might be empowering. Or, for my son, offer the thrill of independence.

The uncomfortable conversation can break down walls and stereotypes. It can open doors…and close them. The uncomfortable conversation is often less scary than you think. Instead, it’s often surprising and enlightening. It’s a daily opportunity to practice self-restraint, love, and compassion.

Based on the progress I’ve made since I started taking on the uncomfortable conversation as a daily practice, I daresay, it might be the key to Middle East peace. It might be the answer for world hunger and all that ails the world.

The key for progress and improvement lies somewhere within the uncomfortable conversation, I am sure of it. More specifically in the courage and compassion required to conduct the uncomfortable conversation (as opposed to the uncomfortable screaming match or the uncomfortable revolution or the uncomfortable war).

The uncomfortable conversation, by the way, doesn’t require two consenting participants. It only requires you: Committed, compassionate, humbled and empowered you.

You, as part of your daily practice, trying to be more human.

Kadima!

Spring is often used as a metaphor for rebirth. Combine this with the Jewish tradition of cleaning house before Passover and you’ve got yourself a good season for change here in Israel.

And so it is for our family.  Changes abound that are already impacting our immigrant experience…and more so mine than anyone else’s.

I blogged recently (in my regular Patch.com column, “That Mindful Mama”) about our family’s “team trade.” More specifically, how I recently accepted a full-time position as a marcom specialist for a hi-tech incubator here in Israel, and will be leaving my position of the last five years: part-time primary caretaker and work-at-home freelancer. In addition, my husband will consult part-time (he’s a grant-writer and fundraiser, work that may be done from home), but will take over responsibility of caring for our kids and maintaining our home needs. 

This is a huge shift for us as a family, and for me as a new olah.

First of all, it means I need to leave my bubble. My safe little kibbutz cocoon. It means I need to get in my new car, figure out the different mechanisms (like how to work the windshield wipers), and brave Israel’s roads. Worse than navigating the hilly, foggy roads in the morning is navigating psychotic Israeli drivers who are either constantly riding up my rear or trying to run me off the road as they pass me.

Most of all, getting a job means I need to interact with a lot more people who might want to speak Hebrew with me. However, I have a feeling, that just like an enema, this decision might make me momentarily uncomfortable, but is likely exactly what I need to get things moving in the right direction.

My new job is at a mainly English-speaking company with many Anglos on staff. It’s also primarily an English-speaking position.  While a high level of Hebrew is not required for the position, the office is not a Hebrew-free zone. Mostly everyone except for me speaks a fluent Hebrew and when an Israeli is in the conversation, the language quickly converts over to Hebrew. Therefore, I’m required to listen and understand or, at the very least, nod as if I do.

Most of my new colleagues have been told that my Hebrew is still “a work in progress,” but that hasn’t kept all of them from trying. Which they should and which I reluctantly encourage. Reluctantly because it usually leads to some level of humiliation and discomfort for me.

At least twice during my first week here, I thought someone was speaking to me — they were looking straight at me, after all– but it turned out they weren’t.  I’ve also been spoken to without realizing it was me who was being spoken to. In those cases, I learned, a smile and nod only get you so far. If the statement ends in a period, there’s a 50-50 chance I can get away with a simple smile. If the statement ends with a question mark, however, I might be in trouble. “Ken” or “lo” only get you so far in the workplace.

Thankfully, I haven’t yet been made fun of or chided for my lack of Hebrew. So far, most people here seem to think my broken Hebrew is cute and endearing. However, I am fully aware the “olah hadasha” tag will only work its magic for so long.

The big question is: How long?

When are you no longer considered an new immigrant? When do you make the transition over to just plain old immigrant? Or “olah vatika?” (“Seasoned oleh”) How is my status measured? In “daylight, in sunsets, in midnights, in cups of coffee?” Is it when the sal klita ends? When my kids are fluent in Hebrew? When I make five Israeli friends?

I certainly hope getting a full-time job doesn’t prevent me from milking this status for as long as I can.

I need all the help…and breaks…I can get.

(This was previously published as part of my blog, “Israeli in Progress,” on The Jerusalem Post.)