I Used to Be Somebody: (Un)Retirement Lessons Learned

Michela O’Connor Abrams Interview: Emboldened and Resilient!

Diana Landau | October 19, 2020

In this week’s podcast, we talk with Michela O’Connor Abrams about facing life’s challenges head on and starting anew. Michela is the former CEO of Dwell Media, building the company from its early phase as a small magazine about esoteric design to an internationally recognized media brand. This was a huge achievement: The Internet has changed magazine publishing in dramatic ways and the brands that didn’t learn to develop new channels for their customer base sank quickly.


With Michela at the helm, Dwell became a 7-platform media brand. It’s known for showcasing gorgeous photography and innovative design and for bringing together architects, designers, and the trades in creating beautiful places to live.


Although there weren’t very many female CEOs 30+ years ago, Michela was a trailblazer in publishing. Prior to Dwell, Michela led companies from startup to exit and turnaround to high growth, at companies like IDG, Softbank, McGraw-Hill, Ziff Davis and Future Media.


Then four years ago, she faced the unimaginable. First, her mother unexpectedly was diagnosed with non-smoking lung cancer. Soon after that, one of her dearest friends died. Two weeks after that, her husband died, and then two weeks later her father died.


Flash forward to now. Michela says she is “emboldened and resilient.” She said it helped to imagine all four of her loved ones standing in front of her, telling her to go live her life with reckless abandon. “So that’s what I’m trying to do,” she says. I had to answer the question, “When, where and how do I recreate my future?”  


Looking forward, she has been eager to draw on her many years of leadership and coaching experience. Michela founded a new media company, MOCA+. Tapping into her vast experience and connections within the industry, she creates a team to help her clients depending on their need: Coaching, fine-tuning, pivoting, buying and selling. She’s loving it!


In her spare time, Michela serves on the board of Arcbazar and is an advisor to Turkel Design, Nebia, Aplat Inc., NextPlay, and NewStory. She is a sought-after speaker on leadership, design, and media and is always game to share her passion for good design and business innovation.


3 key takeaways on beginning anew from Michela:


  1. You choose what “balance” is and what work you take on. There’s so much to get involved in, you have to decide what you really want for you—first.

  2. Ask, “What’s my time worth?” Decide a price/value ratio that not only works for you but for the client as well.

  3. Take enough time off. Michela says she jumped back in after only 2 months but wished she’d taken more time in between business ventures.


For the full interview, listen to I Used to be Somebody, Episode #6 with Michela O’Connor Abrams. For listening details go to our website.

To learn more about Michela check out her website.


Diana Landau is the Content Wrangler for Pickleball Media. After 15 years in corporate marketing, in 2012 she pivoted to write and wrangle content for Niche Media's weekly blog. She now manages the I Used to Be Somebody weekly blog.

Tags:    blog   interview   podcast   Michela OConnor Abrams   adversity   future   new beginning  

What Was Your Most Embarrassing Moment?

Carl Landau | October 19, 2020

 When my wife Diana and I explored the Mendocino Headlands last week it reminded me that the movie Summer of '42 was filmed there. A lot of people don't know that. (Our movie buff fans will know for sure.) They originally were going to film it back east on Nantucket but couldn't for some reason.


Talking to Diana about this, she said "We need to watch it". (In the middle of a pandemic we have LOTS of time to watch movies…) And rewatching the movie brought me back to one of the most embarrassing moments of my life. 


That movie came out in the theatre (remember those?) when I was about 15 years old. And I saw that movie with my Mom as her Saturday night “date”. I don't know if you remember that movie or not, but it's a coming of age movie that would make any 15 year old squirm and want to die ten times over with your Mother sitting right next to you. If you rewatch the movie you will understand.


So back then I get through the movie with my Mom, feeling completely mortified. We had gone to the early show so we could go have dinner at our favorite Chinese restaurant which was right next door. And then it happened--when we are walking out of the theatre, there is a huge crowd waiting to go in. The first two people standing in line were the two most popular girls in my Junior High!  I ducked my head, sure they were staring at me with my Saturday night date--my own Mother!!!

Tags:    the carl diary   movie   embarrassing moment  

Practice What You Preach

Carl Landau | October 12, 2020

I‘m always talking about how important work/life balance is and over the years I think I’ve been pretty good at it. (I hope my wife is grading on a curve.) Sure, there were times when I worked long hours but I somehow managed to squeeze in time for myself and my family and my SF Giants games.


Diana recently suggested that I practice what I preach. I’ve been having so much fun launching Pickleball Media and the I Used to Be Somebody podcast that I hardly noticed how much I’ve been working. I've started up many new companies in my work life and the start-up phase is always my favorite—your adrenaline is flowing, the ideas are flying, your brain is on fire. 


But she has a point. I need to remember to work hard at what I love to do AND take a break sometimes. So we're taking a short vacation this week to soak in the mountains and ocean waves and forget about everything else for a few days.


With so much going on in the world right now, it’s important to remember to take a break and a deep breath. It will clear your mind and make you hone in on what’s important. 


See you next week! (Maybe I'll be doing yoga by then.)

Tags:    the carl diary   work life balance   startup  

Joan Ryan Interview: The Courageous Path

Diana Landau | October 12, 2020

The best words to describe what Joan Ryan has done throughout her life is………..”Ground breaking.” She is an award-winning journalist and author of five books. Joan has been a pioneer in sports journalism, becoming one of the first female sports columnists in the country. She has covered every major sporting event from the Super Bowl and the World Series to the Olympics. 


Joan overcame the challenges of being a female in a male dominated world. She notes “I was competitive, so the more hassle I got, the more determined I got.” She started her career as a sports reporter for the Orlando Sentinel, then became an editor and eventually the first female sports columnist.


Carl talks with Joan about making the transition from decades in sports journalism to becoming a book author and writing for herself.  It’s no surprise that her first book, Little Girls in Pretty Boxes: The Making and Breaking of the Elite Gymnasts and Figure Skaters (1995, Doubleday), was a controversial, ground-breaking expose that Sports Illustrated named one of the Top 100 Sports Books of All Time. The book and Joan were featured on Oprah, The Today Show, The New Yorker, New York Times and People Magazine among others.


Three successful books later, Joan again tried something new. Realizing that there was no one really “telling the story” of the then (2008) struggling SF Giants team, she set out to create a media consulting position for herself as an “in-house” journalist—a new concept at the time. She had lunch with CEO Larry Baer… and the rest is history.


Joan’s long experience in clubhouses and locker rooms and then with the SF Giants team made her realize that successful teams, in any type of organization, cannot only be driven by analytics, but that culture makes the difference. It's not an either/or question. “Culture is the bedrock of team chemistry and high performance,” she says. So you know what happened next. Joan’s latest book, Intangibles: Unlocking the Science and Soul of Team Chemistry (Little Brown, 2020), is out now. 


Advice on career changes and life from Joan Ryan:


1. “Ask yourself, how can I apply this skill set that I worked so hard for to something new?”


2. “Anytime you pitch a new idea to someone, you better connect the dots on how it’s going to put money in their pocket.”


3. “It’s essential to find your new tribe, whether it’s a new organization, golf, etc. You have to get out there. Do not isolate. We need connection, we are social beings.”


For the full interview, listen to I Used to be Somebody, Episode #4 with Joan Ryan. For listening details go to our website.

To learn more about Joan's work check out her website


Diana Landau is the Content Wrangler for Pickleball Media. After 15 years in corporate marketing, in 2012 she pivoted to write and wrangle content for Niche Media's weekly blog. She now manages the I Used to Be Somebody weekly blog.

Tags:    blog   interview   podcast   Joan Ryan   Giants   bestselling  

Is 80 the new 40?

Carl Landau | October 06, 2020

Is there some movie that you've never seen for some reason and the whole world except you has seen it? Well this week to calm ourselves with the craziness of 2020 we decided randomly to watch "On Golden Pond". That’s right, I had never seen it. 


I am sure that 99% of you have seen this movie but for those 1%-ers (the non-movie-watching people, not the super rich people). It's about this older couple, played by Henry Fonda and Katharine Hepburn, who return to their beloved cabin on a lake and are dealing with aging. For Norman (Henry Fonda) it also means dealing with his tense relationship with his daughter, played by Jane Fonda, in the movie and in real life. BTW: Jane Fonda rocks her bikini in this 1981 movie--probably still does now.


Norman is turning 80 in the movie. What is striking is how an 80 year old is portrayed 40 years ago. He seems ancient. Today being healthy and active at 80 is so common. Many people in their 80s are doing amazing things. This week, for example, I had Richard Turner in our tiki bar studio for a socially distanced interview. Richard is 82 with a thriving photography and writing career. My wife's Great Aunt Vera is 89 and a total live wire who keeps all of us on our toes. 


Things have changed so much in the aging process. It's encouraging for us all. The key is to keep on GOING...MOVING...BE POSITIVE...THINK THE BEST OF OTHERS. This terrible COVID time has made me and everyone else slow down. In some crazy way, it has given us time to be more patient and reflective with ourselves and others.

Tags:    the carl diary   retirement   aging   thriving