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

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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