Who do we really care about and who cares about us? Who did you check in on and who checked up on you since lockdown? Many people have a new definition of family and if you had no contact with someone last year even a sibling or niece/nephew for example you have to ask what value that relationship holds going forward. I learned who I could count on in tough times.
With the success of the vaccines, we are beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel of this difficult period in our history. But before we jump back into the routine of the normal life that we lived in 2019, it would be a shame not to pause to reflect on what we have learned during this time. The social isolation caused by the pandemic really was an opportunity for a collective pause, and a global self-assessment about who we really are, and what we really want in life. With that in mind, I created this series called “5 Things I Learned From The Social Isolation of the COVID19 Pandemic”, and I had the pleasure of interviewing Paige Arnof-Fenn.
Paige is the founder & CEO of global marketing and digital branding firm Mavens & Moguls based in Cambridge, MA. Her clients include Microsoft, Virgin, venture-backed startups as well as non profit organizations. She graduated from Stanford University and Harvard Business School. She is a popular speaker and columnist who has written for Entrepreneur and Forbes.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Our readers like to get an idea of who you are and where you came from. Can you tell us a bit about your background? Where do you come from? What are the life experiences that most shaped your current self?
I am a child of the 60s and 70s who grew up in the Deep South. I am the oldest of 3 and was always a good student and athlete growing up.. From a young age I loved sports, movies, TV and travel. I was an exchange student in France in high school and Italy in college. As an adult I have lived and worked in NYC, LA, Bay Area, Atlanta, DC, Cincinnati, etc. but have been in Boston for the past 20+ years. After graduating college with a degree in Economics, I started my career in finance on Wall Street in the 80s, got an MBA and had a successful career in Corporate America at companies like Procter & Gamble and Coca-Cola and worked at 3 different startups as the head of marketing before they went public or were sold. I took the leap into entrepreneurship right after 9/11 when the company I worked for cut their marketing. I had nothing to lose. I have never looked back and love being an entrepreneur.
I was raised to be responsible, honest, hard working, and confident — all great qualities for an entrepreneur. Both my grandfathers were successful entrepreneurs and only one graduated from high school. My dad took a more traditional corporate path and my mom stayed at home and I had always assumed I would. go into business (vs law or medicine) and follow in my dad’s footsteps. My parents always supported me to challenge the status quo and question authority when I had done my homework and could make a strong case which is also great training for becoming an entrepreneur. They were also very proud of me and encouraging when my high school guidance counselor told me I needed more back up schools because I was shooting too high for college and I went ahead and applied to my top choices anyway. My mother reminded that man every time she saw him how much I loved going to college at Stanford and getting my MBA at Harvard Business School so I come by my renegade tendencies naturally I guess. My parents seemed to get me when I tried to bend, break or change the rules if I had a solid argument so I learned early on to not stop just because someone says no. That is such an important part of being an entrepreneur and has served me and. my business very well.
Are you currently working from home? If so, what has been the biggest adjustment from your previous workplace? Can you please share a story or example?
Yes and I am very concerned about the spread of this virus and the short and long term impact it will have on the economy. The biggest change for me, my team and my clients from the virus so far is the shutdown of all networking events, travel and conferences. This is typically a very busy time with many events, trade shows, business meetings on the road, etc. and for the past year everyone is staying put and meeting virtually instead. I have had more Zoom and Skype calls in the past 15 days than the prior 12 months! Pivoting to online meetings, webinars, etc. is a smart and productive way companies can continue to have conversations that educate and inform, build relationships and move forward during this crisis period. So first and foremost I have learned to help small businesses to be flexible and open minded so we can keep working together during the crisis and create more flexible capacity going forward over the next year as the economy reopens. If small groups on the team want to talk through specific issues (managing anxiety, kids, parents, etc.) virtual coffee meetings online have been helpful too. A few colleagues have even met online after work for virtual happy hour/beer/cocktails as well when they had more time to chat. It is starting to feel like the new normal by leveraging technology to build and maintain my relationships. We have learned that finding routines and things we can control helps I think.
What do you miss most about your pre-COVID lifestyle?
Seeing and spending time with family and friends, live music/concerts, travel and eating out!
The pandemic was really a time for collective self-reflection. What social changes would you like to see as a result of the COVID pandemic?
Equality, justice, fairness and peace. It is time to get these right. We have to lead by example.
What if anything, do you think are the unexpected positives of the COVID response? We’d love to hear some stories or examples.
Time with my husband, being in closer touch with old friends, slowing down and realizing who and what truly matters in my life. Also my routine has changed since Covid began. I am sleeping more (10+ vs 5 hours per night) so am starting my day much later than before. After a morning workout, showering and eating breakfast I am at my desk non stop most of the day now. I think I am more productive and efficient now than I was before, a silver lining in the crisis! By being organized and setting my schedule in advance I find I am actually sleeping more, eating healthier and getting more done in fewer hours now. I have always been a morning person so once I start my day it flies until lunch. I always eat breakfast and like to work out in the mornings to get my day off to a strong start. I feel I have more energy all day when my heart and brain kick right in! It all starts with a great night’s sleep though! Nothing beats a great night’s sleep to be an effective CEO, it works for me. Even if I do not always have balance I am able to integrate my work and my life in a good way.
How did you deal with the tedium of being locked up indefinitely during the pandemic? Can you share with us a few things you have done to keep your mood up?
Lots of virtual coffees and cocktails on Zoom, chatting by phone with friends and loved ones, I have a list of projects and ideas to keep me busy too — read, clean out my basement, finally organize the photos and scrapbook, do craft projects, play board games, binge watch shows and movies I missed, and do puzzles with my fellow quarantines. My knitting groups and the tai chi studio have been meeting at our regular times online too which has been great. It is starting to feel like the new normal by leveraging technology to build and maintain my relationships and stay balanced.
Aside from what we said above, what has been the source of your greatest pain, discomfort or suffering during this time? How did you cope with it?
Last year was the first Thanksgiving we did not spend with my sister’s 3 kids (ages 13–18) who we are very close to and everyone in her family had milestone birthdays since the pandemic too. I was sad we were not able celebrate together or take a trip but we found special ways to do it virtually.
OK, wonderful. Here is the main question of our interview. What are your “5 Things I Learned From The Social Isolation of the COVID19 Pandemic? (Please share a story or example for each.)
We have learned so much about ourselves, our work, our communities, our government and each other during the pandemic over the past year. Specifically…
- Who do we really care about and who cares about us? Who did you check in on and who checked up on you since lockdown? Many people have a new definition of family and if you had no contact with someone last year even a sibling or niece/nephew for example you have to ask what value that relationship holds going forward. I learned who I could count on in tough times.
- What activities got you through the downturn? Exercise? Nature? Hobbies? Music? What did you miss (or not) from life before? I learned how to adjust my exercise routine, knitting/tai chi/qigong and relaxing to a virtual environment.
- Where did you find the most joy, peace and happiness? I learned old friendships can be rekindled and there are many benefits to slowing down and noticing simple pleasures.
- When did you feel anxious? Strong? Confident? Did it change as the past year progressed? I think many of us are stronger than we realized.
- Why did it take a global shutdown for so many to learn these things? I have a new level of appr eciation for what and who matters most in my life.
We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them.
I’d choose Michelle Obama I think her perspective and experience will be critical to our future success and she will be part of the solution to many of our problems now. She is smart, kind, and makes things happen. Michelle can be the catalyst that lights the spark on our new path.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this. We wish you continued success and good health.
Thanks so much it’s been my pleasure, stay well!