As I mentioned earlier, I had a lot of family members shut my idea down in the beginning. The concept of millennials giving up their phones to play seemed foreign to them. Over the years, some of these earlier naysayers have been able to attend my events in order to experience TTYL firsthand to get a better understanding.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Liana Pavane. Liana is a digital wellness expert and founder of TTYL — a tech-free community dedicated to human connection. Liana founded TTYL in 2018 to help people have a healthier relationship with technology and social media. Since launching, she has been featured on NY1, Bedford + Bowery, The Joy List, the SHIPS podcast, and more for her work in digital wellness. As a professional community builder, Liana believes in the power of unplugging and living in the present moment. Her tech-free events have been hosted at prominent spaces such as Athleta, Showfields, The Assemblage, The Phluid Project, and Tijuana Picnic. Liana is also a born and raised New Yorker who studied theatre at Ithaca College. When she’s not growing her business or hosting an event, you can find Liana networking with like-minded people or finding joy away from her phone.
Thank you so much for joining us! Are you working on any new or exciting projects now? How do you think that will help people?
Iam! I’m working on a dating series called PLAYdate. In today’s society, especially in New York City, the dating world is rough. Everyone is on the apps and swiping primarily based on looks. At PLAYdate, personality becomes the most important component for a match. Nostalgic activities, such as board games, coloring, and play-doh, also allow everyone to feel comfortable without their phones. In addition, there will be a dating & sex professional providing group programming for the evening. I believe this will break down boundaries and invite everyone to be themselves rather than what they portray on an online dating profile.
In your opinion, what do you think makes your company or organization stand out from the crowd?
Unlike other social clubs, TTYL is a tech-free community which is already a huge differentiator. . Imagine a space where nobody cares what you look like because nothing is being documented. Without your phone, you worry less about the superficial stuff and become more engaged with what’s going on in the present. TTYL provides freedom away from the world’s distractions — like social media and the news — that we are constantly reminded of on our personal devices. Unlike other social clubs, TTYL also encourages both individual reflection and social engagement. We encourage you to free your kid at heart, let loose, and truly be yourself. By removing phones from our events, it forces people to interact, which is, in turn, solving the biggest issue in today’s society: loneliness. Also, TTYL is as much of a community as it is a fun pop-up experience. It’s a place for people to catch up with their friends, to walk out with a new one, and reconnect with themselves. TTYL is a self-care movement, and I believe New Yorkers are going to search for even more tech-free spaces in the years to come.
Ok, thank you for that. I’d like to jump to the main focus of this interview. Has there ever been a time that someone told you something was impossible, but you did it anyway? Can you share the story with us? What was your idea? What was the reaction of the naysayers? And how did you overcome that?
When I first came up with my idea for TTYL, a tech-free community for adults dedicated to human connection, I got a lot of scoffs — mostly from older family members, including my parents, and some friends as well. No one thought that millennials would want to give up their phones for anything. Social media was at its peak and influencers were reaching celebrity status while actually making a living off of their posts. I held the idea in the back of my head for months.
As I entered the corporate world, I became even more fed up with social media and how much of a time sucker it was. After deleting my Snapchat and going on a five-day detox in the fall of 2017, I knew that this feeling of liberation from social media was something that other people felt (or needed) as well. I decided to trust my gut and brought the idea up again to my close friends. My best friend was ultimately the one who encouraged me to go for it (and offered to create my logo). As soon as she presented me with the logo, there was no turning back and it was the very moment it all became real.
In the end, how were all the naysayers proven wrong? 🙂
I hosted my first TTYL pop-up event at The Phluid Project on 1/18/2019. When 50 people showed up to my first event, I knew I was onto something. Even my parents couldn’t believe it when they saw all of these strangers coming together and mingling — WITHOUT their phones — over board games, coloring books, and play-doh. Of course, like any new business, there have been some ups and downs over the years, but whenever I’d hear feedback like “this was just like therapy,” I knew that people really needed these tech-free zones in their lives and I was going to do whatever it took to bring them to even more people. The “naysayers” began to trust my idea as more and more articles about digital wellness began showing up in the paper, and then the press began to knock on my door as well. In the end, I felt completely supported and was told to follow my dreams no matter what. It’s been extremely exciting to watch my dreams become a successful reality.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
There have been so many people in my life that have helped me during this entrepreneurial journey. Around the same time that I was starting TTYL, my sister was also starting her own recruiting company, The Hire. Since we were both building businesses from the ground up, she had tons of insight to provide, particularly on the business side. Perhaps the thing I am most grateful for was that she suggested I become a recruiter while I grew TTYL. I took her advice and that experience taught me how to be an excellent salesperson, which I’ve been able to apply to everything from selling my events to following-up with business contacts in a professional manner. It was also really nice to be able to talk to someone who was going through similar challenges as me — something I’m still grateful for today.
It must not have been easy to ignore all the naysayers. Did you have any experiences growing up that have contributed to building your resiliency? Can you share the story with us?
I studied theater in college, which is perhaps the hardest industry to throw yourself into. Although I wasn’t on the auditioning side (since I focused on directing and playwriting) it still involved a lot of competition. I found myself constantly comparing my talents to other classmates and competing with them for summer internship opportunities. That experience taught me how to stay true to myself and bounce back if I heard “no.”
Another experience that helped me build resilience was after my first year of college when I got a job as a sales associate at a boutique in New York City. Having that on-the-floor customer service experience definitely taught me how important it was to have thick skin and maintain your cool under pressure. As mean comments were thrown my way almost every day, I learned that whenever people were rude, they were just projecting their own issues onto me. From that point on, I’ve been a lot better at handling constructive criticism and moving on gracefully.
Based on your experience, can you share 5 strategies that people can use to harness the sense of tenacity and do what naysayers think is impossible? (Please share a story or an example for each)
- Your brand values matter…
I was out to dinner with two people who have continuously supported my events and wanted to partner with me for their own tech-free event. While we were discussing my involvement at the event, one of them mentioned how my slogan sounded sexual. My slogan, for reference, is “move your lips, not your thumbs.” Not only was the comment inappropriate, but it was child-like and derailed the conversation for the rest of the dinner. Instead of getting defensive, I stood my ground and simply stated, “you’re the first person who has said that to me” and attempted to move on.. My takeaway from that experience was that that person’s criticism was a manifestation of their own jealousy and an attempt to bring me down. Ultimately, I decided not to partner with them. After all, TTYL is a judgment-free zone, and that’s what I look for in potential partners too.
2. Nothing but a number…
As a young entrepreneur, I believe it’s valuable to surround myself with older generations and receive guidance. Since they’ve had way more life experience than me, I appreciate hearing advice on what they wish they would’ve done differently. However, sometimes some begin to spew their opinions at me even when I didn’t ask for it. For example, I recently met someone for coffee because they had reached out to me with an idea of how they could help me with my business. I thought, great! The more ideas I could get, the better. However, the conversation began to derail as they began to tell me that, to them, my business model was “small-minded” and that I should be thinking about x, y, and z instead. In response, I kindly explained to them my business mission and how what they had in mind wasn’t the goal of what I was trying to achieve with TTYL. My takeaway from this experience was that not everyone will relate to your business, and that’s okay. I chose to shake off the encounter and use it as a lesson on how to stay true to the people I serve rather than worrying about the people I ultimately can’t serve..
3. Keep competition friendly…
As one of the pioneers of the digital wellness space, everyone knows everyone. There are a ton of groups and collectives I’ve leveraged to connect with like-minded individuals and companies all over the world. I ended up meeting someone from one of these groups for coffee with another friend of mine in the wellness industry. The two of them seemed to hit it right off, however, the same didn’t go for me. The person who’d invited me to join their coffee date oddly wouldn’t give me the time of day. She spent the conversation painting herself as superior and remained dismissive. . Then, at the end of the conversation, she concluded by offering her services to us. Yes, she literally pitched my friend and I to purchase her offers. I instantly realized that she was in this for all the wrong reasons. Of course, monetizing your ideas is important, but so is relationship building. I used this experience as a way to be grateful for the genuine connections I’ve been able to make in the wellness community and to continue manifesting more meaningful relationships that don’t come with a price tag.
4. Use real life to inspire your business…
Can I tell you how fun it is to date as an entrepreneur on a scale of 1 to 10? A negative 100. The second anyone on a dating app asks what I do, I’m either ghosted or get harassed with questions about my business plan. Through dating, I’ve learned that most men are still intimidated by bold and entrepreneurial women. So, it’s proven difficult for me to meet someone who respects my ambition and can match it in their own industry. Still, what I’ve learned from is, if you’re communicating with someone via the internet, just ask to grab a drink or coffee sooner rather than later and let them ask you all the questions they want in real life. Entrepreneurship gets a bad rep for being pretentious, so I find that having them see my down-to-earth personality first is the way to go. Besides, the purpose of dating apps isn’t to have an online relationship… It’s to make in-person dating even easier. Another perk to this experience was the idea for PlayDATE, which I had mentioned earlier. This goes to show that sometimes our negative real-life experiences can help create positive business ideas!
5. Spread the word, mindfully…
As I mentioned earlier, I had a lot of family members shut my idea down in the beginning. The concept of millennials giving up their phones to play seemed foreign to them. Over the years, some of these earlier naysayers have been able to attend my events in order to experience TTYL firsthand to get a better understanding. Even those who haven’t been able to make it in person have started to receive my monthly newsletter, Wellness Unplugged. In my newsletter, they get to virtually witness the growth of TTYL through upcoming events, photos of past events., press, and partnerships. That’s one of the huge benefits of technology — being able to spread the word on new ideas, events, and perspectives. The trick, to me, is to use the technology we have available more mindfully and that’s the goal of my newsletter. This way, I’m not focusing my energy on trying to convince anyone about my business. I’m simply letting them see it for themselves and let TTYL speak for itself!
What is your favorite quote or personal philosophy that relates to the concept of resilience?
My personal philosophy and favorite quote is, “You can do anything, but you can’t do everything,” from Gretchen Rubins of “The Happiness Project.” This has become my mantra in everything I do, specifically when it relates to my business. Recently, I hired someone to help me with marketing because I was overwhelmed with the amount of administrative work I had to do and needed help to take my brand to the next level. This shift in mindset helped me devote more time to focus on “CEO tasks” rather than administrative ones. It wasn’t that I couldn’t do all the things, it’s that — if I really wanted to grow my business — my time was better served elsewhere
Similarly, in my personal life, I no longer force myself into situations that I know I won’t enjoy. If I get invited to an event or even a friend’s party that I know I won’t enjoy, I just don’t go. Instead I choose to do something that will truly fulfill me. I’ve come to realize that life is too short to put yourself into awkward situations on purpose. I’d much rather thrive in situations where I can be myself and those are the experiences I seek.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good for the greatest number of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.
I’m happy to say that my movement already exists, and it’s what my brand, TTYL, is all about. I’m calling the tech-free movement the next self-care movement of the 21st century. Why? Because I believe there’s a considerable need for connection in today’s increasingly lonely society. As I’m writing in a coffee shop, I see two couples actually engaging with one another. One with their phones in front of them. When I leave this coffee shop and walk around this city, I know I’ll see everyone walking with their heads down. No one is smiling at each other anymore. No one is going about their day to take care of themselves. So I ask you, what if we actively chose to take care of ourselves before anyone else? What if we designated time to our technology throughout our day rather than being attached to it 24/7? What if we decided to take our lives back in our own hands — the same hands that usually have a cellphone in them? That’s what TTYL is all about, and I believe it’s a movement with so much potential because it’s focusing on reconnecting by disconnecting for the greater good. TTYL is a mindful force that helps remind everyone that they can, in fact, play again without worrying about the judgment of others Because since when did we become too old to be ourselves? I don’t think we have, and I want to change that, one tech-free space at a time.
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