Three things vulnerability has taught me about connecting.


If you have been following along recently on Instagram and this here blog, you know that I’ve been embarking on the #77DaysOfReal project.

It’s a quest for more vulnerability and honesty. It’s a celebration of imperfection. And it’s an opportunity to talk about some of the stuff that may feel a little scary otherwise.

I’ve been playing with the concept daily (mainly on Instagram) and it’s changing the way I observe my surroundings and observe myself.


Here are three things I have discovered:

1. Scared of something? You’re not alone.

I know this is quite common for many people, but I often get nervous before public speaking. Even now that I’m speaking several times a month, I still get butterflies.

As someone who wants to do more speaking engagements and corporate trainings, I was afraid to admit this but decided to put it out there regardless. I’m glad I did because I learned that I am not alone in this, and I found out some of my favorite speakers get the pre-talk jitters as well.

It just goes to show that if you have a fear, most likely someone else has experienced something similar. And it doesn’t mean that you can’t do it anyway.

2. There’s a whole lot of humor to be found when things get real.

Believe it or not the post that I had more people aske about/mention was the one where I confessed that I wear socks to bed. (Yes. I wear socks to bed.)

It’s ridiculous but true. I guess this one is NOT so common as it seemed to baffle several other friends.

We all have quirks and embarassing moments. They get a lot easier to handle when laughter is involved.

3. It’s worth it to wax imperfect.

There were several times where it was hard for me to press the share button. It wasn’t easy to admit some of these things sbout myself. (Specifically this and this.)

But just putting it out there feels great. And people relate. And things don’t feel so heavy in your heart if you can share them.

I also found that accepting imperfection in myself has made it easier to accept imperfections of others. And somehow, this project helped me to find the courage to have some difficult and uncomfortable conversations that I have been avoiding for years.


What’s the bottom line? When you decide to open up, connections get stronger.

And what you perceive as a weakness usually makes you more relatable and likeable. (It can even be your superpower as Alexandra Franzen describes it.)

That’s a huge relief. 🙂

I hope you enjoyed these mini lessons in vulnerability. There is still plenty of time to play along, and I challenge you to share something real today or join me in sharing something every day as we count down to 2014. Don’t forget to use the hashtag #77DaysOfReal if you are sharing on social media.

Peace and Love,


P.S. I wasn’t aware how vulnerability has become such a “thing.” I love it! I believe it’s mostly thanks to Brene Brown. After my last email, several people recommended that I check out her Ted Talks (they rock!) and I’m looking forward to reading her book, Daring Greatly.

Interview #100: Frank Battista

Here it is. Interview #100 featuring the one and only Frank Battista.

I met Frank a few years ago when I started swinging by Commonplace Coffee as part of my morning routine.

The stops at the coffee shop soon became not only an opportunity for a warm and comforting beverage (I love the raspberry patch tea) but also time to catch up with friendly and funny … Frank!

As someone who’s observed Frank interact with a broad spectrum of customers, I’m amazed how he handles all personalities with ease. Regulars and strangers alike, somehow he is able to make them smile and laugh.

Frank treats everyone with respect and patience. I admire his pace in life. He is steady, present, and doesn’t rush.

I saved Frank’s interview for capstone of this project because what sticks out to me most about Frank is his kindness.

And after 100 interviews, I realize that this is what Yinzpiration is all about.

Yes the affordability of Pittsburgh is awesome.
Yes it’s incredible to be leaders in healthcare and technology.
Yes we have amazing food, talented musicians, and an innovative community of artists.
Yes we have the best end-of-tunnel experience ever known to humankind.

But if we forget to say hello, listen, and high-five one another we miss the mark.

So what do you say we help Pittsburgh top the “friendliest” charts?! It’s people like you and people like Frank that are going to make it happen.

Enjoy Frank’s Q&A!

Name: Frank Battista

Job title: Barista/Educator/Steward with Commonplace Coffee Co.

Twitter: If you hear me say something worth tweeting feel free to do so.

Blog: Posted a thing once.

Neighborhood you live in: Central North Side, Allegheny City Central, Mexican War Streets. It depends on who you ask.

Coffee Shop Drink of Choice: Espresso/Cappuccino

Current Shampoo Preference: Whatever is present at the time but I identify as ‘baking soda-curious’.

Why do you choose Pittsburgh as your home?
I grew up in the South Hills. I wanted to go live in the woods as I didn’t quite care for the suburbs or cities. After living in Chicago and NYC i found that cities do indeed have redeemable qualities. Upon returning to Pittsburgh i found many of those redeemable qualities here, just not as obviously present. My family and I find Pittsburgh to be quite comfortable, an interesting study in history and development, stocked well enough with yummy food and drink and all with an approachable cost of living. Above all though we have a great community of family and friends here and a sense of this being our present and seemingly a good portion of our future. It is also nice that we always have a sense of ‘ooooh’ whenever we see the city we call home.

Who do you spend your time with?
Mostly: Belle (wife), Viggo (son, 3), Zali (daughter, 2), Henri (canine, 5). I also appreciate the company of a wide variety of people whom I know from different seasons of life and different venues.

What are your favorite aspects of your job?
The opportunity to serve someone a thing that is nice. I currently work for a company that I feel I have found a home in with Commonplace Coffee Co.. The coffee industry is a great window into how the world works. Coffee provides a context to discuss: agriculture, education, chemistry, physics, sociology, economics, ethics, the environment, design, friendship, neighborliness, history, politics, etc.. I claim to know very little abut any of these things but it is nice to have access to thinking about and practicing them within the context of my vocation.

Do you have a soul food?
Popcorn. A REALLY big bowl of stove top-popped with butter and light sprinkling of Kosher flake salt.

What are some of your recent personal goals?

  1. Figure out some personal goals.
  2. Practice contentment.
  3. Be a great husband and parent.
  4. Be a great friend and neighbor.

What are some of your favorite Pittsburgh restaurants?

  • Korea Gardens
  • Sultan’s Market (This is actually in Chicago, but let’s pretend.)

Describe your ideal day.
Generally speaking this would include: time with my family, a nice coffee beverage, a really great sandwich, lots of walking/no time in the car, crossing something off of the ‘to do’ list, running into people I know, getting to go out of my way to do something nice for someone, having a surreal experience, eating some grilled food and a bit of a beverage on the front stoop to close out.

What is the most memorable live show you have seen in Pittsburgh?

Small: The first time I saw Slim Cessna’s Auto Club, Club Cafe’ 2010

Medium: Swell Season/The Frames, Byham Theater 2008

Large: Sigur Ros, Stage AE 2014

Colossal: U2, Heinz Field 2011 (There was this spider—hanging underneath the catwalk that Bono was on—that had no idea where he was.)

What do you think Pittsburgh will be like in ten years? What do you love most about the city?
I referred to Pittsburgh as ‘the city of unrealized potential’ from the time I moved back in 2004. I have however quieted that phrase over the past several years as Pittsburgh seems to have become ‘the city of realizing potential’. I could actually see this city in some ways being unrecognizable in ten years rom what it was 10 years ago. I am thankful to those who have either returned to their hometown or those who have made the choice to adopt this city and bring some freshness to it. As for the future, I really hope that one thing this city maintains is the sense of being a small town and that the inter-connectedness continues to be one of its defining traits. I really love a lot of things about Pittsburgh. It’s a hard task to choose the most loved thing. I love some people, the topography, the history, the unpolished-ness and the fact that the city is nestled amongst so many trees, waterways and other natural things.

25 Creative ways to spark connection.


Do you have a desire to meet new people?

(Or connect on a deeper level with the people who are already in your life.)

I find that sometimes it’s just a matter of knowing where to start, and making it a practice to put yourself in situations that provide opportunities to connect.

I wanted to share some quick and easy ideas with you today so that you can start rocking some sweet connection action.

Practice one of these a day and you’re life will change. I promise!


1. Write a letter or Facebook Message to a long lost childhood friend.

2. Host a dinner party. (I’m partial to hosting Dinfinity dinners, of course.)

3. Join a gym or start an exercise class. (It has been fun meeting new friends at Muv.)

4. Start a daily thank you note practice. (You know how I feel about this one.)

5. Call someone and express what you appreciate about them. (Happy tears alert: watch this video.)

6. Join (or start!) a Meetup.

7. Ask a neighbor if they need help with a project.

8. Start an interview blog or podcast.

9. Flower bomb someone who needs it.

10. Tweet a restaurant when you’ve had a great experience. (I had the best reuben sandwhich of my life this week at Marty’s Market. I just had to tweet about it.)

11. Give a compliment to a stranger.

12. Go to a neighborhood meeting and get involved with a community project.

13. Volunteer at a non-profit fundraiser.

14. Host a potluck at your house.

15. Go to a creative community event. I’m a big fan of Soup N’at, Awesome Pittsburgh Events, and of course CreativeMornings/Pittsburgh.

16. Write a haiku about someone or a place you love and then share it with them.

17. Read a book and then write the author and tell them what you enjoyed.

18. Comment on a blog post that inspired you.

19. Organize or join a retreat. (We’ve got an exciting one in the works at Propelle.)

20. Write an article for the paper or offer to write a guest post for a blog.

21. Already planning on attending an event? Invite a friend or two along with you.

22. Volunteer at a nursing home.

23. Turn an instagram photo into an actual postcard and send it to someone.

24. Make an email introduction to two people that should know each other.

25. Give away something you no longer use to to someone who needs it.


I know there are a million other ideas out there … what do you have to add to the list?

My challenge to you? Pick three and complete them this week.

I dare you!

Peace and Love,


10 Things to love about Pittsburgh’s Oakland

A few weeks ago as I was walking down Forbes Avenue between Pitt and CMU, I was struck by an amazing scene. It was a beautiful summer day, the sun was out and a light breeze carried cool air along with the bustle of students from all over the world heading to summer classes. The Cathedral of Learning towered over the buildings ahead, its elegant gothic architecture somehow able to complement the classic brick buildings that still line the neighborhood’s business districts. The smell of freshly prepared food was on the air, Frisbees were flying and music could be heard in the distance. It was the perfect reflection of summer in Pittsburgh, past, present and future, and it was all to be had in one place: Oakland.

From my first day of preschool to my last day of graduate school at CMU, Oakland has been the neighborhood where I’ve either lived, been schooled or, most recently, owned a business. It’s a diverse neighborhood that is complex, exciting and defies any sort of neat categorization. Picking my 10 favorite things was not easy, but it sure was fun.

1. Cathedral of Learning

Photo Via

A good place to start is with Oakland’s most iconic building, the Cathedral of Learning. Home to many classrooms and offices of the University of Pittsburgh, it also happens to be the second tallest educational building in the world, a great place to study and a beautiful building to take in a unique view of the city (head up to the 36th floor to see what I mean). The first floor of the building also happens to be a spitting image of Hogwarts, which is pretty freakin’ awesome.

2. The O

Photo Via

Technically called Essie’s Original Hot Dog Shop, the O is best known for delicious dogs, enormous quantities of French fries and basically never being closed. Although sometimes given a bad rap, The O is a must-experience Oakland destination. And make sure you bring some friends, because a medium fry comfortably serves four.

3. Dave & Andy’s

Photo Via

One scoop of birthday cake ice cream + a waffle cone with two M&M’s in the bottom = Dave & Andy’s. Arguably the best ice cream in the city, all of Dave & Andy’s 200 flavors are homemade and delicious. Be warned, though – after you get used to M&M’s in the bottom of the waffle cone, every time you’re finishing up ice cream from another place and there aren’t any in the bottom, it’ll taste like a broken promise.

4. Community

Oakland Pittsburgh Neighborhood

In addition to being home to several vibrant university communities, Oakland also has a very strong local business and resident community. Represented by great organizations like the Oakland Business Improvement District, Oakland Planning and Development Corporation and the Oakland Community Council, all parts of the neighborhood are engaged and working to keep the neighborhood strong.

Photo Credit: Rick Armstrong

5. Innovation Central

Oakland is Pennsylvania’s third largest economic center behind Center City Philly and Downtown Pittsburgh, and one of the reasons for that is the huge amount of innovation coming out the neighborhood’s universities and institutions. Oakland is also home to Revv Oakland, Project Olympus, and Idea Foundry, three startup incubators that support Pittsburgh’s vibrant and growing entrepreneur community.

As of this month, Oakland is also home to the first neighborhood in Pennsylvania with a web mobile app – The Oakland Scene! Check it out to find things to see and do in the neighborhood.

6. Sandwiches

I have a confession to make: I love sandwiches. Thankfully for me, Oakland has the best selection of sandwich awesomeness the city has to offer. In addition to a great Primanti’s location, Oakland also boasts Uncle Sam’s, Fuel & Fuddle, the Pittsburgh Pretzel Sandwich Shop and for something a little different, Eat Unique.

7. Batman

Where does Bane attack Batman? Right next to the columns of Mellon Institute on Fifth Avenue. How awesome is that?

8. Oodles of History and Culture

Between the historic buildings, Carnegie Museums, the Phipps Conservatory and the music and theater performances at Pitt, CMU and the Pittsburgh Playhouse, Oakland offers the widest variety of cultural activities available in Pittsburgh.

9. Schenley Plaza & Park

Photo Via

Before Schenley Plaza was built, I’d never heard of a parking lot being turned back into paradise. Located between the Cathedral of Learning, Hillman Library, Carnegie Library and Pitt’s Frick Fine Arts Building, Schenley Plaza is in a prime spot for outdoor recreation and relaxation. On Fridays during the summers, WYEP features live music and a little down the way, movies are shown on Flagstaff Hill every Wednesday and Sunday.

10. Public Transportation

After Downtown, there is no other neighborhood in Pittsburgh that is better connected to public transit than Oakland (just ask Pitt and CMU students). It’s one of the reasons that Oakland is active and vibrant year-round, and one of these days we’ll finally get an extension of the T into Oakland (right, Bill Peduto?). 🙂


Oakland really has it all, and this list only scratches the surface. I’d love to hear about what your favorite parts are, and don’t forget to download the Oakland Scene App to connect to great things to see and do in the neighborhood!