Money, the value of a human, and what it means to apply empathy at scale

I made a lot of money last year.

I don’t have any of it, but I made it.

A significant amount went to the staggering cost of living in San Francisco for close to a year.

Another large chunk went to friends and family for various reasons – art and music projects, trips to see relatives, etc – in other words, I gave it to people who were engaged in growing their careers / passions, their families, and their hearts.

I also tipped more frequently / in higher amounts than I ever have, gave money to charitable orgs, and regularly bought food and other items for folks living on the street (most of the time I do these things quietly and quickly – there’s a more nuanced point about why, which I’ll get to later).

Then, about a month ago, I was laid off. While it wasn’t my favorite moment of the year, it certainly wasn’t the worst either.

Losing a job will definitely make you consider what growth, personal and collective, is about
Losing a job will definitely make you consider what growth, personal and collective, is about

As I write this, I’m helping bootstrap a journalism startup from $0, have a bank account in the low hundreds, and am scratching together freelance writing & content planning/strategy to make my bills.

Oddly, I’m fairly comfortable with the situation – something that surprises even me at times.

Continue reading Money, the value of a human, and what it means to apply empathy at scale


How to figure out if someone is a friend or acquaintance (a person review of Gini Dietrich)

*Note: there is a short plug for my friend’s book in this. I received a free copy a while back, but I also bought one because it’s great

The prototypical Gini Dietrich mischievous smile
The prototypical Gini Dietrich mischievous smile

You can only have so many friends.

This is one of those problems that we all face… the truth is, of the hundreds or perhaps thousands of connections you have online, how many of them could you possibly be sync’d with on a deeper level? You hit the upper limit pretty quickly, as anyone who’s blogged for personal or professional reasons can attest to.

And even more interesting than that, you don’t necessarily need constant contact to be good friends with someone. It’s not the frequency but the quality of the actual content exchanged between people that builds the relationship.

An acquaintance asks “how can I use you”

Lots of people talk about content and context and all sorts of buzzword-y marketing things, but most seem to get bogged down in basic transactions.

This is true of many of my acquaintances – people ask me all the time to share blog posts, contacts, what they’re working on, etc… and expect that if I liked something in the past that I’ll like whatever else they do. I’m not necessarily judgmental about this, it’s human nature, and I’m always happy to take a look.

Continue reading How to figure out if someone is a friend or acquaintance (a person review of Gini Dietrich)

“Every Wall Has An Opening” – A reflection on questions, context, and building intimacy

For years I’ve been quietly practicing the art of getting to know people, often quite quickly. To put it in different words, I learned how to build intimacy.

The road there has been a combination of a few things. Some of it is my background in acting, some of it is my love for journalism and storytelling, and a bit of it is just generally learning to ask questions that help people open up about what they like to do and where their passions lie.

It’s a more difficult skill than most people think, and I’d like to share both a little bit about how I approach it, and also some specific examples. One small disclaimer: this is something I’ve learned to do over time, and it’s not a recipe to manipulate people or get things that you want, although those are both possibilities. The risk, if you do go that route, is closing people off and making the walls higher and more solid, and of course along with that building a reputation for being selfish and advancing your own needs and wants completely at the cost of other people. I think that’s probably reason enough in itself to avoid using this framework in a negative way, but it’s important to remember that there is value and usefulness in learning from other people, and also sharing things with them.

I was home-schooled until high school and only occasionally had access to TV. As a result, a lot of my early experiences were, to be honest, mostly in books. And while my parents made sure I got some social interaction, high school and college were kind of a shocking experience for me. I had to learn to navigate environments that were completely new (there are some pros and cons to that, as you might imagine).

Continue reading “Every Wall Has An Opening” – A reflection on questions, context, and building intimacy

On legacy, and building things that matter

I’m in the midst of a short leave from work to focus on personal matters (my dad is older and I am spending some time thinking about his living situation). 

As I was wrapping up projects and handing off responsibilities before Christmas, my boss half-jokingly said she was afraid that things would fall down while I was gone. I grinned, because, yeah, I’d like to think I’m that valuable…but the truth is that if things did fall apart, I would know I hadn’t done a good job of building structure.

This is something I believe in strongly. I tend to live in the present and don’t spend a lot of time considering what people will think after I’m gone, or hey, really even what they think once I’ve left the room. But I do give a lot of thought to how the things I build will enable others to learn, think, and create structures of their own.

Continue reading On legacy, and building things that matter

How scale actually works, becoming more human, and the power of (re)negotiation

Some of the most important things I’ve learned in life were absorbed outside of a classroom or traditional setting.

Most entrepreneur types I’ve met have said the same thing – while other people were following rules, they were making their own.

Of course, I’m more into building models than making absolute statements (“books are dead!” “social media is making us zombies!” “Instagram is making all food taste [better] [worse]”) so you won’t catch me raining fire and brimstone down on anyone.

But I do believe that curiosity, inspiration, and looking for less obvious connections can give us great value.

Here are three things that no one taught me directly, but that I’ve picked up in my travels and that have been immensely useful.

It’s all about scale, but not necessarily scaling up.

In the startup world one of the questions constantly in play is: “will it scale?”

Simplified, this just means that you always want to know if something you are doing now will work when you are much bigger.

It’s a great question, and it’s part of a bigger picture concept that is often overlooked:

To build a company (or life) of consequence you need to understand ecosystem connections, big and small.

This doesn’t mean that you’re stuck on a one-way street when it comes to scale…some things are meant to be small. And even if they aren’t, the building blocks are always worth knowing about.

In science, the relationship between neutrons, protons and electrons is just as important as the relationship between stars and galaxies. Brilliant minds like Einstein, Michio Kaku, and Richard Feynman all understood the importance of this, and in a more modern example you can see it at work in companies like Google, too.

Continue reading How scale actually works, becoming more human, and the power of (re)negotiation

Just another 'zine

The Meat & Potatoes of Life

By Lisa Smith Molinari


Self-proclaimed professional bon vivant. Middle school Writing teacher. NYC is where I hang my hat. This is what's on my mind.

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Hunter Walk

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Punctuated Equilibrium: A Librarian's View of Public Policy

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Consent of the Networked

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Life Putting - Dan Putt

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The Grey Matters

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