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The Power of Partnership

Power of Partnership

James Joyce called it an epiphany, that moment, known to all of us, when life or some form of intuition seems to spark a new idea or creative endeavor.

Mine began as a spark and consumed me for the better part of last year– just when I was ready to take a sabbatical from writing.

“Let’s take a year off and concentrate on growing Visionary Women nonprofit,” I told myself.  I certainly have spent a good deal of time with my fellow co-founders in creating a dynamic women’s leadership platform in Los Angeles, and I am happy to announce that the hard work has paid off.

But just a few months into my sabbatical, I jumped right in and started reading the biographies of important change makers.  And then, out of nowhere, it struck me!  So many of the women I have written about have had fathers or men as their mentors, allies, and partners.

Sandra Day O’Connor, Shirin Neshat, Malala Yousafzai, Marina Abramovic, Amelia Earhart, Miuccia Prada, and Marie Curie are but a few women in my previous book, Visionary Women, who had a male figure or partner steadfastly supporting their work and advocacy.

And this flash of an idea was the catalyst for my year-long research and exploration on the dynamics of male-female partnerships.

It is uncanny, how this topic has captured our attention in the past few months. Men and women in every part of the world are struggling to come to terms with the global epidemic of sexual violence and the opportunities and challenges of gender dynamics.

The current state of affairs only creates a much-needed sense of urgency to discuss the ways in which men can become (and many are indeed) our potential allies and supporters in women’s growth.

Considering this momentum, I find it most interesting to step back and take a closer look at the dynamics of some of the world’s most important male-female partnerships.

How have partnerships changed through time? What are the varying dynamics of some of the world’s most important partnerships? What happens when the female partner has been the focus of attention or vice versa? And, most importantly what makes for a gratifying and productive partnership? Some of my case studies will be husband and wife teams, while others will be partners in work only.

Above all, one quality seems to stand out more than any other—partnerships are energized by a shared purpose and a desire for collective success. And when partners bring out the best qualities in the other and complement each other’s strengths, the output and creativity is exponential.

As Rei Kawakubo, the revolutionary founder of Commes de Garcon, once said in a Wall Street Journal interview, ”Collaborations have no meaning if 1 + 1 does not equal much more than 2.”

Just recently, while I was going through the vast TED TALKS library, I came across a fabulous duo— Conservationists and National Geographic Explorers in Residence, Beverly and Dereck Joubert. You will find their collaboration to be simply exhilarating and inspiring!

[To view this TED TALK, click here.]

For nearly three decades, the pair has celebrated nature and wildlife in documentaries, books, scientific journals, photographs and magazine articles. The couple’s arresting visual work has earned them five Emmys

Their life’s work validates the famous saying: “If you want to go fast, work alone. But if you want to go far, work with others.”

So, here I go! I will start the new year with writing my new book on partnerships!

Cherish Life and Live in the Moment

The months of March and April are a flurry of activity for me as I go on a self-imposed, and much-awaited break during the summer months.

I was asked of my views around work-life balance in a recent interview in Toronto. And plain and simple my response was: “I think the whole notion of balance is overused, lacking any substantiate meaning.”  You see, What I would subjectively refer to as a balanced life may be too overs-stimulating  or who knows–maybe someone else in my shoes would pack more things in their schedule yet!

The past couple of months though, I feel I have been doing double duty both at home and work—a remodel, a major move, some health issues with older family members, plus doing work, and organizing events on the two nonprofit boards that I have co-founded and traveling for my book tour to boot. 

Would I in any way, change anything about my life.  The answer is a resounding “NO”.  What I am beginning to understand through experience ( And yes… it seems like theory and other people’s wisdom are not as impactful as true-life well-earned experiences) is that life has its own ebbs and flows. Some days, I feel I am handing everything smoothly, while at other times, I feel I am overwhelmed.  But that is the reality of life, isn’t it?   

But in the midst of all this, I have come to see how much I cherish all the fullness in my life—the time spent with friends, husband and my two boys; how I get filled with so much energy when I come out of a talk or a book signing.  Each and every of these moments, when I was completely focused on experiencing that moment was fulfilling and nourishing.  

Reflecting on my speaking tour this past month, I can tell you had 3 real highlights that I would love to share.

I had been invited to be the keynote speaker for the Pepperdine University Women’s conference earlier in the month, hours before I was due to fly out to Hong Kong.  A day earlier I thought I was utterly out of my mind for keeping both of these events on my calendar.  But when the day came, I surprisingly enjoyed every single moment of the day.  I absolutely loved speaking to a group of intelligent and ambitious professionals and graduate students, who had so much to share with me as well.  I also discovered that a part of me is still that Psychology Professor of yesteryears, and I revel spending time with students, deans, and researchers.

No sooner when I returned from my trip to Hong Kong, I was on a plane heading to Austin, Texas.  Neiman Marcus was hosting a book signing and talk for me and my dear friend, Suzanne Deal Booth, was chairing the event for me.  I spent the day having girlfriend time with Suzanne, catching up over lunch and great hike near her home.  The next day, I met with so many incredibly talented women over lunch at Neiman Marcus… I met an incredible woman by the name of Megan, who had essentially organized a fundraising group to save her all- women liberal arts college from closing down.  Would you believe this core group of 8 women raised millions of dollars in the course of a month?  It is even more fascinating that they raised such a huge sum mostly through interfacing over the internet!  Now that was incredibly inspring!

And finally, I am just returning from the heals of a very special book event in Toronto. (As a matter of fact, I am writing this blog on the plane.)  Suzanne Cohon, a brilliant and exceptional executive in Toronto, had graciously organized a cocktail reception celebrating my latest book.  My friend, Ruth Mandel, who also is a member of Women Moving Millions had also invited some friends too, which brought the total of attendees to 90 people. What I loved most was the diversity of the women present.  The guests ranged from corporate executives, directors of foundations and non-profits, to moms and teachers and community activists.  There was a special electricity in the air last night as women were discussing ways in which they want to give back and also bring in the new generation of girls into the leadership fold.   Now this was the true meaning of what I wanted to accomplish with my book.

And now, as I am heading home and preparing to host our family Passover dinner, I think how lucky I am to have packed all these experiences in the past three weeks.

Who knew when I was a little girl living in Iran, that I would one day go around the world, have a meaningful and exciting vocation, and meet so many people along the way? Who knew? And the icing on the cake is that I have these loving, incredible men in my life (my boys and my husband of nearly 28 years) supporting me.  Now it makes all the madness of the days all worth it and then some!

Visionary Women’s “Women at the Forefront of Technology” Salon

Victor Hugo once said, “There is one thing stronger than all the armies in the world, and that is an idea whose time has come.” I wholeheartedly agree.

An idea, a focus, and an energy to build a community of visionary and empowered women is something that has been stirring in me for many years now.  I’ve always been fascinated by the stories of women who have broken ground in their fields – and shared a passion to know and educate others on what is it exactly that gives some that spark to create change.

For me, February 26, 2015, marks a special moment in my life. Together with the help of my talented co-founders and executive board members: Mayor Lili Bosse, Veronica Smiley, and Ambassador Nicole Avant, and committee, we launched Visionary Women into the stratosphere with the “Women at the Forefront of Technology” Salon.

Three hundred and twenty inspired women leaders and fifteen girls from Communities in Schools Los Angeles’ Ladies First program joined us for a panel discussion at the SLS Hotel in Beverly Hills to hear some of the top women leading technology today. Our panel lineup featured Dawn Ostroff, President of Condé Nast Entertainment (CNÉ), Pauline Fischer, Vice President, Original Content at Netflix, Julie Uhrman, Founder and CEO of OUYA and Doris Kim Sung, Founder of do| SU Studio Architecture.  Five-time Emmy Award winning journalist, Giselle Fernandez moderated the discussion and the attention from the audience was palpable.

Here are two of my favorite quotes from the day – although there were many:

“Listen to your inner voice. Trust your intuition. It’s important to have the courage to trust yourself.” - Dawn Ostroff

“Understand yourself enough to know what you are most passionate about. Don’t compromise on that because you are going to have to work hard no matter what.” – Julie Uhrman

I know that Visionary Women is an idea whose time has come, and I’m so grateful to have the support of so many friends, family and community members.

It’s an incredible feeling to be doing the work that you love with others whose heartbeat echoes your own.

I’m also grateful to our event sponsor NET-A-PORTER.COM, whose passion for empowering women mirrors our own.

Thank you to those of you who have supported me on all the twists and turns of this exciting journey.

~Angella

When Visions Come to Life

Marina Abramovic

There are moments in life when dreams and ambitions become realities, when we are thrust from the ordinary rhythms of life into the extraordinary. These moments serve as reminders that while the work may be long and hard, the journey is worthwhile. While writing my second book on women world changers titled, Visionary Women, I started to see one of my life-long dreams manifest.

Sandra Day O’Connor

Over the last several months, I’ve had the pleasure of interviewing some of my all-time favorite women leaders first hand (or those in their close inner circle) to round out my research. My interview list reads like the who’s who of the last century. For someone like me – interviewing these truly great individuals is a dream come true! So far, my list of interviewees includes: Katharine Graham, news magnate of the Washington Post, Sandra Day O’Connor, the first female Supreme Court Justice, Valentina Tereshkova, the first woman in space, the niece of Carmen Amaya, the world’s most famous Flamenco, Asha Kowtal, General Secretary of the National Dalit Women’s Movement, Leymah Gbowee, Liberian peace activist and Nobel laureate, the grand daughter of Madam C.J. Walker, the first female self-made millionaire, and newest and youngest Nobel Peace Prize recipient Malala Yousafzai’s partner and co-founder of the Malala Fund, Shiza Shahid.

Malala Yousafzai

My adventure continues — in the coming weeks I am flying to New York and look forward to meeting and interviewing the world famous performance artist Marina Abramovic in her studio. There is so much to glean from these amazing women, and my new book will be full of new revelations, insights, personal stories and ideas to stimulate our own growth. I look forward to sharing this incredible journey with you! So, stay tuned…

 

The Path of Devotion

This week I have been doing a lot of research and reading for my next project–chronicling visionary women of the 20th century.  It feels like I am giving a gift to myself– to read and learn about the lives of so many people who had a drive and motivation to bring about change in the world, which in turn has affected and inspired the lives of others.

Sometimes we think that changing the world has to translate into social action, but that would make for a very narrow definition of a cultural shift.  Just think about those scientists, authors, philosophers, athletes, and artists who broke boundaries in their fields. They too held true to their passion and managed to bring about a different perspective and vision to the world.  What becomes clear is that whatever these women set out to do, it first started with a very personal desire to fulfill an inner need. They dedicated their lives to its unique expression.  And their approach to their craft was much like their approach to life — it was filled with a spirit of adventure, passion, and an inner devotion to more a over-arching value.

Last week I was researching some of Martha Graham’s clips and interviews. For those of you who are not so familiar with her work, here is a concise bio:

She was an American dancer choreographer regarded as one of the foremost pioneers of modern dance, whose influence on dance can be compared to the influence Stravinsky had on music, Picasso had on the visual arts, or Frank Lloyd Wright had on architecture.

She was the first dancer ever to perform at The White House, the first dancer ever to travel abroad as a cultural ambassador, and the first dancer ever to receive the highest civilian award of the USA: the Medal of Freedom.

Obviously, she is an extraordinary woman.  But what is most amazing to me is that her approach to dance is really a spiritual philosophy of life.  Here are some of the quotes that I found so profound:

You are in competition with one person only, that is the individual you know you can become.”

“The dancer’s life is a creative life–handling the material of the self so that you are able to hold the stage in full maturity and power. You dance with clarity, the deep matters of heart.”

 

We learn by practice. Whether it means to learn to dance by practicing dancing, or to learn to live by practicing living, the principles are the same. One becomes in some area an athlete of God.”

It is obvious that the axioms for fulfillment and success are the same no matter what you undertake.  These women were able to translate these philosophies into the very heart of their lives.  No matter where we are in our journey, there is someone whose life, when contemplated on, allows us to find a richer, deeper meaning in ours than we would otherwise.  This week it has been Martha Graham’s for me!