Curated by Komal: The Power of Women Investors

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welcome!

This is a taste of my weekly newsletter, which can land in your inbox every Tuesday at 9am! Click here to subscribe. 

Let's talk about money. 

How many of you cringed when you read that? For some, the topic of money causes a knee jerk reaction that leads to avoidance, and sometimes nausea. I want to help transform that feeling.

On Sunday, I stayed overnight with my business bestie Steph in a cottage in Wakefield an hour from where I live. I had been running all weekend. I worked all-day Saturday and needed a breather to regroup and give my brain a break. Steph is always the right person to do this with. Some heart-to-heart chats and games later, we got into the good (and once again, cerebral) stuff -- for us that topic is, how do we build our wealth in meaningful, but high-growth ways?

I've realized lately that this kind of conversation isn't one that's being had enough amongst young people, especially young women. I want to change that. Over the last few years, I have accumulated more wealth, and knowledge about investing, and I've personally invested in six companies. I am an investor -- it's time for me to talk more about it.

Last week I delivered my new keynote talk in Vermont about Redefining Wealth (scroll to 4:50 to see a clip). It's my mission to build and proliferate examples of more diverse, value-driven wealth holders who aren't sexual predators, white men, addicts, or assholes. I want to see more women who look like me, Joanne Wilson, Suzanne West, Oprah, Manjit Minhas, and countless others, coming to the forefront to give the world more positive, meaningful examples of what it means to be wealthy. 

We don't have to fear money. It holds so much potential for impact, love, service, and joy. As my coach Majeed said in our training last week, "Money flows to you because you're valuable, and flows through you to what you value. Ultimately, this makes you more valuable as you invest in yourself, and into things that will have a lasting impact and growth".

For me, my most recent investment is into a new Venture Capital fund out of NYC run by a woman I admire deeply, Lindsey Taylor Wood. The Helm is a VC fund that invests exclusively in high-growth female-led tech start-ups. There's a deeply rooted community aspect to the fund that is unique and meaningful for me as I keep learning more about investing. Check out their profile in Fast Company (+ a photo of me).

I am proud to be a founding member of this fund, and to support it's growth, and long-term impact. I am putting my money where my mouth is. It's time for more women to become investors. It's scary, it's strange, and for some, it's a space that makes no sense, but I'm here to share my experience to help educate and change the ratio

My call to action is to encourage everyone, whether you have $100 or $10,000 to explore what options exist for you to invest in something you love and that can provide a meaningful (read profit and service-related) return. Check out Wealth Simple as a starting point, they can help you build a portfolio in a few quick steps. Next, talk to people in your network or family about what investing could look like for you, and finish with finding your new favourite impact investor (female or otherwise) that you'll check-in on occasionally for inspiration.

Send me what you find at komal@komedia.ca.

Let's build our wealth together and provide more examples of positive wealth accumulation. 

Until next Tuesday at 9 am,

With love,

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the vlog

Join me each week to see the behind-the-scenes action at KoMedia. This week, we head to Burlington, where I give a keynote at the Vermont Women's Fund's annual gathering! 

"It's great to see another woman up there who's doing something really meaningful using an amazing platform, like Oprah Winfrey, the White House. Someone who looks like me, who's saying things like 'get involved in business at the high school level', and to see that magnified in this way was really inspiring."
                                                                         
                                                                - Kiran, an audience member at the event!

THIS WEEK:

we're writing...

Welcome to part six of the 20-part series we're publishing on Medium called, Your Moment of Ambition.

This week, we dive into the power of female investors, and why it's so important to have women sitting on both sides of the table. 

“We all want to change the world in different ways, and angel investing is one way you can put your time and money behind making the change you want to see in the world." - Katherine Hague


Click here to check out this week’s post on Medium to find out!
 

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we're watching...

Research shows we'll lose a vast number of jobs to technology over the next decade, but scary as this may seem, David Lee says it's an opportunity to change the way we think about work -- to create human-centred jobs that don't feel like work at all. 

"When you invite people to be more, they can amaze us with how much more they can be."

we're reading...

  • FastCompany wrote a really great piece that dives into what makes The Helm, the women-centric investment fund I shared about, different. Check out the third photo!

  • Investors are missing out on a huge opportunity in the beauty industry -- a classic example of (largely) male investors underestimating the purchasing power women hold.

  • This woman self-funded her trip to SPACE. Talk about investing in yourself.

  • Buzzfeed’s powerful call to readers to tell them who the Harvey Weinsteins of every industry are. We deeply believe in the power of media, and this kind of inquiry is step one in the effort to create a world where men don’t hold (and abuse) disproportionate power over women. Woody Allen calls this a “witch hunt atmosphere”; we call it progress (shout out to all the women sharing their stores, #metoo). Part of having more women investor's will be a shift in culture -- creating more accountability in spaces where sexual harassment and assault is rampant. 

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we recommend...

If you didn't read this week's Your Moment of Ambition you're missing out on the incredible Natalia Oberti Nogeura's Pipeline Angels -- an Angel Investing Bootcamp. Maybe you're the perfect fit for the fellowship!

WE'RE PLANNING...

Startup Day on The Hill

I'm joining hundreds of other entrepreneurs and changemakers for Startup Canada's Startup Day on the Hill on October 19th, where I'll be speaking about the power of redefining wealth.

Click here to get your ticket!

RUPI KAUR PRESENTS 
Sold Out: The Sun and Her Flowers withKomal Minhas

Renowned feminist author, poet, multi-media artist and genuine international phenomenon, Rupi Kaur joins me in Ottawa for the launch of her second book, 'the sun and her flowers'. Tickets are now sold out -- thank you so much for your support! 

Curated by Komal: Self-Promotion + Integrity as a Precursor to Success

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welcome!

This is a taste of my weekly newsletter, which can land in your inbox every Tuesday at 9am! Click here to subscribe. 

So, this week we have two important topics of conversation. Self promotion. And Harvey Weinstein.

Let's begin with Weinstein. The notorious abuser, womanizer, and stereotypical Hollywood (or any field for that matter) male executive who gets off on using his power to feed his ego, and to harm dozens of women.

I read the original piece in the Times, alongside multiple articles that get deeper and deeper into his abuses, and that show a pattern in how he chose the women he would abuse, and his tactics for manipulation and for getting them alone. He created an entire company built around protecting his reputation and enabling his behaviour for over 20 years and was supported by the film industry the whole time. His films have been nominated for over 300 Oscars, many of the films are likely some of your favourites (they are mine too). How eff-ed up does that feel? 

Yesterday, Gwyneth Paltrow, Angelina Jolie, and other prominent actresses came out sharing their experiences with his harassment and assault. Twenty years ago, they had nowhere to go to report him without decimating their careers. One woman learned that even in 2015, with an undercover audio recording of him confessing his assaults, and with the support of the NYPD, it still wasn't enough to tarnish this Hollywood big wig.

But 2017 is different somehow. We have seen case after case of prominent man after man being outed, fired, and at times, taken to trial for their abuses. The timing for victims to be heard, supported, seen, and listened to is now.

So, what would happen if we enabled values-based people and organizations to lead society? What if we funded, invested in, and spent our money on content that is created by soulful, loving, grounded, whole humans? What if we shifted our current media (and societal paradigm), and supported people who weren't assholes?

Now is the time for women and men who hold great values and morals, and who choose not to harm others to be unabashedly seen in all their glory. Now is the time for women to lead the future of entertainment, and to create more of the experiences we consume. 

Last week when I witnessed my friend Rupi Kaur's theatrical release for her book in Tribeca, and felt the energy in that room of mostly female audience members feeling so seen, and having their lives and experiences mirrored to them, I knew I had a front seat to a social transformation. Creators like Rupi, Lilly Singh, Justin Baldoni, Issa Rae, Gina Rodriguez, Oprah, The Rock, and so many others are paving a path towards media we can be proud of consuming.

We represent the next wave of media makers, film producers, authors, poets, and entertainers that must be seen and heard from. It's time to support the self-promotion of people and brands that don't make us feel awful, and who aren't awful. People, products, and media that we can love consuming because we can love and support how they're made. Integrity must become a precursor to success.

Signing off until next Tuesday at 9 am.

With love,

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the vlog

Here's a look at my trip to New York City for my friend Rupi Kaur's book launch! She's been so successful at building an authentic, accessible and connected brand and it was amazing to experience that fully, and to support her launch in New York.

"We are on this ride together. We will build together, and we will rise together. Be unabashedly you, and put that shit (your art, what you are called to create) into the world. Consistently, over time." 
 

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THIS WEEK:

we're writing...

Welcome to part five of a 20-part series we're publishing on Medium called, Your Moment of Ambition.

This week, we're talking about self-promotion. As women, it can often feel unnatural or wrong to brag about our accomplishments. But the truth is, especially as a entrepreneurs, it's absolutely essential -- not to mention good for healthy levels of confidence. 

“We discourage women from being ambitious and so women run up against all kinds of barriers and disapproval when we advocate for ourselves. It’s a huge double standard that we face."

Click here to check out this week’s post on Medium!

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we're watching...

What's your story? Your answer to this question is crucial to meaningful -- and effective -- self-promotion, according to the fantastic Tiffany Dufu

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we're reading...

  • Let's watch Issa Rae build an empire, shall we? #selfpromotionistheonlypromotion
  • We can talk about self-promotion all we want, but what happens when the work you're promoting attracts outright sexism? We're nodding along to this piece about 'making while female.'
  • The Unapologetically Brown Series is a street art project that brings visibility to the important work women of colour have contributed to popular culture and to society. 
  • How the inimitable Rupi Kaur has built a literary movement by staying true to her value of accessibility (it features interviews done at her book launch, check out the vlog to see some behind-the-scenes action!). 
  • What happens when doing the work that feels most right to you means you get slapped with a less than reputable label (in this writer's case, it was "mommy blogger"). 
  • As a white man in the film industry, Harvey Weinstein's behaviour toward women never got in the way of his career, or his self-promotion -- until it couldn't be ignored any longer. His story is exemplary of the world we don't want to live in anymore, and why we're working toward one in which integrity and reputation are precursors to success. 
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we recommend...

Today is National Coming Out Day! This week, we recommend checking out these resources compiled by the Human Rights Campaign. 

Sending love and admiration to anyone who's stepping into their truth today (and every day)!

WE'RE PLANNING...

Startup Day on The Hill
I'm joining hundreds of other entrepreneurs and changemakers for Startup Canada's Startup Day on the Hill on October 19th, where I'll be speaking about the power of redefining wealth.
Click here to get your ticket!

RUPI KAUR PRESENTS 
Sold Out: The Sun and Her Flowers with Komal Minhas
Renowned feminist author, poet, multi-media artist and genuine international phenomenon, Rupi Kaur joins me in Ottawa for the launch of her second book, 'the sun and her flowers'. Tickets are now sold out -- thank you so much for your support! 

Curated by Komal: Embracing the Possibility of Failure

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welcome!

This is a taste of my weekly newsletter, which can land in your inbox every Tuesday at 9am! Click here to subscribe. 

I am writing this at 1:50 am after coming home from having dollar pizza with Rupi, her family and friends, after her phenomenal book launch in NYC.

We descended on the Tribeca Performing Arts Center early this evening, and I was all nerves and starstruck. You see, on stage with Rupi were going to be five phenomenal women, one of whom was Lilly Singh, aka iiSuperwomanii, a woman I have admired from afar for years, and whose vlogs provided me massive comfort as I faced my battle with cancer last year. The nerves were partially my own, but most were actually excitement for what Rupi was about to do.

Rupi is a New York Times bestselling author -- she's been on the list for over a year. She has sold more than a million books, and is turning 25 tomorrow. Rupi is the epitome of elegance, pure determination and grit, business savvy, unbelievable talent, and so much love. 

I am blessed to witness her take the world by storm, and tonight she levelled up hard. Tonight, we witnessed her light beam through her words into the souls of the audience. Tears, laughter, total and complete connection took place. The Sun and Her Flowers, her second book, is finally here, and Rupi is just getting started.

So why is this relevant to our discussions this week about fear of failure? For me in this particular moment, it's a reminder that even when we think we are failing and bottoming out, the people we love and hold close to our hearts may be lifting us up out of our darkness without us even realizing it.

The front end of this year took me to a darkness I never could have expected. Some of the glitters of hope and light that came through when I was down, were the updates I would receive from Rakhi (Rupi's manager, an incredible director and media force, and a dear friend), and Rupi. Knowing she would be finishing and launching her book, watching her from afar as she embarked on her global tour -- all this gave me solace as I knew I could not do the work I longed to do at that time.

Her success raised me up.

So, although today we are reflecting on experiences with failure, I urge you to think about times when you thought you failed, and to shift that memory and gain a new perspective on that moment. Who around you helped raise you up, directly (like Rupi did for me), or inadvertently (like Lilly's vlogs did for me, which I had the privilege of telling her about tonight)? Remind yourself of the love in your life, and that the choices you make, specifically the media you consume, when you are low, is deeply connected to how you can and will rise.

This right here is why I make this newsletter. Why I've been called to curate content. I want to create for you what I wish I had more of when I was at my rock bottom. What I wish I had when I needed light more than anything else.

This is my gift to you.

Let me know how you're doing this week. Shoot me an email at komal@komedia.ca, and I hope what follows below gives you the burst of something you need today.

Signing off until next Tuesday at 9 am,

With love,

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the vlog

Join me each week to see the behind-the-scenes action at KoMedia. This week, I travel home to Grande Prarie, Alberta and reflect on my body's boundaries when it comes to work. 

"Every time I work to take another step forward, I'm feeling out: What are my limitations? What are my boundaries? What am I working through here?"

THIS WEEK:

we're writing...

Welcome to part four of a 20-part series we're publishing on Medium called, Your Moment of Ambition.

This week, we dive head-first into failure: why it scares us so much, and why it shouldn't. 

Click here to check out this week’s post on Medium to find out!
 

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we're watching...

Marie Forleo's sit-down with Brendan Burchard, who's a big proponent of the long game -- sustainable, meaningful success. Coincidentally, Kylie and I are also currently reading his book, High Performance Habits

"High performers value wellbeing more than almost any other demographics that we've ever measured." 

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we're reading...

  • This woman says she has the key to success -- all you have to do is succeed less. (Or, in more earnest terms, succeed differently.)
     
  • Since Ursula Burns left Xerox, there are no Black women CEOs of Fortune 500 companies. Here, in systemic detail, is why. 
  • We felt super validated when everything we believe about success and building a meaningful, fulfilling life was confirmed by a real-life clinical psychotherapist.

  • What happens when your path to success is blocked by someone else’s actions against your body? (Warning: this piece is about sexual assault.)

  • Lady Gaga had to cancel a tour because of illness that some believe isn’t valid. What does her body’s supposed  failure and recovery mean for her career? (Also check-out her doc on Netflix -- she's phenomenal)
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we recommend...

Backing this Kickstarter project started by our friends Nida and Jonathan -- Impakt is a browser extension that helps you vote with your wallet and make ethical purchases. 

Also, if you're a young, ambitious woman looking for an incredible community and opportunity to connect with like-minded world-changers, apply for the Summit LA Scholarship. I am attending, and would love to see you there!

WE'RE PLANNING...

RUPI KAUR PRESENTS 
The Sun and Her Flowers with Komal Minhas

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Renowned feminist author, poet, multi-media artist and genuine international phenomenon, Rupi Kaur joins me in Ottawa for the launch of her second book, 'the sun and her flowers'.

 

Curated by Komal: Why Representation Matters

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welcome!

This is a taste of my weekly newsletter, which can land in your inbox every Tuesday at 9am! Click here to subscribe. 

This week we're talking about representation.

“You can’t be what you can’t see”. I call an ever so subtle, bullsh*t.

This phrase, often used to justify the need for more representation in media, is not actually reflective of the experiences of many minority media makers and many cross-industry trailblazers who did not have the luxury of 'seeing' what they could become.

A few weeks ago, TIME Magazine released a series of covers with the words FIRST emblazoned on each. You saw the faces of Ava DuVernay, Oprah, Selena Gomez, Serena Williams, and many others taking their rightful places as the firsts in their fields. These women did not have the luxury of waiting for others to become an example for them to rise. These women had to slowly, and steadily, break barrier after barrier to carve out their lane, to stay in it, and to rise to the top.

There are many firsts yet to come, so many leadership positions, entertainment roles, and the like waiting for their ‘first’ to arrive. Until equal representation becomes so pervasive that we have to scour for positions where minority faces have yet to be seen, we MUST be what we can’t yet see. It is our inherent responsibility as minority media makers, entertainers, engineers, business leaders, etc… to find a crack or fissure and to work our way through it until we arrive. Day after day, role after role. Until a few generations from now, the seeds of our trailblazing begin to grow, deeply rooted and affecting systemic change.

That’s why I’m here. That’s why representation matters. This is my gentle reminder that our everyday act of showing up and demanding to be seen is an act of revolution.

This week, I look to Rupi Kaur’s poem of legacy, I look to Colin Kaepernick’s movement and so many the world-over called to #takeaknee. I look to Charles D. King sharing how he became the first black senior leader at one of the leading entertainment agencies in Hollywood and then created his own firm Macro, and won Oscars for his first production, Fences. I look to Clara Villarosa, who ran the largest African American Bookstore in the United States, and who everyday inspires others to trailblaze, and whom we’ve profiled in our weekly Medium series, Your Moment of Ambition.

This week is all about representation. The fact that it’s our responsibility as young, ambitious minority leaders to make space for ourselves in a world that was built on our exclusion.

Tell me what you dream of becoming in an email (komal@komedia.ca). I often find typing it out, and pushing send is the ultimate first step to bringing that imagined reality to life.

Until next Tuesday at 9 am,

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the vlog

Join me each week to see the behind-the-scenes action as I relaunch KoMedia. Here's day two of my trip to NYC and, as always, a quick heart-to-heart! 

"I just feel this really beautiful groundedness in knowing who I am, knowing what my purpose is, and knowing what I have to offer the world." 

THIS WEEK:

we're writing...

Welcome to part one of a 20-part series we're publishing on Medium called, Your Moment of Ambition.

This week, we take a closer look at the career path of one of Dream, Girl’s most popular characters, Clara Villarosa, and ask ourselves how her (incredibly successful nonetheless) journey might have been different if she’d been able to see herself and her interests represented in popular media.

Click here to check out this week’s post on Medium to find out!

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we're watching...

Charles D. King has banked on the power of representation in film for his entire career --- even while he was a trainee in a media agency’s mailroom. His interview with Complex dives into his deep belief in the relevancy of diverse media, and the work he’s done since an early age to be able to produce it.

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we're reading...

  • Before he was on The Daily Show, Hasan Minhaj was investing the money he earned working in tech support into a self-funded startup comedy and media career, complete with bootstrapped live events and independently produced YouTube videos. Sound familiar? ;)
     
  • We don’t often think about sports as socially impactful media, but what’s happening in the NFL right now (beautifully summed up by these photosZendaya tweeted this week) feels consequential beyond a good Super Bowl ad. We’re loving the NYT’s recent profile of Colin Kaepernick, which dives into how he came to be the activist we see today.
     
  • How Black Girl Gamers are creating a thriving community for, well, Black Girl Gamers that’s safe(r) from the industry’s rampant racism and sexism.
     
  • This Walrus piece which makes the case that the personal essay as a genre isn’t outdated; it's just no longer dominated by white writers. 
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we recommend...

Applying to attend the Obama Foundation's Summit along with hundreds of other civic leaders in Chicago later this month. 

WE'RE PLANNING...

RUPI KAUR PRESENTS 
The Sun and Her Flowers with Komal Minhas

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Renowned feminist author, poet, multi-media artist and genuine international phenomenon, Rupi Kaur joins me in Ottawa for the launch of her second book, 'the sun and her flowers'.

 

Curated by Komal: The Power of Visualization and Amplifying Your Life

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WELCOME! 

This is a taste of my weekly newsletter, which can land in your inbox every Tuesday at 9am! Click here to subscribe. 

This week, our word of inspiration is: visualization.

I’m sitting in an office today working on building the company of my dreams. A few months ago, I didn’t think this was going to be possible. When I was at the peak of my sickness, I didn’t believe I would be able to come back to work and to do what I love. I didn’t think I’d be able to take a stage again, or that I would be able to think of my career in the same was as I did in the past -- I thought my life had changed forever.

In the thick of my burnout and sickness, visualization and dreaming seemed like painful taunts of a life I wouldn’t be able to experience anymore. Dreaming of an imagined future goal or hope felt futile when I struggled so hard to merely wake-up (and not fall over) in the mornings. Yet, slowly, every single day, more and more light came into my life.

Consistently, over time, I went to the appointments I needed to, I managed business logistics to decrease my overall stress, I met with my mindset coach/therapist to overcome my depression, and I did what I didn’t think was possible. I healed.

A few weeks ago, something incredible started happening. I slowly began visualizing my future self living a normal life. I began seeing myself walk onto stages, I began imagining my commute into the city every day with Mitch and dropping him off and heading over to my office and seeing Kylie in the mornings, I began believing in what I once thought was impossible. 

That is the power of belief. That is the power of putting in the work and time to heal and rise. And that is the power that each of us hold to amplify our lives in whatever ways we deem and dream necessary. My life has indeed changed, I've become stronger and more resilient that I had ever thought I'd need to be.

So, what do you dream to achieve? We hope today’s newsletter can plant a few seeds as to how to ensure your visualizations become reality. With slow and steady progress, and a commitment to your personal growth, you will get there

We’re in this together.

This week’s instalment of Curated by Komal includes our weekly series, Her Business: Stories from the Frontlines of Modern Entrepreneurship. This week’s article explores the power of visualization and how to stay accountable to your dreams. What we want you to watch this week is Lena Waithe’s Emmy’s acceptance speech -- she dreamed of taking that stage as a black queer woman, and through her incredible writing of the Thanksgiving episode of Master of None, she made that dream a reality. From there dive into this week’s articles sourced by Kylie, and don’t forget to  get your tickets for my event with Rupi Kaur on November 12th at the Museum of History in Gatineau. We’re over halfway sold out (!!!), and I wouldn’t want you to miss it.

Let us know what you think of this week’s content. (Ps -- you can subscribe to the newsletter here.) What dreams are you wanting to bring to life, and what can we bring your way every week to help you get there? Email me at komal@komedia.ca, I can’t wait to hear from you.

Signing off with love, until next Tuesday at 9 am,

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the vlog

This week Mitch and I head to NYC, and I reflect on what it's like to return to the city I had to leave suddenly after getting sick. There's some major heart-to-heart action in this episode.

THIS WEEK:

we're writing...

Welcome back for part two of a 20-part series we're publishing on Medium called, Your Moment of Ambition.

This week, we make the case for visualization as a tool for building a fulfilling life. We chat with experts and successful entrepreneurs to learn how putting your dreams out into the universe can manifest great things. 

Click here to check out this week’s post on Medium!

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we're watching...

I was up late watching the  Emmy's last night, and may have shed a few tears because of the level of heart-opening diversity on that stage! At 27, seeing people with my skin colour on that stage winning these incredible awards made me realize, maybe I could do it too. We've been watching Lena Waithe’s Emmy acceptance speech, over and over, but did you also see her earlier Instagram post about visualizing herself at the Emmys as a kid, or how about Ava Duvernay's tweet about Lena's hustle?
 

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we're reading...

  • This Medium piece, which we’re loving because the author describes visualization in a different way -- he calls it decision -- but also because he recognizes how non-negotiable self-care practices are, not only in the doing stage, but also in the dreaming and planning and “deciding” stages.
  • Hillary Clinton in conversation with America Ferrera, on what happens when what you dreamed for yourself (and for your country) doesn’t come to light.
  • This woman’s meditation on what it means to live her life authentically, regardless of the pressure that pervasive Western values have put on her identity.
  • A Dreamer’s account of what it feels like to be given the right to imagine a fulfilling life, only to have it abruptly and unkindly taken away five years later (a personal reflection on the DACA changes in the US).
  • Why the fall still feels like a time for planning and new beginnings, even when there’s no more "first day of school".
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we recommend...

Applying to attend the Obama Foundation's Summit along with hundreds of other civic leaders in Chicago later this month. (Hoping to get my ish together an applying this week, maybe see you there! Also, I took this picture at my first Clinton Global Initiative, still blows my mind.)

WE'RE PLANNING...

RUPI KAUR PRESENTS
The Sun and Her Flowers with Komal Minhas

Renowned feminist author, poet, multi-media artist and genuine international phenomenon, Rupi Kaur joins me in Ottawa for the launch of her second book, 'the sun and her flowers'.

 

Curated by Komal: Welcome!

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welcome!

This is a taste of my weekly newsletter, which can land in your inbox every Tuesday at 9am! Click here to subscribe. 

As I sit to write today's letter, it's 10 pm the Monday before I launch this newsletter. I thought we'd be able to have everything set to go by 5 pm, but alas, my optimistic timelines weren't quite on point. Even though it's late, and I'm so ready for bed, something feels incredibly grounding and reassuring about this moment. It could be that it's been about a decade in the making, or that it marks my official comeback to work and career that I've longed for since I stepped away from Dream, Girl and my life nine months ago after getting sick.

The reason that resonates the most with me right now, is that this newsletter -- this space I want to create and hold for each of you every week -- is the strongest commitment to my self I have ever made. In this moment, I am smiling ear to ear. I have the privilege of doing what I love on my own terms. 'What I love' is hosting, curating, and creating for an audience who believes in me. I want to deliver new original content alongside content from others that has changed how I think about and see the world. Being able to create this newsletter for you is such an incredible gift in my life.

So as with any gift, I can't wait for you to peel back the layers of wrapping and get to the good stuff. First, a huge thank you to Renira for the incredible design and help with my slow and steady rebrand. 

Scroll down for my first weekly vlog, and the launch of Your Moment of Ambition on Medium, brought to you by Kylie Adair of the KoMedia team. From there, get into all the things we're listening to, reading, and recommending. And don't forget to get your tickets (link down below) to my event with the New York Times bestselling poet, Rupi Kaur in Ottawa on November 12th.

Welcome to the first instalment of of Curated by Komal. Can't wait to land in your inbox every Tuesday! (You can subscribe here.) Also, I'd love to hear your feedback this week. If you feel compelled, shoot me an email with your thoughts about today's newsletter at komal@komedia.ca


With love,

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the vlog

Join me each week to see the behind-the-scenes action at KoMedia. Here's a look at our first day in the office!

THIS WEEK:

we're writing...

Welcome to part one of a 20-part series we're launching on Medium called, Your Moment of Ambition.

This week, we talk about the social factors behind the stats on the many thousands of women who are starting their own businesses. What exactly is driving them to dive into entrepreneurship? How have their motives changed in recent years?

Click here to check out this week’s post on Medium to find out!

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we're listening to...

On my way to NYC this weekend, I turned on this podcast from Lewis Howes and planned to dose off. Instead, I was riveted by Dr. Michael Gervais, the sports psychologist working with the Seattle Seahawks, and many other world class athletes and leaders. His description of the concept of recovery in the realm of being a world class leader, and the belief that our limitlessness comes from compassion for the self, is so on point.

Listen to this conversation if you’re ready to take your mindset to the next level.

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we're reading...

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we recommend...

Checking out and applying for one of these 20 fully funded fellowships, curated by a friend of KoMedia, Shaaz Nasir.

WE'RE PLANNING...

RUPI KAUR PRESENTS 
The Sun and Her Flowers with Komal Minhas

Renowned feminist author, poet, multi-media artist and genuine international phenomenon, Rupi Kaur joins me in Ottawa for the launch of her second book, 'the sun and her flowers'.

 

Happiness, pass it on.

With Tolfino and Yuki, our friends Sam and Josh's beautiful adopted pups enroute to Yosemite!

With Tolfino and Yuki, our friends Sam and Josh's beautiful adopted pups enroute to Yosemite!

I am literally not able to get this smile off my face! What a new feeling!! Joy just because. Appreciation and gratitude as a natural state? WHAT IS THIS EVEN!

I feel like my body and mind were so taxed that survival was all I could do for a long time. The front end of this year hurt me so much. It hurt so many people around me. The decisions I had to make, the way things had to happen. It was a pain, hurt, and anger party.

It's been a couple of weeks now. I've been consistent with my meditation practice. I've been walking, hiking, working out, 2-3 times a week. I've continued to eat whatever I want, but with gusto and joy instead of anger and an intention to numb.

Then this feeling started creeping up on me, and came on full force when we took time to go to California just because. Full. On. Happiness. In the quiet moments, contentment. On the rollercoasters (literal, not figurative this time ;-)), a deep sense of calm. An assuredness I've only really read about. And it hasn't been fleeting. It's the state I've started to consistently come back to. A few weeks of wellness is a lot for me these days! What a gift!

Our third time on Space Mountain!

Our third time on Space Mountain!

This joy is so light, it's so new, it's so welcomed! 

So I'd like to pass it on. I was just sitting here smiling so big, catching up on life stuff, and realized, if there was ever an emotion or experience to share it's this one. A simple moment. Filled with an emotion I found elusive for so long. 

This weekend, I hope you find moments of joy. Even if it's just one, take note of it, and come back to it when you need it.

Happy Easter/Vaisakhi/everything else folks! It's a time of new beginnings! Make it count!

 

To begin again: Where I've been, and what's been going on.

After a slow and steady hike in Vancouver in Feb. 

After a slow and steady hike in Vancouver in Feb. 

It's hard to know at the outset if this is going to be a gentle experience, or exceptionally turbulent. The experience being that of sitting down to write again. 

It's been well over a year since I've felt in control of my experiences, thoughts, and words. Writing for me is a form of catharsis and processing. But something deeply troubling was happening for the last year or more. My physical, lived experience continued to take up a painful amount of space in my heart, mind, and soul. I could not be still. Still long enough to reflect and be fully with what being sick was doing to me.

I struggled to know what to say, let alone how to say it. My life has been so deeply intertwined in others', I was so exhausted, and living from a place of survival only. What was mine? What was theirs? What was real? What was real?

My life has been one of extremes -- often going starkly from 0-100, or 100-1000, and I found myself sprinting to try and keep up. I went from living life in NYC, running a start-up, keeping up with the Joneses to semi-isolation 20-mins outside of Ottawa on an acreage. From the bright lights and hustle, to spying on the turkey's as they make their daily rounds scavenging food from the compost to the bird feeders and back again.

Pirate Koko reporting from the darkness of her cave.

Pirate Koko reporting from the darkness of her cave.

Speaking of bright lights… it may be time to let this loose. In early January when I arrived back in NYC from our winter break for the company, I suddenly lost vision in my left eye and started experiencing severe migraines, and other neurological issues. I later found out what I had was optic neuritis, inflammation of the optic nerve. Strangely enough, it was not connected to my concussion from December. 

Naturally. Because that’s my life 😂.

From January 10th to February 23rd our lives changed dramatically. For the first two weeks after the onset of symptoms, I experienced severe photophobia, vertigo, and sensory overwhelm, to the point where I would have to self-medicate to leave the house and to travel on the subway.

Prior to coming back to NYC in January, I had decided that I would move back to Ottawa at some point in 2017. I had hoped it would be after continuing some core work with Dream, Girl, but things clearly did not shake out that way. 

We very quickly packed up our essentials and moved back to Ottawa in late January after my acute symptoms passed and I could handle the car ride. 

It felt so surreal. In so many ways this is what I ‘wanted’, there was no doubt it was 100% what I needed (two weeks of vision therapy in NYC racked up well over $2000 in bills, so my appreciation for the Canadian health care system has become even more immense), but none of it was ‘on my terms’. I’ve only realized in the past few days, now that my stress has normalized, and I am back at a base functioning capacity, that I had almost no active agency in how this transpired. Because of the severity of what I was experiencing, I had no time, space, or energy to do much else but survive.

Optic neuritis, I would later find out, is connected with a number if illnesses, and in 60% of cases that my neurologist has seen, it is linked to multiple sclerosis.

So there was that.

I remember leaving the optometrist’s office after she dropped the potential MS bomb and just crying, so hard. It was raining outside, we were still in Brooklyn, and between the eye patch, sunglasses, rain, and tears streaming down my face, I am surprised I made it home, I am so appreciative that Mitch was there to guide me back.

I read a short essay recently that described life post-cancer. The author described the five stages of recovery. One was essentially that after survival, for a while, you have a heightened expectation and belief of any diagnosis. You’re wired to be in survival mode and for me it was prolonged by my concussion and this onset, so when I heard MS, I began preparing for the worst, and praying for the best.

We came home that day, and I cried. I cried hard. The pain was seeping out of me in sounds and words I couldn’t process or understand. The pain drenched my cheeks and shirt. The pain found its way into Mitch’s embrace, and he led me back to calm.

I was safe. This could be nothing. We are going to survive this like everything that’s come before.

This expedited our move significantly. I needed an MRI of my brain, I needed a neurologist, and I needed answers to help mitigate my stress, and to actually begin a long needed and required recovery.

After visiting my wonderful neurologist a few weeks after arriving home, we had my MRI done and were told about a small lesion in my right frontal lobe. I do not meet the McDonald criteria for MS, which is good news at this point. We will have a follow-up MRI in a year, and my neurologist has advised me to go on with my life as normal. If anything neurological flares up, or we find another lesion in a year, we’ll take it from there.

A clean(ish) bill of health!

I received that news a few hours after having to take the stage at a large business conference back home in Grande Prairie. I was so nervous and struggling with bringing that talk together. It was 45-mins long, I had just left DG, we had not publicly shared anything, and two days before the talk I had a sensory overwhelm panic attack while sitting with my family that left me tired and scared. I was so scared taking that stage that I might have an acute episode, or have my vision loss become more severe while on stage. It took all the strength I had left to make it through and cross that final barrier.

That was the official beginning of this new chapter.

We have moved in with Mitch’s dad in Carp, and we love it. We’ve changed the carpets, painted the walls, and brought even more life to this loving home.

Office transformation! As I was recovering, I loved watching Mr. Kate videos on YouTube!

Office transformation! As I was recovering, I loved watching Mr. Kate videos on YouTube!

Papa Joe has been such a light for me. When I was in my recovery from both my surgeries last year, we stayed out here and it’s a beautiful sanctuary for me. It’s a place where I’ve healed, and will heal even more fully. Him and Mitch make me laugh, and I feel safe to be whatever version of me I need to be as I heal. This is a place of real love.

My ‘full-time’ gig is my health. I’m working closely again with Steph over at EPIC Fitness to get active, to move my body, and come back to what I love: feeling strong and capable in my body. I’ve built a team of healthcare and complimentary care professionals who are helping me address root causes of my sicknesses (Hashimoto’s disease + cancer + concussion + optic neuritis all in two years seems like a lot), a big focus of this is food, cranial sacral therapy, thyroid-supporting meds, vision therapy (I still don't have my full vision back), and emotional release and processing.

Baby time has been great for the brain and heart. Love these little boos!

Baby time has been great for the brain and heart. Love these little boos!

I do find joy in creating, and with the slowing down and having almost three weeks now of ‘normal’ and ‘average’, and no travel, I am getting a sense of what my life can look and feel like without tremendous physical, emotional, and psychological stress.

What does this all mean for my ‘work’.

Down time = ideation time. I refuse to run a mile a minute anymore. I am responsible for changing the patterns and habits of a life that exacerbated such significant and severe health challenges, so that is my priority. As I eventually build my team, begin writing, and look at future projects or investments, I am going to take. my. time. I am going to have fun. Pause. Laugh. Do what I want, when I want. My mantra right now is slow and steady wins the race. The more time and space I make for myself right now, the better I will become. 

So much of the stress that compounded for me this past year was feeling like I was not in control of my own life. I didn’t take accountability and do what I needed to do to be happy, healthy, and free.

So now’s that time.

Seeing as though this is my first post back, I know there’s a lot here, and there’s no real synthesis or cohesive theme, message, or takeaway. That’s because I just need to get this out to continue. To keep taking my next steps forward, and to tune into and cultivate my voice even more. More fully. More deeply. More authentically, and hopefully with more impact.

There’s so much I’ve been through that I would like to share in the hopes of helping others. So that is my mission. How can I use my processing, and natural desires (to write, for example) to help others as I create this next chapter. 

Stay tuned as I figure it out <3.

With love,

- Komal

A New Chapter Begins: Leaving Dream, Girl's Daily Operations

From our first time meeting to our final video of last year and everything in between, my gratitude for Erin and our team is immense. 

From our first time meeting to our final video of last year and everything in between, my gratitude for Erin and our team is immense. 

It's taken me some time to get these words right, here they are for all of you: So much has changed and so fast, and it's time to fill you in.

 

I stepped back from the day-to-day operations of Dream, Girl and our distribution team in early January to rest and begin the next chapter of my life back in Ottawa. I am grateful for the contributions I made with our incredible team, and I couldn't be more proud of everything we accomplished and the impact we've had.

 

The past two and a half years of this journey have been unforgettable. I could not have dreamt of a better partner-in-crime than Erin to have walked this path with, each of us elevating the other and this movement with total abandon and heart every step of the way.

 

My gratitude to Erin, Diana, Kylie, and our team is immense. I so look forward to watching, alongside each of you and our investors, as they continue to move the company forward to share our mission to economically empower women and girls through the film and future content (like DG's new web series, Your Moment of Ambition!).

 

The events of last year left an indelible mark on my life, and it's time for me to hold space for my personal experiences and to continue cultivating my health and joy once more.

 

I look forward to sharing this next chapter on my blog (http://www.komalminhas.com) and on Instagram (@komalkminhas) and my official Facebook Page (https://m.facebook.com/komalkminhas/). Join me as I discover my new rhythm for creating, consulting, producing, speaking and investing in KoMedia's corner of the web and at future events across the globe.

 

With love,

 

Komal

Cancer, The White House, and Oprah all walk into a bar... the craziest three months of my life.

Koko, OPRAH, Erin

You guys… I can’t event with life right now.

What is even happening?

Even as I write these words, I know what’s happening. Everything that’s meant to.

Can we just. I haven’t written since May. Since then, many, many, many things have happened. 😂 😂 😂

Here’s a brief chronology:

  • May 2nd: Went under for my first surgery to remove the cancer in my leg. My surgeon removed about two Mars bars from my leg. Started recovery on some heavy heavy meds. Didn’t know how to slow down, started ‘working’ the next day. Was in a lot of pain for a good three weeks.

  • May 24th: In the throws of preparing for our White House premiere, got a call while standing in line at Staples with Diana as we were buying DVDs to burn the movie onto for Erin, that I indeed need a second surgery. They got all the cancer, which is great. But they needed to take another Mars bar out to make sure it doesn’t come back. FML. *Proceeds to hand credit card to Staples cashier*.

  • May 26th: My first pain free day, and the DAY WE PREMIERE OUR FIRST FILM AT THE FREAKING WHITE HOUSE. So many of our family and dearest friends were in the room with us. Erin and I cry when the film is complete, and hug each other in the aisle as we receive our first standing ovation for Dream, Girl. The cat’s out of the bag, and we couldn’t be more terrified and happy.

  • June 9th: We premiere our film in NYC at the iconic Paris Theater to 600 people, most of whom, WE DIDN’T EVEN KNOW, WHO WERE THESE PEOPLE, THE COOLEST, MOST AMAZING PEOPLE IN THE WORLD. They made me cry, they stood up and cheered their hearts out for us. They gasped, laughed, cried, and cheered throughout our film. They loved our characters (REAL WOMEN). We had a Q&A that was one of my favourite things I’ve ever done. Then we partied on an NYC rooftop with the skyline behind us for many hours, celebrating one of the best nights of our lives.

Proud Mama at The Paris Theatre at our World Premiere.

Proud Mama at The Paris Theatre at our World Premiere.

  • June 10th - July: We undergo a number of identity crises, life crises, exhaustion crises, etc… and get back to work booking screenings, and figuring out how to both spread the film globally, and generate revenue to build our company up. Thousands of people around the world see the film. I also prepare for my next surgery while still recovering from the first. I go on my first run. I cry after because it’s the first time I’ve felt free in my body in over a year. I also cry from the pain of my incision post-run. I take a taxi home from the park because it hurt so much.

  • Early July - July 13th: I go home for an amazing family wedding and to start unwinding as I feel like I'm going to crash and burn. Erin is holding down the fort, and begins working with Diana and Kylie to pivot and streamline our sales and distribution processes, which is technically my wheelhouse. She crushes and makes space for me to process what’s about to happen. My first magazine cover ever is released. I have the best visit ever with my family, and start to feel the fear bubbling up for this next surgery. I head back to Ottawa.

Day 2.

Day 2.

  • July 14th: Surgery day. Also, one of the most traumatic experiences of my life. I was awake for this surgery, and it was the worst patient experience of my life. I’ll likely share more when I’ve better processed it. Lots of blood, lots of squeezing my eyes shut, a lack of freezing, and a huge amount of gratitude for the Summer 2016 playlist I made with my sisters.

  • July 14th - August 3rd: Recovery. Battle with a lot of negative thoughts, feelings, emotions. Healing my body. Healing my mind. Resting my nervous system and beginning to feel ‘normal’. Managing pain, but actually turning off, and tuning out. Lots of movies. Lots of love. Some of the most uncomfortable and hard days of my life. The day I found out, final final, that I am cancer free and need no more surgeries. That time Erin and Sal got to go on VACATION!

  • August 4th: The day we get to share that we are on Oprah’s #SuperSoul100 list. The day I did my first full day of work post-op. The day I realized my brain was still only at 60%. The day I was so eternally grateful for the Dream, Girl Team (Diana, Kylie, Prasanna, Maggie!). The day I felt more confident than I ever had in my life.

August 4th. The day I loved myself so fully, I could truly be present for the people around me.

August 4th. The day I will look back on (and read this post from) so I can remember, so vividly, the day I realized the purpose, foundation, fabric of my life. The day I accepted that the only thing I am meant to do in this life is help others by loving myself, and making good in this world.

August 4th. The day I looked myself in the mirror before bed and said... “I am proud of you. I am proud of what you’ve overcome, what you’ve survived the past 26 years, and what you choose to do in this world. I am proud of how you choose to make others feel.” I am proud of who I am.

I never want to forget this feeling. I never want to forget this day.

So many SHINY things have happened this year. Moments of acknowledgement, and moments of praise. I am in such deep gratitude to these moments, for helping uplift the impact of Dream, Girl, and for helping me at my core realize what matters to me most.

I have come through both the best and worst six months of my life. I survived cancer. I was slammed down to the concrete by life. And I was uplifted by meaningful, impactful, change driven work. I was brought back to life by love. By Mitch, my parents (and in-laws), my siblings, Erin, my best friends, our team, so many strangers. I did not rise because of the shiny. I did not rise because of Oprah, or magazines, or premieres. I rose because people loved me. They loved me back to health. Their love showed me the power of my own love. I have given these people every single ounce of me. And they gave it right back to me.

They loved me so hard, I fell in love with myself.

Today, because of Oprah, and her legacy of impact, and the resonance her name brings, I woke up from my recovery to a chorus of love that’s made me the most confident woman I have ever been.

I am ready. I am ready for this next chapter*. I am ready to rise, fall, be beat to the ground, and to rise again. Loved. Healed. Rested. And more resilient than ever.

 

*Don’t worry, I’m going to rest a while longer, then get to everything I’ve said above 😂 😂 😂

 

Cancer, thanks for the most confusing relationship of my life.

If you stay right here, and live right here, the world will grow bigger and clearer and more terrifying and more beautiful than it’s ever been before. That’s what happens when you refuse to look away or protect yourself from what’s right in front of you. You can take in the full scope of what you have and what you stand to lose. You can see past the jibber-jabber and the noise and the empty shiny distractions. You understand how little time you have left. You are finally wide awake.
— Heather Havrilesky
Post-op on May 2nd.

Post-op on May 2nd.

I have been so worried about writing this post. I've tried a dozen times, but I just don't know where to start or what to say.

Truth be told, I'm really mad and angry at cancer. I hate it... and yet, at moments, I am also grateful to it all at once. A paradox that I can't help but laugh and cry at.

Tomorrow I find out if they did in fact remove all of the cancer cells two weeks ago when they removed the equivalent of two Snickers bars from my leg. Two weeks ago, I had no idea what this recovery period would look or feel like. I had been so focused on getting to my surgery day, sane, and positive, that I didn't take a moment to ask myself or anyone else, what it would be like to be in recovery.

I wish I had. It's been 15 days, and I am still in pain. I am so frustrated, angry, and sad. My mobility, or lack thereof, has been the most constant reminder of what we just went through. Everyday I wake up, and as I move slowly out of my bed, and put pressure on my leg, I am reminded of the past two and a half months of agony. Of waking up unsure of what the day will be like, trying my best to choose positive thoughts and actions, while feeling as though there's an anchor weighing down my spirit and my life.

Fuck you cancer.

The day I was diagnosed with you, we were set to launch our new distribution system, to help spread and proliferate the impact of Dream, Girl around the world. Because of you, we were delayed, and now, as we have to alter our sales process with limited time before our launch, I look back on 'wasted time' spent worrying about you, dealing with you, and trying to find ways to accept you. All I want to do is help others, share our mission with the world, be there for Erin, but all you're making me do is question my very existence and capacity for action. EFF YOU.

The next month is going to change our lives. Dream, Girl is going to be released to the world, this gift we have been creating for two years... I am so full, so overwhelmed, so in awe of how much we can handle and persevere through. Cancer, you're one hell of a curve ball, and there's so many moments when I just can't help but laugh at the circumstances of my life. Like, WTF IS LIFE RIGHT NOW!?

You have made me so acutely aware of my humanity, of the impermanence of human life. You've forced me to deeply understand that I have no business expecting anything of this life. That my greatest gratitude must come from each breath I have the privilege of taking, and every time I get to say 'I love you,' to the people I love. Although this often brings me great sadness, I've become so aware of what matters most to me in this life. For this, I thank you cancer.

I thank you for helping me question and understand my desire the past two weeks to disassociate from my pain and anguish, to numb out. You've helped me realize that as I learn to accept my circumstances, and surrender to the hand that's been dealt to me, I can choose love, and choose compassion both for my circumstances, and for those suffering so much more than me. I can let others touch my heart, and I can get out of my head and move past my own story.

Hanging with the fam post-op.

Hanging with the fam post-op.

You brought my family together. Because of you, my parents stayed with Mitch's family, and they spent great, meaningful time together. In no other scenario would this have happened. Considering this silver lining, how could I not be grateful to you cancer?

You've made me take care of my nutrition, you've made me fight for me health. Thank you.

You led me to meeting a Buddhist monk who spoke to my soul. You showed me the depth of love, caring, passion, and grit my best friend and business partner is capable of mustering. You showed me my resilience, and ability to come back to my light and joy in the face of the greatest challenge. You showed me how loved I truly am. You reminded me of the people in my life I am blessed to call my friends and family. You gave me an opportunity to show up for myself.

You have also blessed me with a story, and an experience, that I can share with others who are going through similar, or worse experiences. To enable our collective empathy and compassion to grow.

You've brought richness to my life. But you've also brought waves of the greatest sorrow I've ever known. You've left me suspended in oblivion held by a golden thread that gives me life.

You've made sure I never take anything for granted ever again.

Courtesy of Katie and WANTcast.

Courtesy of Katie and WANTcast.

To live a full life is a privilege. To do the work that we do through Dream, Girl is a privilege. To have the supports that I do is a privilege. To have access to great health care and health supports is a privilege. Thank you for these reminders.

Regardless of tomorrow's outcome, I hope to make the best of the hand I've been dealt. To keep finding the courage to take the next step forward. To break open and show up through my greatest highs and lowest lows.

I never would have imagined that my life would look like this on any front. But today, in this moment, I hold the deepest gratitude to every challenge and joy that has come my way, and every challenge and joy that is yet to come -- for experiencing them as fully as possible is the most needed reminder that I am truly alive.

Meet my wellness team!

I just got back from my first time in a gym in months! As I was leaving, I had the biggest grin plastered on my face. I couldn't help but smile! 

You guys... I had energy to move my body. We did a movement assessment, not a workout, but looking around the gym, and seeing what my trainer had built, and how like me she is in her ambition, drive, and passion, made me feel right at home. 

Meet Stephanie Karlovits - my movement expert

She really is this awesome!

She really is this awesome!

It's been a slow build as I've been working with Steph. Her best friend is my best friend's brother. So we're basically family. 

Steph and I connected at my first public keynote in Ottawa last year at Ladies Who Lunch. I was promoting Dream, Girl, and she suggested I stop by her gym, Epic Fitness + Lifestyle, for a workout. I loved her energy immediately. So assured, confident, and kind. We didn't get on a call until January of this year, but as soon as we dived in, I knew I found a soul sister.

She helped me define my health manifesto, and supported me in realizing how I was relating to food, and how I could shift that relationship. She helped me understand that listening to my body, resting, and moving gently was not weakness, but was in fact just honouring where I was at.

She sat with me on Skype and explained exactly what cancer was when I was diagnosed. She took the time to make sure both energetically, and scientifically, I understood why this was happening to my body. 

Her gym, Epic Fitness + Lifestyle is a sanctuary for excellence and growth. As soon as I walked in today, I was in love.

Most of my relationship with Steph has been online, so being in her temple today was so invigorating. To occupy the space where someone you trust, and have on your team is in their element and where they shine so bright is such a gift. Her power and strength in that space has enabled me to know that I am truly on my way back to being STRONG. To moving my body with power and confidence. To doing burpees to my heart's content, and to getting back to doing full push-ups. To holding myself upside down in a handstand for as long as I want. These are my dreams - to be strong, to be in a headspace to dream of doing a standing back tuck, to having fun with my dreams for my body! Because, why not? To also knowing that I am both in control and not in control of my wellness, and that's okay, because if I need to I will pivot and adjust according to my needs. It's not all or nothing as I once believed, but I get to choose what I want this to be like.

God, this feels so good to write. What a powerhouse to be working with! Also, she's climbing Machu Picchu soon, and is fundraising $5000 to do it, interested in supporting her? Click here!

Next up...

Meet Jumanah Beck - my nutritionist

1/2 of her cookbooks that are amazing!

1/2 of her cookbooks that are amazing!

I heard of Jumanah and EarthSuit Nutrition through a friend I met online, Courtney McCarthy. Courtney has been open and courageous in sharing her own wellness journey online, and I was inspired to find out how she found success. She worked with Jumanah, and sang her praises!

I was sad to realize I would have to wait a number of months to work with her - her waitlist was 3-months! So in December I booked my sessions from Feb-April and was pumped to begin with her.

Our first meeting was on Skype, and she immediately offered support and meaningful advice for my acne, fatigue, lethargy, bloating, and everything in-between. It took my cancer diagnosis to really commit to the meal plans I had coming in from Jumanah, but once I did, I felt so good! After ten days of consistent commitment to her treatment meal plan, I had never felt better - actually! 

I tape the weekly meal plans she sends to my wall in the kitchen, and I order in my groceries every Sunday on Instacart. I use my Sunday evenings for food prep, and the meals are so simple and fun to make! Cauliflower mash is an example - it tastes even better than mashes potatoes! I also rigged a black eyed pea curry that I love! I have fun with the cooking, and it makes me feel so powerful and strong to know I am healing my own body!

Jumanah noted my low testosterone levels, and my spike in estrogen before my periods that cause a huge amount of cramps, pain and acne for me. She supplemented me, and this month I had my first pain free period in my adult life. Through the food she's prescribing, she's confident my body will be able to do this on its own soon. I feel such a relief to know that.

Finally, she see's me - really sees me. She understands my lifestyle, she's an entrepreneur herself, and reminds me to be kind to myself. Perfection is a disease, she says. She prescribes laughter to help my adrenal glands which are taxed and may be cause so much of the disruptions in my body with high levels of cortisol and adrenaline leading to high stress and fatigue. Who doesn't want more laughter in life? And she's making it a part of my to-do list which is exactly how I work.

It feels so liberating to see my food truly as medicine. It enables making healthy, life-supporting choices so much easier. And as those of you who have been reading along for the past year know, this is a huge breakthrough for me.

Last, but not least...

Meet Braelin Thornton - my financial advisor

The first moment I met Braelin, I knew we had to work together. She is equal parts passion, excitement, vision, and genuine brilliance. She has found creative expression through brilliantly managing her client's financial portfolios and dreams. 

That first day, I told Braelin that I want to build my portfolio into the billions. She looked at me with a sparkle in her eye, and said, 'Great, let's do it'. 

You might be wondering why I am including Braelin in my wellness team, but for me, a healthy attitude towards our spending and financial dreams is critical to our overall physical, mental, and spiritual health.

Braelin helps me see my financial goals as part of my personal mission in this world. Through getting a handle on my good and bad spending habits and beliefs, I can amplify my impact tenfold. 

Money is so hard to discuss and be about, but it, at its core, is simply energy. We move it from one place to another, and the more positivity, joy, and excitement we bring to it, the more abundant and impactful we can become.

My go to example for this is often Oprah. She has built an empire on helping millions feel heard, seen, and supported. Without her financial abundance and belief in herself, so many of our lives would be so much more bleak.

Braelin understands my dreams, my goals, my passion for discipline and determination. She's helping me feel empowered with my spending choices as I face my diagnosis. I am an emotional spender at times, but being able to name and face my bad habits head on, and to not spend my power away is very liberating.

She's helped me see that investing in my health, and in the things that bring me genuine joy is so good for my soul! Investing in Steph, in Jumanah, in her, and in the rest of the team I want to eventually bring on is going to help me expand in my dreams and impact.

It takes a village to raise a child, but it also take a village to get you healthy, happy, and to walk confidently towards that vision you have of yourself.

My friend Julie Beun told me she gave the following advice to a group of aspiring entrepreneurs last week and it stuck with me: decide the vision of who you truly want to be, what you want to embody in your values, your morals, and your impact, and walk confidently towards her (that vision of yourself) everyday. 

I see who I am becoming, and who I want to be in this world, and everyday I am taking steps towards her. Confidently, and so fully supported.

This all comes from a willingness to want to be better (whatever that may mean for you), and to ask for help. We can't achieve our dreams and goals alone, so reach out, ask for help, find the ones who get you, and you'll soar.

So I'll ask: I'm on the lookout for a great executive coach, and myofascial release (MFR) therapist, alongside a powerful energy healer. If you know of any, let me know!

On a final note. I've had the best four days of my life this week. Through the simplicity of passion, work, friendship, family, and self-love.

Even with cancer the world is bright, and full. Make today awesome folks.

Go do some epic shit. 

Feeling like myself again... for now.

A person can only have so much control over their mental state of mind when it feels like they're in the epicentre of a tornado.

That's been what this past month has felt like. I've had to begin 'living' in two cities again, my energy and mental clarity have been hazy at best, and I've realized, life for everyone around me continues moving forward with no pause for the weight of the experience I am going through. Add onto this mix a five-day fever, and you have me feeling the worst I've felt in years, and questioning every ounce of my self-worth with no perceived end in sight.

And that's why days like today are awesome. I'm not naive enough to think I'm on 'the other side' and that days won't keep sucking, and that I won't go down the rabbit hole of self-hatred anymore, but I have become so much more aware, and grateful for, the days that feel good. The days where I love myself, the days where I can really receive love from the people around me, the days where I remember my value, and the value of what I have to offer this world. The days when I can open my laptop and feel strong enough to think and work. 

Rather, I suppose it's moments like these, not days.

Waking up this morning was hard. Getting out of bed, opening my mind up to the fleury of the world and e-mails, and acknowledgements I am not apart of, and work that is being questioned, all enabling me to stare deep into that rabbit hole of self pity and a really bad day.

But then I made a choice. To call Mitch, and to lay all my insecurities bare, and to talk. To share. To ask for help, and another perspective to lift me back to life. To remind me of my worth, and what I am capable of. 

I am so used to thinking I have to go this alone. That I have to be strong enough to make it out of this. But that's only part of the story. I need help. Lots of it. I needed my mom here last week to take care of me, and I need her and Mitch everyday to remind me of who I am, because when you're sick, or when you're grieving, or when you're facing a disease that scares the crap out of you, you need help.

Asking for help is an act of bravery and courage, and it comes from you. Asking for help does not make you weak, it makes you better.

I was listening to Tony Robbins and Oprah yesterday because I needed a psychological lift, and Tony talked about something that resonated really deeply for me. Post-traumatic growth. One's ability to rise from trauma - our resilience and courage manifest when we are able to stand back up on our own two feet with our loved ones lifting us up. Our ability to look back and say, 'See how powerful that helped me become?'

Hearing about post-traumatic growth made me feel strong. It gave me space to breathe, it made me remember everything I've grown through, everything I've had to face in my life, and everything that has brought me to this moment. This reprieve from my mind, this moment of clarity, and words, and worth, and work. Today, in this moment, I feel like me again. The version of me that serves myself and the world most.

Every corner of this experience is so unbearably hard. But knowing I'm going to survive, and knowing that this struggle isn't forever, is the greatest hope I can hold onto. 

So here's to more and more moments of mental freedom, and the courage to ask for help to make it through the rest.

Emancipate yourself from mental slavery, none but ourselves can free our minds.
— Bob Marley

Two days ago, I was diagnosed with cancer. It's highly treatable, and I want to talk about it.

I was diagnosed with a rare, and highly treatable form of cancer, Dermatofibrosarcoma Protuberans. It was the biggest surprise of my life when it happened, but I'm feeling really good and positive about it and about my treatment options and success rate for being cancer free. Writing and sharing helps me process, so here we go!

March 3rd, 2016 - The day I was diagnosed.

March 3rd, 2016 - The day I was diagnosed.

The Diagnosis

I came back to Ottawa from NYC after moving after the New Year for a follow-up with my doctor on some thyroid issues I've been having. What I was told next was totally out of left field and has made the past 48-hours the most surreal of my life.

In December, I had two tumours removed from my right calf and upper thigh. Both were said to be benign. They were removed in a tiny room in a walk-in-clinic in Ottawa, and the surgeon was wearing jeans and let me and Mitch record him dissecting the tumours when they came out. It was the coolest thing. What I remember distinctly, is when we examined the second tumour (from my upper thigh), he said it had two parts to it, and as we cut it open he told me what he saw was extremely rare. 'One in a million people have this,' he said, 'It's a dermatofibroma'.

'Is it cancer?' I asked.

 'No,' he said, 'but we'll send it for a biopsy anyways'.

Then began a whirlwind period of time. I went back to Alberta for the holidays, showed off my cool scars and gross video to my family, had my cousin-sister remove my stitches in the guest bedroom of my brother's house, and then I came back to Ottawa, and moved my life to New York City to embark on year two of working on our start-up and planning to crush everything that lays ahead for Dream, Girl and our movement.

**Cue montage of hardworking ladies working their assess off to accomplish their biggest dreams in NYC... **

...then yesterday, as I sat on the crinkly paper on the bed in the examination room waiting for a requisition for blood work, I asked the doctor about a letter I had received.

'It said some results are in that need to be discussed, but I'm not sure what they'd be from,' I said forgetting about December's biopsy.

The doctor looked it up in his tablet, and he mumbled, 'No one has talked to you about this yet? These results came back in January.'

'No, I just got the letter yesterday.' I said. 

He started explaining how I needed to see a specialist, and he would put the referral in. It was one of my tumours from December. It came back and it's something really rare.

'Dermatofibrosarcoma Protuberans,' he said. 

Sarcoma... I knew that was cancer, and so I asked as the shock set in...

'It's cancer?'

'Yes, it's cancer. It's very rare. One in a million people are diagnosed with this annually.'

I felt the blood rush to my head, and I said so naively, 'I feel overwhelmed, really overwhelmed. Is that normal?'

He gave an uncomfortable, but sympathetic laugh. 'Yes, that is very normal, are you okay?'

I could feel my adrenaline pumping, I could feel the fear creeping in, and I did all that I could to stay as present and aware as possible. To hold onto every word as tears started rolling down my cheeks...

'They didn't get all of it during the first removal...'

'We will take care of you, don't worry...'

'You will hear back soon...'

'Do you need anything else?...'

I didn't want to cry anymore in that room beyond my first set of tears. I breathed deeply and asked for my blood work requisition for my thyroid hormones, and I walked out.

I got in my car, and drove to somewhere familiar, the parking lot by my house. I called Mitch, he was at work and couldn't answer. I called my brother, and I let myself finally react.

'Vickram Bhaji... I have cancer.'


A luminary (lit in honour of someone who has had cancer) from the 2010 Relay for Life.

A luminary (lit in honour of someone who has had cancer) from the 2010 Relay for Life.

There are going to be a lot of people who are surprised to hear me talk about my diagnosis so soon after finding out about it. But writing and sharing are my form of expression and are my way of processing big parts of my life. So I appreciate the time each of you are taking to hear and feel my story. There is no shame in this diagnosis, and I want to shine a bright light on the fear around it. I will fight this with every ounce of myself.

I admit, I have very little information on my specific prognosis. Here are the facts I've learned about online, so you my dear reader, are as informed as I am.

Dermatofibrosarcoma Protuberans:

  • Is a very rare form of cancer. It emerges at the top of the skin and is often thought to be a pimple or cyst. It grows very slowly, but when it does, it can grow something like a root system that can penetrate muscle and bone. 
  • With Moh's surgery there is a 98% (!!!!!!!!) chance of removing all the cancer cells and I most likely will not need chemo or radiation. In December they took a big chunk out, but the biopsy indicated that there is still cancer present.
  • I likely only need to see a dermatologist to have it removed in its entirety if it has not penetrated muscle and bone. If it has, I will have a team of specialists helping me figure this out.
  • At this point, I know nothing definitively and am filling in as many blanks as possible with the help of very informed friends and family until I get in for my next appointment.

So why am I sharing this? My history with cancer and what I've learned so far:

Such a fun day in 2007!

Such a fun day in 2007!

My first journal entry in 6th grade was about finding out that a young girl at our school was diagnosed with cancer. I was devastated and felt so sad for her and her family, and expressed myself as eloquently as a 12-year-old could. A few years later I started selling daffodils for the Canadian Cancer Society in the atrium of my high school. I then led the 'Think Pink' fundraiser at my school in 11th and 12th grades, and we raised over $10, 000 for the Breast Cancer Foundation and had our whole male faculty wear pink dresses for a day. We made the front page of the local paper!

A year later, I found my first tumour while I was away at university, and went numb. I was doing a breast exam in my dorm room after a shower, just like the women I worked with the year before at the Breast Cancer Foundation advised me to do, and there it was. I had to have my first biopsy at 18, the first of many. 

The survivors who joined us in 2012. Such a powerful night.

The survivors who joined us in 2012. Such a powerful night.

I felt such a lack of support on campus outside of my best friends Heather and Becca who had run the Relay for Life at their high school - a 12-hour overnight fundraiser for the Canadian Cancer Society. It turned out my tumour wasn't cancerous (it was a fibroadenoma, I now have many in my body - benign fibrous growths that pop up every few years and that I monitor), but I had a fire to do something for those affected by cancer on our campus.

So, two years later, we decided to start the Relay for Life at Carleton University. In six years we have raised close to half a million dollars. The last Relay I co-chaired was four years ago this week, the 2016 event is this coming weekend.

One of my favourite nights! The 2012 Relay for Life!

We did it so there could be a community on our campus to talk about these supremely shocking and scary experiences; walking home alone from the doctor's office when you find a tumour, or hearing about a close friend or family member being diagnosed. Cancer thrives on our fear, and sharing and speaking about it, I believe, eviscerates that fear entirely.

After so many years of activism, I feel supremely prepared to face this. But it doesn't make it any less hard, scary, or shocking. 

So here's what I've learned in two days about why this is so important to share and talk about and to not let fester inside you:

  1. Get yourself checked out - it's actually better on the other side!

    • In the words of a sage man I know, 'Play with your boobs and balls folks, get that shit checked.' We get so scared of being diagnosed, but the longer we wait on something the worse it can get. It's not worth it to wait. I am so grateful we have found this cancer and that I get to give it all I've got in saying syonara to it! And truly, waiting is absolutely the hardest part, I now have waited to hear that I both do not, and now do, have cancer. It's better to work through the fear and find out, I promise.
  2. It doesn't matter how good the prognosis is, this is still scary as shit. So I shared it. 

    • I have a very big family, and I made the rounds of calls. I called and messaged my best friends. I had my moments of breakdown. I had my moments of research. I had my moments of thinking about the worst. Most of the moments were of positivity, strength, and sticking to the facts. But CANCER is a scary f***ing word. Also, I know so little about my situation and too much research can absolutely make my brain go down the gutter in the worst ways. So knowledge is power to a point. I let myself read Wikipedia, and WebMD, and a few stories from survivors. Nothing else. Mitch's cuddles helped big time.
  3. Although sharing it is hard, you never know who is working on your behalf.

    • A great benefit of being Indian is that so many of my family members work in the health system. So I have a number of people I love and trust, asking questions and sharing information from colleagues who are most well versed to share it. This is absolutely a privilege I don't take lightly, but one I am eternally grateful for. Overall, the vibe was that this is a 'good' cancer to have, but that I must aggressively seek treatment fast. If there's a remainder of cells so close to my lymph nodes we gotta be as proactive as possible. As a comedic pause, one of my aunt's thought I got this cancer from sun bathing in Mexico a few weeks ago since the growth was on my upper thigh. NOT SO (they don't know why this happens), but so cute. 
  4. I am so grateful for the massive army I have behind me. I hope your support system is strong, or can be made strong.

    • There has been no moment in the past 48-hours that I have felt alone. Every phone call, every text, I am blown away by the support system I have. I will lean, and hard, on everyone. The 'we' statements coming in bring me to tears:
      • 'We've got this.'
      • 'We're going to fight this.'
      • 'We're going to come out on top.'
  5. This cancer will thrive on my fear. So I will continue to shine a light on it.

    • Today, I worked. I stuck to my routine for sanity and progress' sake. Moving forward, I will listen to my body more. I will feel all the feels. I will keep meditating. I will continue down my path of learning how to better nourish my body. I will dive deep into my yoga practice. I will sleep. I will not let this random confused set of cells take up unnecessary emotional real estate in my brain. I will write about it, as often as I need, and I will fight. Hard.

So now what?

Rocking out at Relay 2011 with the Glee Club! 

Rocking out at Relay 2011 with the Glee Club! 

  1. I see the experts.
  2. They help me figure this out.
  3. I will share whatever I feel like sharing with no expectations.
  4. I will continue living my life in NYC and Ottawa as I get treated, and we will go on to launch our film in June! 
  5. I will survive, and be an advocate for conversations around cancer.

There's a lot I want to look into now. My childhood best friend is just emerging from a battle with thyroid cancer. We are both 26. Societally, and biologically something is shifting. The rates of cancer are exponentially increasing, and that's not okay. Prevention is key, but I feel like we have massive systems continuously working against us. But this is a conversation for another time.

All this to say. I feel good. I feel strong. I feel supported. We got this folks.

If you have any questions, or stories to shares, please do! This is a very intense situation and I am happy to create a small pocket of space for us to have a conversation about this (the comments below, Facebook, or my inbox are a good place we can start).

Until next time,

- Koko B. Ware (look it up, thanks for the nickname Meenu Didi)

"Rarely do we see wounds in the process of healing."

A week away helped create the space for this post.

A week away helped create the space for this post.

I have a bit of a grin on my face because I don't even know where to begin!

The past six weeks have been a whirlwind.

  • I live in Brooklyn now
  • We have a film that is 98% complete (Say whaaaaaa!?)
  • Our sales system for screenings is almost live (this is huge for us!)
  • We are on the cusp of releasing a 20-part web series to the world
  • We sent our rough cut to our first film festival, to the White House and to Glamour Magazine
  • I went on my first vacation in three years, to Mexico for a week
  • I have a health coach and a nutritionist who are helping me navigate life and my biochemical addictions to certain foods, and I love it and am struggling with it all at once
  • I love my apartment and have put my whole heart into making it feel like home
  • I am finally living close to, and working side-by-side with Erin. Every. Single. Day.
  • I am in a long-distance relationship with the love of my life, Mitch, and it's the hardest thing I've had to do
  • This is real life.

My body feels tired just thinking about it all!

I wrote a lot about the fear of moving, and resettling from Ottawa to NYC, and now that I'm here, that fear has (mostly) subsided, but let me tell you... flying into NYC instead of Ottawa for the first time, and walking right through customs with my E1 Visa, knowing that I LIVE HERE NOW was insanity.

It's one thing to be in the routine and intensity of our daily work for Dream, Girl, but it's an entirely different beast to come home to my new home after vacation and not know how permanent this is going to be. I have a feeling I'm going to be here for a long time.

I should have seen this coming.


My cozy Brooklyn apartment.

My cozy Brooklyn apartment.

I've been paused for a few minutes, contemplating what to write next. This doesn't feel like my other posts. I have no specific direction I want this piece to go in, or a specific topic that's making my heart sing or scream today, instead, it's like greeting an old friend, and warming up to each other again.

I was listening to Brene Brown's new book on my flight back from Cancun on Friday, and this sentence stayed with me:

"Rarely do we see wounds in the process of healing."

I feel like I left a lot on the page when I shared the deep vulnerability the night I was packing up my life in Ottawa. I for sure felt a vulnerability hangover, but I actually felt a relief that eclipsed any ounce of shame or fear that could have come up.

I was proud to release the emotions that led to my sobbing and writing that night, but I haven't felt stable enough to do that with all of you since.

To be honest, there is so much hard embedded in all of the dreams and goals, and plans that we have. To 'Dream Big' is to wear your heart on your sleeve at all times, and to understand that sharing vulnerability and authenticity are prerequisites to successfully taking that next leap forward.

Yet I found myself alone on my couch two weeks ago having a panic attack, and succumbing once again, to foods that don't serve me. I felt overwhelmed by loneliness, and feeling as though I had no one I could talk to who could understand what was going on in my life.

To some I would have sounded ungrateful. Others would have used my breakdown as validation that this kind of life is not one worth living, and that perhaps I was not as strong as they once thought. My mom would have held a great deal of fear and longing in her heart to be able to help me feel better, but in that moment I didn't need to instantly feel better. I just needed to feel, to feel seen, to feel heard, and to be reminded that I am loved. Deeply. Instead, I ate. I ate to fill a void that I couldn't name and I couldn't truly fill without opening up and connecting with my loved ones and myself.

IMG_0711.jpg

This is a habit and an addiction that I am willing to name and face now. I don't know how long it's going to take to feel content, strong, courageous, and whole with myself and my relationship with food, but that moment, and so many others before it, have led me to this moment, and naming that I want to be and feel better.

Food has always been my best friend and my comfort. I remember from a young age turning to food to comfort and numb emotions I had no depth or capacity to understand. But I understood food, I understood the artificial flavours, and the 'comfort' I felt.

Now I understand that there is an entire industry that was built on my dependency, and our collective biochemical addiction to many foods that have left me feeling empty and unworthy, and that define so much of my self worth. That night I broke, I hated every moment of feeling alone in this new city, of not having Mitch in my physical space, of feeling no other out but to eat.

I did stop myself, earlier than I would have in the past. I was so much more aware that night than I used to be. I knew exactly what was happening, and I knew I was ready to stop. I don't want to obsess about food anymore, I want to feel all of the good and the bad. I don't want to project so much power on this neutral substance anymore. I don't want to feel helpless to it anymore.

I am ready to have my life exist on one path. Not only my public path that I feel comfortable sharing and projecting, and then going home and hating myself. But rather, having integrity permeate all facets of my existence, and to actually utilizing the amazing community of people and family I have built around myself, and to not hide from them when I am low anymore.

It took some time to come back to calm that night, but Mitch stayed with me on FaceTime until I fell asleep. I went into the office the next day feeling raw, and emotionally hungover. I talked to my health coach, Steph, and she helped me realize and create 'rules' for myself to wake-up in my lowest moments, and to establish an action plan for resilience, and to enable myself to healthily navigate my lowest moments.

I am going to share that here with you today, both as a form of accountability, and hopefully, as a template if you are in need.


My Wellness Manifesto:

Food has been my last emotional resort in moments when I feel overwhelmed and as though I have no one to reach out to or talk to about what’s boiling under the surface. I commit to following the rules listed below, that I have established to prevent this habit from continuing on and to instantly shine a light on all guilt and shame I may feel. To do so:

  1. I will call one of the following people to talk through the emotions I am experiencing and need to further release or understand:
    1. Mitch
    2. Julie
    3. Erin
    4. Steph
    5. Myself
  2. Just as I am selective and thoughtful about the people I surround myself with, I will be extremely particular with what I choose to bring into my home, specifically with food. My home is my sanctuary, it is where I am safe and supported, it is where my food nourishes me.
    1. The foods I will eat are like the friends I listed above. They support me, nourish my mind, body, and soul, and they enable me to live the life of my dreams. These are foods that are nutrient dense, delicious, and that bring vibrancy and truth to my life. These foods bring truth because they do not numb, self-medicate, or sedate me. They force me to feel my emotions, good and bad. These foods are my best friends that allow me to be exactly where I am at, that truly ‘see’ me, and know that I can do anything.
    2. I will remember that food is neutral - it has no agenda. I will remember that it is my actions, not the food, that define me. Each action has either a positive, healthy outcome, or a negative, demeaning, and sinking outcome. I get to choose.
  3. My cause is to live a life of integrity that my audience and those I wish to lead, aspire to. I aim to support my vibrant life every day, through each decision, thought, and action in order to represent to this world, the living embodiment of integrity and of a values-driven life. This is not dependent on any aesthetic or appearance driven goals, but by daily integrity-filled and fuelled actions compounded over time.
    1. In the words of Steph: The strength of feeling your best on stage, and everyday will not come from the result of how you physically look, but it will be a result of every choice, every action that has allowed you to demonstrate your internal strength.  It will be the result of standing up to do what others CANNOT always do for themselves. You are the role model, the manifestation of ‘the best series of choices’ to show others that what is possible in health and in life. THAT is when you will feel at your best.  It will not be from shame, guilt or from not utilizing the resources (people, your self) that exist around you, or the presence of guilt that leads to a great workout.  Remember, food is that last resort friend/ex-boyfriend that needs to be cut off. At the end of that list of great friends… is your SELF... and you are enough to support yourself. You can get through these times with your OWN support, you just don't know it yet.
  4. I will love myself each and everyday of this life. I will understand the slip ups and hard and dark moments, and I will not judge myself for what transpires. I will hold myself accountable for how I react, and how much love I continue to demonstrate to myself. Not just lip-service, but action. ACTIONS that I commit to include:
    1. Daily meditation of 20-45 mins
    2. Daily movement of 20-45 mins
    3. Daily journaling 
    4. Consuming nourishing food to support my vibrant life
    5. Reaching out for support and love when I am in need
    6. Indulging my body with facials, days at the spa, massages, long walks, and clothes and shoes that make me feel like a queen
    7. Being non-judgemental in the moments when any of the above seem impossible, and moving on when I do find the strength I need

By committing to the rules, commitments, and understandings listed above, I hereby manifest my highest self to come forth to, each and every day, live my best possible life.

Food was my drug of choice when I felt alone. I will overcome it, and open up to love. My community, nourishing food, and my love for myself, are what serve me most.


When I started this post today, I didn't expect to share this - my deepest desire, and greatest challenge - with you all. I feel deep shame around the habits and actions I seek to change, but, as Brene Brown shared, "rarely do we see wounds in the process of healing."

I want to share my journey as I heal this deep wound, and my relationship with using food to nourish vs. numb, that I am on a journey to better understand.

To eliminate shame we have to shine a light on it. Although this feels incredibly vulnerable, and terrifying, here's to using the biggest flashlight I've got.

Resolution! Make A Video Every Week in 2016!

Hola!

I don't know about you, but 2016 already feels like a heck of a ride! This week I am finishing up packing up my house, and on Friday, I am officially (and now legally) living in New York City!

Last year was insanity, and having two weeks off to process it all was wonderful. From Cannes to California, and India to Grande Prairie, I learned so much about my self, and became an excellent traveller (eye mask is a non-negotiable), and businesswoman in 2015.

On December 31st, many of my favourite YouTubers posted videos of their year-in-review. One of my favourites, Casey Neistat, shared how he planned to invest even more time and energy into YouTube. The YouTube community, he's said, has uplifted his career and life to a place of impact he never thought imaginable.

Last year, I took a step back from editing content. I started writing more, and would dabble in videos occasionally, but this year, it's my goal to post one video a week, every Wednesday.

Whether it's simply me talking to camera about life, or answering questions you submit, or vlogging about an awesome trip or experience with Dream, Girl and the move, I want to bring you along for the ride and I want to get back to nourishing my creative soul.

So for this week, I sat down for a Q&A with my moms, Shaminder and Jasmer. I grew up in a conjoined Indian family meaning I lived with my parents, my brother, my aunt and uncle, and my two cousin sisters and cousin brother. It made for a very unique experience, and my mom and aunt (Tayee) made it all the more wonderful and odd.

Listen in as we talk about arranged marriages, having babies at 19, and what a mischievous kid I was growing up. I also had them play a game with me to see how well they knew each other, but for whatever reason, the camera stopped recording. My first fail of the year!

So join me on this added adventure, and let's see what happens! 

Much love,

- Koko 

"It's just a dream, until you see it happening."

Start here, and press play:

Next, join me on a ride.

This song came on last night as Mitch took me for a ride through our old university campus at Carleton University. We do these drives once in a while, to feel the nostalgia in our bones. To remember the stories we've recounted so many times they're ingrained in both our minds - our guides to a life that's passed.

As we drove along the river that held so many memories, I remembered the first time I saw the university sign when I was 15 years old. I was being driven to the airport after a young leaders conference on Parliament Hill.

Someone on that trip told me Carleton was the best journalism school in the country. In that moment, it became my dream to go there.

"It's just a dream, until you see it happening."

After moving into my dorm room at Carleton back in 2007

After moving into my dorm room at Carleton back in 2007

The lyrics electrified my body as we drove through campus. I brought that dream to life eight years ago. And tonight, I was preparing for the next.

Something about this drive was markedly different from all the other loops we've taken around campus. This was the last time we'd drive through campus before I move to New York City.

I moved to Ottawa when I was 17-years-old. I came here fresh faced, scarred in my own special way, and ready to leave a mark. I left Grande Prairie, my hometown since birth with the personal dream to make a life for myself in Ottawa like the one my parents made for themselves in Grande Prairie. To be a household name in the community, known for my work as much as my spirit of service and giving.

As I'm packing up pieces of my life to leave this city that helped me become the woman I am today, I can't help but cry, the bittersweetness stinging my soul.

How can it be so hard in some moments to be excited to leave for NYC to pursue my dreams.

I took Mitch out on a date last night. Isn't he lovely?

I took Mitch out on a date last night. Isn't he lovely?

It's because the dream of Ottawa isn't a hard alternative to accept.

I could live here with Mitch and our best friend Drew, and enjoy the next few years of contentment and love. Then Mitch and I could move into our first home with a big backyard after getting engaged, ready for our big Indian wedding. We could get that second bedroom set-up for our first little angel, and know that the family we've built for ourselves were all 15 minutes away in any given direction.

That would be life.

But instead, I am taking off. To finish and launch the film of my dreams with one of my best friends, Erin. I'm moving into an apartment that costs a small fortune to live a few blocks from her so we can conspire and elevate our lives, and the lives of hundreds of thousands of others, day-by-day. 

This move isn't about me. It's about impact. It's about more futures than mine. It's about more dreams than mine. It's about so much more than anything my tiny brain can even comprehend.

Sometimes in this process, I feel like an ungrateful child, unable to see the gift that lies ahead, but it's because I'm afraid of my own potential, and the real impact of what it truly is we are doing and creating.

I can't explain it, but I know Dream, Girl is going to change so many people's lives. It's already changed mine so deeply and so profoundly.

It's led me to this moment, sitting cross-legged on my bedroom floor in Ottawa, typing this on my packed up and slanted desk, cry laughing at the absurdity of it all.

The current set-up.

The current set-up.

How can this be so hard and so easy all at once? Maybe it's just about naming it all.

I'm going to miss Mitch, his warmth, his attentive gaze every night, his love so accessible and present for me everyday.

I'm going to miss having his mom and dad so close by. I'm going to miss Jordan and Josianne, and Brandon. I'm going to miss the Mirons, and Pras and the crew. I'm going to miss Costco runs with Meena, and familiar drives, going out of my way to drive past Parliament Hill and to revel in the beauty of our amazing country. I'm going to miss late-nights at Fran's with the fam, diving into anything and everything.

I'm going to miss this place where I've made a name for myself, the place that showed me what I'm truly capable of.

It hurts.

But it's going to be okay. Not right now, maybe not even next week.

But it will. On the days that Erin and I have breakthroughs in post-production, or on our press tour, or after our first public talk together. In the moments that women come up to me and tell me how what we've created has profoundly impacted their lives, and how in that moment, they felt seen, and heard, in all their complexity and power - in those moments, it will be more than okay.

"It's just a dream, until you see it happening and it changes everything."

Everything is about to change. And I couldn't be more unprepared.

Let's go, the time is now, and the risk has never felt better.

It's time to throw down, accept these tears and fears, but still take that next leap forward.

Thank you all for believing in me every step of the way, and for helping me build this space where I feel comfortable, proud, and uplifted to share exactly where I am at.

Buckle up, we're about to head into the abyss, and I couldn't be more grateful you're all by my side.

Colouring and podcasts have really helped with the nerves this week. I'm sure it will continue in the coming weeks!

Colouring and podcasts have really helped with the nerves this week. I'm sure it will continue in the coming weeks!

Diagnosis-in-Progress! Get it checked out.

Mitch (as he does) capturing a happy dance before leaving the doctor's.

Mitch (as he does) capturing a happy dance before leaving the doctor's.

On my 26th birthday a few weeks ago, I went to yoga with Louise and had a really wonderful practice. Mitch woke me up that morning, and was in full out 'it's your birthday, let's make this an awesome day' mode. I was so grateful, and so happy.

After practice, there was a soreness in my lower back on the left. Later in the day, I went to get my nails done and had the massage chair focused on that section in my lower back. It was there that I felt a small loonie sized tumour in my lower back. 

Not this again.

When I was 18, I was doing a breast self-exam in my residence dorm room after the shower one day. My music was blaring, and I remembered what one of my mentors from the breast-cancer fundraiser I helped organize in high school told me: conducting self-exams twice a year is helpful in maintaining good breast health. 

So there I was that morning, dancing around my room, feeling around, and there it was. My first tumour. I stopped in my tracks. What the eff is in my boob?

I laid down on my single bed, and double checked. I felt numb. I went to my best friend on the floor (and to this day), Heather's room and asked her to feel it. She did. It was really there. I cried. She and Becca comforted me. I called my mom.

So ensued 2 months of numbness, mixed with trying to manage living halfway across the country from my family, and handling a full university course load. Earlier in the year I had also lost two friends in sudden car crashes, and had lingering grief that I was learning to reconcile with my counsellor. 

When I went home for Reading Week, I had an ultrasound, my first biopsy, and an appointment with my family doctor where she told my mom and I that I was cancer free and that the tumour was a benign fibroadenoma. I still remember the sound my mom made when she heard the news. She was in so much pain inside but kept her composure for me. I was relieved, but the numbness remained.

After first year, Heather and I, alongside so many of our best friends, started the Relay for Life at Carleton to raise funds for the Canadian Cancer Society and to create a community for conversations about cancer on campus.

After first year, Heather and I, alongside so many of our best friends, started the Relay for Life at Carleton to raise funds for the Canadian Cancer Society and to create a community for conversations about cancer on campus.

That was the first of four tumours and growths I've found in the past eight years.

This one in my back I found two weeks ago was the latest. I knew the drill. This tumour moved between tissues, it was round, with no rough edges, all signs that it was benign and a fibrous or fatty tissue growth (fibroadenoma (unique to the breast), or lipoma). The thing that threw me with this one was that it hurt. I hadn't had pain associated with my tumours in the past.

What it looks like to work for me. Dance parties galore.

What it looks like to work for me. Dance parties galore.

Off to the doctor's I went. It took me about a week as Diana was here from Calgary to work on some pre-launch work for Dream, Girl. So last week I got in, and went for my ultrasound. At the same time I had some blood work done for a nutritionist I am going to start working with in February.

On Thursday I went in as the results were in. Again, my loved ones were waiting to hear back. The waiting game is never a fun one. Fortunately, the doctor shared that the tumour was indeed a lipoma, and that with the irritation and pain, I could get it removed if necessary.

Instant relief, I felt elated. Thank the lord this was the case.

The doctor came back in the room a bit later with my blood work results. He asked me if I had a family doctor, and I knew something was up.

Almost everything looked good, he said, but your TSH (Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (thank you high school Bio for teaching be about my endocrine system)) is ultra high. He indicated that it could be a sign of hypothyroidism and wanted to refer me to an endocrinologist, and have some more tests done. He then asked if I had been experiencing the following:

  • Higher levels of anxiety
  • Unexpected weight gain
  • Dry, brittle hair
  • Hair loss
  • Dry skin
  • Fatigue and tiredness

Check, check, check, check, and check.

Being a total dweeb at the doctor's office. Mitch keeping me company.

Being a total dweeb at the doctor's office. Mitch keeping me company.

I started crying after he left the room. A few weeks ago I posted about my recommitment to health, and since, have had mixed success with my low energy and ability to keep up with all the habits I want to instil. I had beat myself up for so long because I thought my lethargy, weight gain, and adult acne (which I have learned can also be a symptom of hypothyroidism), were a result of personal choices and habits, and not because at a baseline, my body was not functioning properly.

The diagnosis isn't confirmed, but knowing this is what it could be has provided me so much relief in knowing I am on the right path to figuring it out. The likelihood is high, as my mom told me her and my father both have hypothyroidism as well.

I can't express how much my lack of health in some key areas has hurt me inside. This isn't about my mind and my habits entirely. It's about healing and helping my body better support me, and that is so relieving. 

There are days when I can't wake up without 9 or ten hours of sleep. I wake up knowing Erin is already working, and I am unable to even move out of bed. Some mornings I look in the mirror and see new zits on my face, and feel instantaneous shame. What am I doing to be this way? What is wrong with me?

I truly thought my lack of willpower was to blame. But it's not about my ego and what I can and can't do. My vessel is not functioning at its highest and full potential, and I am just so grateful that I have a sense of what I can do next to heal.

Mitch and I have been talking it through, and the tiny pill that I will likely have to take for life to help my thyroid function at its best, is not going to 'fix' everything, but it's going to be a start to get my baseline energy, and health to a place where I can do the self-work to build the better habits I need to keep living the life I dream of.

I wanted to share this to ask each of you to take your health seriously. Recently, women that I love have showed up for their health and are enduring, and healing because of being proactive. Love yourself enough to get whatever it is that may be lingering, or bothering you looked at. Make the appointment, get the prescription (or not), shift your diet, and give yourself a chance to feel better. 

We are ultimately responsible for taking care of our personal health and doing so will enable us to better serve the world around us alongside the ones that we love. Do your best, for you. 

You can't be what you can't see! ;-), thanks to Maggie for making this on my birthday, I do have that pink Power Ranger love for real and a desire to feel awesome once again.

You can't be what you can't see! ;-), thanks to Maggie for making this on my birthday, I do have that pink Power Ranger love for real and a desire to feel awesome once again.

Realizing it was within me all along...

It's 1:22 am, and I am a happy girl.

The past few nights have been riddled with tears, and fears, and anxiety about what's next. But tonight I feel proud of myself for doing what needed to be done to bring my dreams to life.

Tomorrow, Erin is looking at an apartment in Park Slope, Brooklyn for me that I know in my heart is the one. On December 14th, God willing, I will walk out of my appointment with the US Consulate with my Visa in hand. The next day I will apply for the American SIN number, open my US bank account, and apply for my first American credit card. Between now and then, I'll move my first load of things from Ottawa to NYC, and this move will officially be real with me living in Brooklyn in the New Year.

Woah.

IMG_7334.JPG

I've been making lists on Google Docs of move to-dos, and creating budget after budget on Sheets for months. I've been meticulously searching through PadMapper and Craigslist weekly looking for the perfect place to live. The first few months are going to be tight in the city, but it's all for good reason -- getting to NYC to work side-by-side with Erin in the final six-months before the launch of Dream, Girl, our greatest project to date.

Tonight I went through the thick, coiled, broken-down-by-section visa application that my law firm prepared for me. As I turned each page I realized how critical each step in this journey has been.

Starting contracting as a registered Sole Proprietorship in 2012 to... 

Section 1.
Becoming a Canadian Corporation a few months later with share certificates indicating my 100% ownership of my company, KoMedia Inc.

Section 2. 
Hiring the best accountant I know three years ago to guide me through my start-up years and to build out my financial statements for my first few years in business, and now setting us up for payroll.

Section 3.
Attending grad school at Waterloo my first year in business, giving me a post-grad diploma that enabled a deeper understanding and expertise.

Section 4. 
Working with Canadian clients who took me from Vancouver to India, and helped me learn so much about my craft, my talent, and my passions for social change.

Section 5.
Establishing meaningful contracts with Dream, Girl and others in the US that allow me to work the way I want to work, and to dream as big as I want to dream.

Section 6.
My latest resume that so nicely lists everything I deem 'noteworthy'.

As I closed the bound 'book' of an application, I felt elated. I did this. Everything listed here. I created. I am taking this risk of moving to NYC. I took that first risk of reaching out to Erin and listening to the pounding heart beat in my chest that told me Dream, Girl was meant to be my life. 

I did this.

I am the first to give thanks to those who have enabled me to get here, but tonight, I am going to pause and give praise to myself. I am making it through the tear-filled nights, and days filled with endless to-do lists and stresses, I am moving to the 'concrete jungle where dreams are made of' (thank you Alicia Keys). I am hopelessly romantic about the future of my companies, and the impact Erin and I will make on this big beautiful world.

If anything, I want this post to be a reminder for you, and to my future self, that regardless of how hard things may seem in this moment, how far-fetched that dream or idea may be, YOU are the only thing standing in your way.

Some nights I struggle to fall asleep because of the fear I feel with what's next. I own a home in Ottawa. I live with the love of my life and one of our best friends. I could stay here, and live a long, content, enriching life.

But I want more. I want to push myself to another level of curiosity, of determination, of grit. I want to keep pushing, every single day.

This is not easy. Every day I question what I've done, flippantly attributing it to the luck of the draw I've had in life. But in this moment I am willing to say, I didn't have to take this path. But I have actively chosen everyday of my life to work towards being better. To giving meaningfully to this world in a way that will drive me until the day I die.

My life is so insignificant when I realize the vastness of the universe, or even, the depth and length of human history. All I can do is try my best, and throw down every day. I am choosing love over fear, I am choosing to see myself instead of hiding from my own light.

I am doing this. And so can you.

Finding My Way Back To Physical Health: The Start-Up 15 and Readjusting

I am very much an open book when it comes to my thoughts and emotions. Sometimes it feels like an avalanche, other times, the thoughts creep in and take hold in unexpected, subtle and unnoticed ways.

That's when I know it's time for a readjustment.

The past week has been intense to say the least. A national election in Canada with a party that truly represents my views taking leadership, coming back from Mill Valley, California where I was flown out and asked to speak as the only woman on an all-male panel, and finally, coming back to Ottawa and having a haze of confusion and lethargy take hold.

Hiking in Muir Woods outside of Mill Valley, California

Hiking in Muir Woods outside of Mill Valley, California

Normally, my work serves as my salvation. Whatever is going on, I can dive in and it helps uplift me. This time, I was struggling even getting started, or going into the office. I was also feeling like crap in my body. 

In the past year and a bit since Dream, Girl came into my life last August, I have gained about 15 pounds. Similar to the 'Freshman 15' I gained in first year university, this seems to be my 'Start-Up 15'.

When I first started KoMedia two years ago, my experience was actually the exact opposite. I had been fired from my previous job, started my company that very same day, and signed up for my first half-marathon not long thereafter. I started running, strength-training, and tracking my food. I knew I needed to shift some things in my life, and at the time, health was my number one priority.

That year, I also started grad school. It was an executive education-style program that was module-based. Every morning of all four week-long modules I would workout, lead a guided meditation, and then show up to class.

In contrast - last week, I spent two full days working from bed without leaving my house, yes, with a meditation sandwiched in between the coziness, but it had me asking, 'what's changed?', 'why am I not moving?'

With a few days of journaling, and going back to previous entries from that period of time in my life (which I wish there was more of), I realized I am afraid.

I am afraid of being seen as a successful, healthy, powerful woman. Isn't that funny? I spend most of my days spreading the good word and work of feminism, of 'empowerment', and here I am hiding in a shadow of my former self physically.

I was hiding behind a groin injury that took hold after we were rear-ended last summer that makes it hard for me to squat and deadlift. Two of my favourite exercises. I was afraid that yoga would aggravate it and instead of pivoting my workouts, and adjusting, I just stopped.

Cuddling my grandma in India.

Cuddling my grandma in India.

That mixed into a myriad of personal heaviness this year. From spending Christmas Eve and Christmas Day in the Intensive Care Unit with my mom after my uncle had part of his jaw removed to eliminate the cancer that had grown unnoticed for ten years, followed almost immediately by the death of her father, my grandfather, that had me going from Grande Prairie, Alberta to India back-to-back, I'd say diving into butter and rich food was a logical choice at the time.

I came back from India in March and we dived right into launching the Dream, Girl trailer on International Women's Day and the non-stop whirlwind of festivals, travel, and business growth that the last six months has held.

Maybe I'm being a bit too hard on myself. I'm not upset at myself for getting here. In fact, I think it's pretty logical. A shit-tonne of stuff happened this year, I just finally feel like I am in a state of mind to take my health back. I am 25, on the cusp of 26, and I want to feel like a weapon in my body.

I like to feel the strength of my muscles as I do pushups. Being upside down in a handstand feels more at home to me than anything else. Eating nourishing food is actually so delicious. I was just lost in the noise of change, and sprinting to keep up with my life.

15 pounds at the end of the day doesn't matter all that much, what matters to me is that I have been feeling sad. I was feeling like not enough. I was starting to feel like what I had to give to this world didn't matter as much because this physical body didn't look a certain way, and wasn't feeling good. I knew I had to shift something.

So on Sunday, Mitch and I got real with each other. I cried, we dove into our fears around health, we faced what would happen if we didn't start back on the path to nourishing our bodies, and we took action.

I signed back up for twice-weekly classes with the goddess of a woman, and one of the best yoga teachers in Ottawa, Louise Cameron. Last July, I trained with Louise for 30 days, 8-hours a day, to get my Forrest Yoga-inspired Hatha Yoga Teacher certification and it was life changing.

What a month it was! I felt so strong spiritually and emotionally.

What a month it was! I felt so strong spiritually and emotionally.

Louise really saw me. From day one I felt an instant connection to her. It was indescribable, and so powerful. Close to the end of our time together, she offered me a teaching position. I was floored. She saw power in my teaching and healing ability that I had never been aware of so deeply or viscerally. My life took another direction, and I still see her as a soul sister. There are few people in our lives who can see us with pure eyes, and she is one of them to me. 

Love you Louise (and happy anniversary to you and Gord today)!

So far this week I've had two practices with her, with another on the schedule for tomorrow, and I already feel the shift.

On Sunday, Mitch and I also sat down and took time to meal plan. 

A few months ago, I had the opportunity to meet Karena and Katrina from Tone It Up. I am a yuppie for strong online communities, and the first time I lost 20 pounds, I found Instagram to be a solid source of inspiration and community when it came to fitness. The Tone It Up community is insane online, and my friend Courtney McCarthy found amazing success through their program.

March 2014 - loving being upside down!

March 2014 - loving being upside down!

So, I ordered their Vegetarian Meal Plan, and Mitch and I dived in and planned our food for the week. We made our grocery list and hit Whole Foods. A couple hundred dollars, and some Spirulina, and Agave Syrup later, we were ready to prep.

We spent three hours cooking and packing our meals. From brazillian nut and dried fruit bars (that are so insanely delicious) to kale and red cabbage salad with this sweet, rich and savoury dressing, to evening chilli, and tonight, Thai peanut lettuce wraps with friends, it felt incredible to be so in control of what we were putting into our bodies. We also realized we're going to be saving a lot of money by cooking mostly at home.

It's only day three of recommitting to our health, but it feels like I am right back to the peak of my fitness. It feels so right, and so manageable. With the right supports, the right people, the right attitude, it's all fully achievable.

I also need to add that I'm about two months away from making that big move to NYC, and had I moved this month as was originally planned, I likely would have been a basket case. Without a good foundation of food, movement, and sleep, I know my tendencies towards depression and anxiety flare up. Add to that a move to the 'centre of the universe', and I would have been toast.

Staged shot - ha! Green tea, and my body journal is at home, so this is my work journal sitting in!

Staged shot - ha! Green tea, and my body journal is at home, so this is my work journal sitting in!

To be honest, I can't afford to not be in good, solid health. This recommitment won't be the last in my life, but this time I am being more mindful of how. I've added a second journal to my life - I call it my body journal. In it, I'm writing all the thoughts, feels, and emotions that come up related to my body, all the pain that I feel in different parts, and what's feeling good. I want this not only to help me today, but for future Komal who may need an in-depth reminder of my why and how when it comes to health.

All this to say. This is going to be interesting. Start-up 15 is not fun. It's a result of a gruelling and insane lifestyle that is somehow so deeply rewarding. I've realized I've got to get my health act together to be able to keep going in the direction of my dreams.

I'll keep you posted on how it goes in the coming days, weeks, months, and years. All I know is today, I'm not afraid to be seen (thank you Erin) and I am not afraid to share that I have some work to do.

Help me get there?

- K