The journey to finding purpose

On being stuck, getting unstuck and understanding that purpose is ever-evolving.

This is my story on finding purpose: I realized that what I have been doing for ‘work’ the last decade, simply isn’t want I want to do when I grow up anymore.

Someone once told me “if you can remember what it was like as a kid to grow out of a size of pants or shoes, that’s what’s happening right now — you are growing out of a chapter and ready to enter a new one”. Sounded cheesy when I first heard it, but it makes so much sense now.

I’m breaking up the story in 3 phases:

Phase 1) Why
Phase 2) Turning point of how this went into action
Phase 3) Learnings and process ( → Clarity/breakthrough, Direction, Actions)


While one work-experience has lead me to the next-best one, over the last few years I’ve felt a sense of being ‘stuck’. Ideas came and went. I tested some of them, and others never made it out into the world. Friends vetted and approved them; I just stalled and procrastinated. I thought the solution to this stuckness was to get a new day-job. I hit the refresh button on my resume, pitch and goals and off I went to interview. As I went through informational conversations and interviews with companies I was inspired to work at, I was convincing myself that I was on the right path in terms of the type of companies and roles I was after. Through this process, I captured mixed signals: how i was presented on paper did indeed reflect my experience and skills but it did not reflect what I’m actually excited about in life and the change or impact I care to make. This was a deer-in-headlights realization, so I decided to pause on the job hunt and take a good look at myself.

Turning point

The following week I had a set of memorable conversations with two mentees of mine. These conversations stood out to me because both of them expressed gratitude for our relationship thus far and especially for me helping them through a phase of transition with their careers. The same week I had a lunch with a colleague I admire to ask for advice on my thinking about my next move. She asked me about passion and purpose. I stumbled. I didn’t have honest answers, but I suppose they were honest enough where I opened up and shared a bit more about what I think I do best and what I can offer outside of the context of my job. All my side-hustles either at work or outside have been about bringing communities together, building frameworks and systems to guide folks and lift blockers. Our lunch ended with a recommendation to meet with someone in leadership development at my current company. I munched on all this end-of-week and shared it with my therapist (I used TalkSpace for 6mos and I highly recommend the service). She had been amazing with guiding me and offering tools during this me-trying-to-get-unstuck phase but if it wasn’t for her calling out something specific about the two mentee conversations I had earlier that week, I would have walked right past it! — coaching came natural to me. That’s when I looked back at the conversations and realized I wasn’t mentoring, I was coaching. 99% of my coffee dates or friend-breakfasts over the years have actually and always been about career transitions; either big changes or micro changes. I have been so invested in this topic without realizing it and now I find myself in the same career-transition space!

From here I took some meetings with coaches to listen to their stories on how they got into it; either doing it for a living, or out of joy. One thing lead to another, from chats, to books, to videos, to referrals — and I landed on Project X’s Purpose Accelerator. I would sign up for 1 month to work on my very own personal and professional journey to finding my purpose. Sure, this may sound self-helpy and cheesy but the website copy was very clear to me: I would be offered the tools needed to propel myself forward and would follow the program with a group of strangers that would also become my accountability group, aka what I needed: a kick in the butt. This program was designed with so much detail, passion and care, I cannot recommend it enough. Some are shy or even partially ashamed for joining such programs, and I can respect that. I loved hearing why the founders came to designing the programming and resonated with the value it has been providing many cohorts before mine. These type of programs need to be integrated in schools and companies — period.

With my Purpose Entrepreneurship Accelerator crew, being vulnerable and about to hit the streets to interact with strangers — yikes!

Learnings and process

So many people are searching for purpose and it is so important to learn you are not alone on this journey. Purpose does not have a one-time definition, it’s ever evolving. You reach the best version of yourself when what you are doing (for work or in life) is aligned with your purpose. Don’t know what it is? Hey, I didn’t either but I was ready to find out. I was ready to be asked the hard questions, I was ready to step outside of my comfort zone to find out. I have been living this one-track life post school and felt that I had lost my focus. This program helped me look into my strengths and fears, to help me transition from a thinker to a doer. I was doer at work, but a thinker outside of work. Work defined my doing, not my true passions. Project X made me commit to continuous, small experiments. Nothing I was unfamiliar with; I was literally taking years of agile methodologies and design thinking and performing them on myself vs a client. What was different with this program was the power of accountability. I designed, acted, learned, rebuilt, and acted again while having built a system of support that pushed me to see these steps through, week by week, until I got completely comfortable putting imperfect ideas out into the world; and develop techniques to change my career in a more meaningful way.


That one month I was dedicated, focused and had intent like I’ve never had before for my personal and professional growth. It was combination of Project X + TalkSpace + Headspace + the Journal (reminder: I’ve been a PM for years so this rigorous and detail-oriented combo was my jam; it may not work for you). All my spare thinking time went to reflection and actions on repeat (it was a lot, no kidding, but it was worth it). Here is a snapshot of various exercises I went through to give you an idea of the journey to building your very own authentic definition of your own success:

• Identify your heroes and the values of your heroes
• What brings you joy?
• What situations do you find yourself “in flow”?
Calling cards (Richard Leider)
• Build your own power mantra
• Death meditation, self-obituary activities
• Future-life meditation
• Dealing with your career and life baggage
• Gratitude and happiness activities
• Dates with yourself without a destination in mind, sans phone/tech
• Reflective best-self exercise *this one was brilliant* (have others call out skills and passions you may have buried or ignored)

Some can work on all this solo, buy reading books, retreats, journaling but something about doing this with a group of complete strangers was my trigger to react and get unstuck. If I had one main takeaway from this is that a vision of the future accomplished is what allows us to commit to relentless experimentation (Jeff Hittner I think you actually said this). I had never ever done this in my life, never thought to nor was I ever provoked to — vision is key.


I’m shifting from ‘solutioning problems for people’ to focus ‘on people development’. It will be two-fold: talent/skills development and coaching. I will apply this direction where I currently work (because if there is one thing my company cares about, it is indeed about the people and their growth) as well as work on external education and practice on the side.


  • Out of Project X, I have a product idea I’m working on (and a great community of mentors to leverage going forward). My action is to share with you where it’s at 3 months from now.
  • On Coaching, I’m taking a few lay-of-the-land calls with coaches to find the right education/certification program that suits me. My action here is looking at at career transition and life-coaching education options. I will also be looking to put my fluent Greek to use by offering bilingual coaching. (Recommendations welcome!)
  • Out of TalkSpace, I have a superb toolkit to use to balance focus, intent, goals, self-care and to be more aware of things around me. I did so much introspection with this service, and my action is to open up my toolkit as needed.
  • Out of Headspace, I learned how hard and how important it is to take breaks in your day to slow down, to relax, and sometimes to challenge your mode of thinking. My action is to use Headspace daily.
  • On Talent Development, my actions are: taking intros, calls and meetings with various folks that work in or have retired from HR to get more perspective in a rather new industry for me.
  • Out of the BestSelf Co journal, my action is to visualize my entire day and not let work or my inboxes dictated the planning of my day. The journal is designed as such where it sprinkles goals, lessons, wins, areas for improvement and gratitude as to make it a ‘natural’ way for you to think about your day. My action is to use this daily for 3mos (but to also not beat myself up if I skip a day or two ;)).

Thanks for reading. I believe sharing stories is important — it creates space to talk with others going through similar journeys.

If you have questions, want to chat on any of the above or want discount codes to any of the services above, reach out!

The Margaretville cabin renovation: the living room.

The core of the cabin. Where you and guests get cozy and kick back.

Chapter 6 — The living room.
(If this is your first time here, go back and start the journey at Chapter 1)

Let me catch you up with a sequence of before to afters —

I’m sure this image is burned in your brain by now. Various type of wood paneling, flannel, bears, oh my.

*Poof* all gone. Clean slate!

As the panelling came down, we realized there was this extension of wall creating a hallway between the bathroom and the guest bedroom. We didn’t have to think about this one much. We blasted it.

Et voila!


Down with the old, up with the new: insulation, sheetrock and new windows in place.

Let there be light.

Before/After #1

Before/After #2

Electrical work and lighting design & positioning.

We replaced the breaker box and let our contract lead with where to position power outlets according to code requirements. There is an outlet every 6 feet in every direction. We originally were going to run two outlets for TVs (living room and upstairs) but we only got one set up in the end.

We have baseboards running in symmetry in the space. See this nifty guide Phil whipped up to summarize the electrical design specs (the dotted blue highlight notes the living room area):

Wood-burning stove positioning and code shenanigans.

You don’t mess around here. Between your county and manufacturer requirements, all detail matters. You want the setup to avoid being near combustibles and there are multiple ways to go about this depending on your design preferences and the space you have to work with. For example, we didn’t need a heat-shield on the wall behind the stove because we placed the stove far away/enough so that it wasn’t a risk but we did ensure to have a large surface are of tile or stone for the hearth (floor area beneath and around the stove to avoid combustion with wooden flooring nearby). Iterations of nifty guides; left to right:

Tiling around the wood-burning stove.

You saw that super simple and easy-to-setup tile in the guide above? Well, we didn’t go with that because we didn’t find tile we liked in that shape. So of course I fell in love with a complicated M.C. Escher-like design and our tile-guy hates me for life for it. But, our tile guy is amazing at his craft and I’m told he was super proud to lay out this complicated hearth (Our contractor however was blunt with me and said I couldn’t have picked a more complicated design — but you know what? I’m only gonna pick tile for my dreamy wood-burning stove once, and this stuff is permanent so let the art director come through please :D). We went with SomerTile 8.75×8.75-inch Concrete Cubic Big Ben Porcelain in white with light grey grout:

A couple of key learnings, tips and notes to leave here from this chapter:

  1. The devil is in the detail: Don’t giggle at our sketches, we made loads of them. Over about a month, we worked out specs, layouts and designs. I recall us going up to check on progress and our tile master had set up a mock layout of the design of the tiles to be triple sure we’d get it right. Photoshop, sketches, photos, anything helps be 100% sure you are on the same page.
  2. Mark things: When it comes to a new breaker box and new positioning of outlets, make sure you understand height, placement preferences vs code requirements and test out everything. Then label your breaker box with detail that will make sense to you or anyone visiting for a repair.
  3. If I had to do something different in this phase — it would be dedicating a space at the house where we put up all these guides for both us, team and contractor to reference. How we kept track of estimates vs tasks via email, calls and texts still blows my mind!

Thanks for tuning in!

Wood-burning stoves:
Old: All Nighter Stove Works(Big Moe model) ← This beast can heat from 10,000 to 75,000 BTUs, it can burn 14–30hrs, it can heat up to 3,000 sq. ft. and weighs 510 lbs. A well known and respected Connecticut-based-manufacturer.
New: Osburn Soho Wood Stove (OB01520 model)

Tile for the hearth around stove:
We went with SomerTile 8.75×8.75-inch Concrete Cubic Big Ben Porcelain in white with light grey grout.

Sneak peek into the full cabin reno:

The Margaretville cabin demolition.

Designing and building it from the ground up, to call it our own.

Chapter 5 — The interior.

Let me give you a visual refresher: this was a hunters lodge with a lot of do-it-yourself (DIY) thumbprints and lots of wooden panelling. Let me guide you in a static 360° — picture yourself entering the cabin and starting from left, scanning the space, from left to right:

Welcome. You are in the dining area looking at the kitchen.

(If you are new here, go to the first chapter of this story!)

Scanning upwards and to the right, you will notice the ‘cathedral ceiling’ design of the space leading you to the master bedroom upstairs and the loft. Also, meet the old not-up-to-code staircase.

Scanning over to the right, you see the full length of the loft and this unfinished ceiling business.

Scanning back to the main floor you can see the living area and an entrance towards the bathroom and second bedroom.

Welcome to the party room. By party, I mean the different types and colors of wood that have joined us on this tour.

The previous owners had the place for 7 years and it looks like they worked on the place in phases. Don’t ask me what strategy they had in mind because we couldn’t figure it out ourselves. We knew it was all coming down; demo at first sight.

I’ll be focusing in this main area for this post; we’ll dig into each of the rooms in separate posts to follow. I know, the suspense is killing you but hang tight!

Now *blink*. Open your eyes and you will see that potential we saw behind the funky lodge interior design:

A blank canvas. A wide open space. And hey! that’s Alex, our lovely realtor who joined on closing day!

Take it all in. Yep, even that HOLE in the ceiling. Also: squint and you will see a ‘shadow’ of an old staircase!

DEMO-DAY! (well, it took a few weekends but it was SO much fun!)

One-by-one each beautiful old panel someone had once put up, came on down.

We were going for the bright light look vs the old-school-dark-and-cozy cabin look. It’s getting there!

The first layer of demo was done by us but the next was done by a team of 6 to blaze through the process faster. We timed it so that the demo of the guts of the walls would happen at the same time as when the new windows would be delivered so that the windows could be framed and the place could be sealed in between demo sessions.

Down to the guts! Also, that chandelier stayed there the entire time of the demo. It was charming.

We also said buh-bye to this 40+ yr old stove (we were convinced it had remained from the original owner from 1970).

This is the kitchen. (Separate post coming for this section of the renovation!)

View of dining area from the top, at the loft.

A couple of key learnings, tips and notes to leave here from this chapter:

  1. Demolition attire: Wear gloves, clothes and glasses to protect you. Besides nails and other gross things, you have no idea what creatures may pop out or other toxic residue you may find during the process.
  2. Staying overnight in a gutted house: Just don’t do it. We were too excited about seeing progress so we went for it. We slept on an air-mattress in the middle of the rubble, in sleeping bags — also: with no working toilet — and loved and hated every minute of it. I tried to avoid the thoughts of bugs falling on my face during the night by snuggling up in the sleeping bag and hoping our dog would protect us from any gross critter that may appear (haha, right, have you seen Rufus?).
  3. Timing and communications with contractor and supplier teams: was everything in this phase. We had some hiccups along the way but we learned and tweaked as needed; everything fell into place! (Example/fun memory: we were told one weekend that a toilet had been installed for us to use, but in reality, no toilet was to be found 😂).
  4. Emergency supplies and first aid kit: Have them handy, for you and your crew during this phase; in the house and in the car. Also treat your crew to a nice lunch or surprise them with snacks (or good ol’ cold Budweiser too)

Thanks for tuning in! (Catch the next chapter here!)

Sneak peek into the full cabin reno:

The Margaretville cabin renovation begins.

The exterior renovation of our cabin.

Within 2hrs of signing, we met one of the contractors recommended to us, to take a tour of the house and discuss initial plans. We immediately connected with Don. The referral was key to our decision in working with him, but his expertise, recommendations, honesty and candor sealed the deal. We walked through every room and prioritized areas that needed support. This is how we mapped out the phases of the reno: Exterior first, interior second, landscaping third. (If you are new here, go to the first chapter of this story!)

Chapter 4 — The exterior.

Rotting wood and a variety of poorly installed windows were first in line for a facelift!

We closed right after Thanksgiving. With the winter holidays around the corner and piles of snow on the way, we had to put off the official start time to riiiiight after the last snow fall: April 2017. In the meantime, we went old school and started creating a moodboard and whipping up estimates, wish and wants lists, back in Brooklyn. While I was still wrapping my head around this entire project, Phil had a vision and it was an impressive one: Board & batten with lots of glass.

This moodboard grew over 8 months taking over the entire wall of our office. Sadly I can’t find the evolution photos but will post when I find them!

April and May came and went. The demo, reframing for windows, and new siding going up was a dance around the weather but it all came together quite quickly. We decided on rough cut pine, in a board and batten pattern and while we originally wanted to stain it an orangey color, after it went up we all decided it would weather nicely and give us a color close to our original vision.

If you are not approaching a super custom, outrageous design and reno, the windows and the bathroom will most likely be your most expensive parts of the reno (but it’s worth it). These windows were a game-changer; they brought in so much light (and would keep the heat in). If the house’s foundation was up for it, we would have gone through with Phil’s vision: a full glass front. It would have been dreamy, but hey, we’ll save that thought for the next reno 😉

“All measurement shown are taken from the interior of the property (snow prevented us from taking exterior measurements. Diagrams should be to scale.”

This was just the beginnings of the process of finding the right ways of communication with our main contractor, subcontractors and material/supply companies. There is no one-fits-all tool or process (see: new business idea) and we were both blow away with how much information our contractor retained in his head or on multiple notepads in his truck. Being two different kinds of PMs, we obviously but our skills to use. We may not be architects but between pen, paper, sketch and (I kid you not) keynote, we organized specs, visualized changes and generally kept track of things.

A couple of key learnings, tips and notes to leave here from this chapter:

  1. Demolition: You can cut costs if you do it yourself but probably won’t save on time (and if wood’s involved, it’s free firewood to keep— depending on the wood and its treatment). Don’t forget to recycle anything what you can!
  2. Windows: Go with a reputable brand. Depending on your budget, you can go as nimble or as wild as you want. Our ideal makeup was to go with 8 windows at the same size to have balanced light around the house: 1 slightly larger for the top-front-loft window and allow for more flexibility with the front; 6 large panels; some static; some not. Also, definitely get blinds for them on day 1 (tip coming from the future: the sun drenches the house all day and changed the coloring of our new floors — womp).
  3. Treatment to new exterior wood: You can stain it with a colored or clear coat or let it weather. In our case, we didn’t add new gutters to the two ends of the roof — which we later noticed water from rain being retained in a section of the siding causing it to mold. Something that can be fixed but sort out your gutters up front when dealing with wooden siding.

Thanks for tuning in! (Catch the next chapter here!)

Sneak peek into the full cabin reno:

Siding/wood from:

Windows from:

Our amazing contractor (referred by our realtor Alex!): Don Bender

The Margaretville cabin project.

The story, journey and learnings behind becoming weekender, first-timer cabin renovators.

Chapter 1 — There’s more to NY than NYC

I had this goal: I need to buy an apartment, a house (something!) when I reached 10 yrs of living in New York City. A month shy of that decade mark, I happened to be on my first west-of-the-Hudson-river AirBnB adventure with my then boyfriend (now husband) and our grumpy dog, Rufus. No offense, but Hudson, Beacon and all the beautiful towns along the Amtrak line did not mesmerize me as much as the Catskills did that week-long autumn-color-filled November in Woodstock. It wasn’t until that 2015 Thanksgiving getaway that I realized how easy it was to escape the cement city and find refuge in almost any direction you leave it! The getaway experience was on demand for the transient folk of NYC and I wanted a piece of it. I didn’t know a thing about flipping, renting, upkeep — the whole package—so I started by hitting up my past AirBnB hosts to see if there would be open to share tips and tricks.

The view from the Waterfall Cottage AirBnB that took my breath away.

Truth: It never hurts to ask. The owners behind the 5 cabins on this beautiful Woodstock property were in love with the town’s beauty, so much that they wanted to create an enchanted escape for others (they describe it as “a touch of Big Sur in the Hudson Valley”). The more I researched the Catskills and nudged other AirBnB hosts, I realized I was already sipping on the Catskills-investment-koolaid. We sat on this concept of maaaayyybe investing in a place upstate to flip it and rent it out—until 8 months later (after also having purchased a car) we revisited the idea. So what does one with a project management background do from here? Make an Excel sheet of course:

I never got it to a completed state but I’ll catch you up: I settled on Delaware county because it was truly the best for an all-season getaway house, had enough big towns for easy access to essentials and was far enough from the city (2.5 hrs) so that it’s not full of cityites (yep, that’s what locals upstate call us).

Chapter 2 — We are definitely buying a house but haven’t convinced ourselves it’s actually happening.

Research completed! Now on to visit properties! But wait, we had zero answers for what every real estate agent would ask us “Let me know your criteria for a property: area / acreage / sq. ft / features / budget etc — and I’ll be happy to send you available options”. So what do 2 creatives in tech do from here? Pick a few listings that best sum up our vision, shoot them over and see what happens! 4 consecutive weekend visits later, we had clear criteria list and an immense set of learnings from our stellar real estate agent. Alex is ex-NYCer himself, half Greek (remind me to tell you a good story about our connection here) living in his dream home (which he designed btw) and loving life in the Catskills. We felt at home with Alex (no pun intended) and were not afraid to be vulnerable with him, about not knowing a darn thing we were getting ourselves into. On our last visit, he snuck listing #106782 in our second to last stop. Having thoroughly studied the listing in advance (yep, picture highlighter and pen doodles on print out), I remember saying to Alex as we stepped out of his truck in the muddy driveway: “This is the one. I know it and don’t even need to step out of the truck to convince you”. Alex basically told me to simmer down and come on out. (But oh, was my gut right!)

Love at first sight. If you squint a little, you will see the potential (promise).

Chapter 3 — Ok, we bought a gem and began to flip it. But there is a twist!

The 8 month journey from closing on the house, to completing renovations, we learned a lot and decisions evolved alongside the process. I promise to share additional chapters of the journey with all the detail, tips and tricks (to maybe convince you to follow our footsteps) but until then — the unexpected twist to this story was that we fell in love with the process of gutting a home to its guts, rebuilding it and redesigning it to call it our own. Our own labor of love (+blood, sweat, tears) that we selfishly were not ready to share with others. We were eager to plug into the AirBnB model and capitalize on our investment but caught ourselves in our tracks — we realized that having your own little slice of nature and a home to simply relax in, was truly amazing.

Almost 2 years later, with timeline, budget, material and technique learnings under our belt, we are ready to revisit our original plan: create an enchanted escape for others to enjoy as much as we do.

Stay tuned for the full story behind our Margaretville, NY cabin reno and our new journey on doing this all over again. (Catch the next chapter here)

Sneak peek into the full cabin reno:

Real estate agent: Alexander Exarchos from

Project kick-offs: agenda, scope, team, emotions

A few you must wonder what us Producers do all day as we hit our keyboard keys, talk on the phone and go in and out of meetings. There’s more to our fancy Gantt chart timelines and chasing you to do your timesheets — I promise! I plan on sharing a series of posts on OC that capture a Producer’s life behind the scenes. Enjoy post #1.

Tip: Prep yourself emotionally for project kick-offs You may have the print outs, gantt charts, budget forecasts and assets ready but that’s not all it takes to prepare yourself and your team for a new project to commence. It’s taken me a while to realize that high levels of stress during the beginning phase of a project is rooted in not preparing myself ‘mentally’ for a new project.It may sound corny, but everyone needs a to hit the refresh button on their confidence levels from time to time.

When the curtain opens

A project kick off, can easily be underestimated. Get the team together, share the basics, talk about what needs to get done and GO. That’s definitely your stepping stone to series of failures to come across the lifespan of your project. From team chemistry, to communication and overall commitment.

You want to kick off of a project similar to team kick off:Gather the entire team

  • Talk about the project
  • Talk about what the team wants out this project: expectations, milestones etc.
  • Get a whiteboard and write everyone’s names on it (incl. the client team) and key project details (doodling allowed too!)

This makes the meeting more of a facilitation training vs presenting. Ideally, I’d like to also structure a conversation on the following:

  • List out what the team wants
  • List out any fears, uncovering things they are afraid of (more like risks)
  • List out expectations; mine and teams’ (work style, communication styles etc.)
  • Talk about roles. If any conflict or overlap, make it clear
  • Goals. Project and personal goals (adding a piece to my portfolio, thought leadership, company goal etc.)

Behind the scenes

1. Be a good leader and follower Creative and effective leadership in design environments calls for emotional literacy and intelligence. A project lead needs to have the ability to listen to others and also express themselves. This behavior affects relationships and facilitates communication.

Project lead criteria:

  • Self-awareness
  • Self-management
  • Social awareness
  • Relationship management

2. Helping relieve someone from an idea they are attached to (aka how to properly kill an idea) vs Helping pushing an idea forward. 3. Awareness of others and how the team works. 4. Ask questions vs being directive. 5. Adjust attitude and team conflict.

During the project’s entire lifespan

Know yourself. Know and understand your emotional landscape. Work out your own shit so you can be a great leader to others.

Be in touch with the fears inside you. Fear gets triggered a lot in our society. Before walking into a meeting, listen to yourself and deal with fears. Bring less baggage to the table.

Classic example: The fear that I’m not a good PM. That’s a valid fear to have, I’m sure there is a trigger to that thought, but for the time being, you have to put it aside and walk into your meeting with confidence and later evaluate the root of your fear.

Sarah B. Nelson, once summarized the key emotional states you need to put aside while at work: HALT = Hungry. Angry. Tired. Lonely. Take care as many as you can before going into a meeting (please).

Key takeaway: Always work on checks & balances of the emotional state of your teams and project.

Originally published at on December 18, 2012.