I met Leah after her talk on how to see the future and the human side of tech during the International Startup Festival.
She inspired the whole audience by her perspective, fresh take on life and inspiring thoughts to just get out and do.
She spreads such a positive and joyful energy, it's hard not to fall into her charm.
English Literature & Religion degree, Miami University
Ethnographer by nature; grad school professor for fun; writer by trade - for Fast Company, O'Reilly Radar, the world;
emcee, on-air journalist, and model because YES! Life is big and great :)
At what time do you wake up?
It depends. If I'm with my daughter we're up by 7am.
When I'm not with her, I'm usually up by 8:30am and I stay up late at night because I go out to a lot of events.
AND some days I choose to treat myself like a queen and stay in bed.
How many events do you go to every week?
If my daughter is with me, she and I will do maybe two.
I'll take her to a hardware accelerator, a science museum, or if I'm speaking at a conference she'll be in the audience.
When she's not with me, that's when I'm travelling, exploring the world and attending a couple of events every night.
I like new experiences and contrast; Holy Mountain and the Museum of Sex one night, a conference on emerging tech the next.
I play at VC firms, on rooftops, at underground break dancing events, in the street art world.
Music festivals and drag queens fascinate me. So do smart people.
I also dig couture fashion
What's your morning routine like?
Almost every day is really different. I'll just tell you about that Saturday we had the photo shoot together.
I went to Olive & Gourmando where I got myself a mocha and an apple turnover.
After that, I met with a wonderful entrepreneur who I met at Startup Festival.
She's an energy healer who started an eco-community and has a creative consultancy.
We walked around the Notre-Dame Basilica and learned about its history.
We later got a really great lunch and talked about everything from entrepreneurship and business to magic.
Then I went back to the hotel, caught up on my emails and did some writing that I had promised to do.
After that, I headed to the photo shoot with you. When we finished, I went to The Wiggle Room and watched a burlesque show.
Then I went to Schwartz and got smoked meat, took a long bath and went to bed.
The day started at 8:30am and it went on until 11:30pm.
I was constantly in motion. That's pretty typical of what my days look like.
At what time do you usually go to sleep?
It depends on which city I'm in.
If I'm in New York it's probably anywhere between 1am and 5am.
If I'm in San Francisco with my daughter it's probably more like 10pm.
I love that everyday is radically different. This week I've been in Montreal, in New York where I was stuck in an airport,
and now I'm in Las Vegas.
It's just weird and wonderful. I am grateful for everything I see and everyone I get to meet.
People are amazing.
You went from a small town to discovering the world, what made you want to get out?
I grew up right at the river where Kentucky, Ohio and West Virginia meet.
Appalachia, is a part of the United States that most people don't know still exists.
It's geographically beautiful and people usually don't leave, it's pretty isolated.
One part of my parent's religion was to save up 10% of their annual income to take a trip
to a religious festival somewhere in the world. Because of that I started travelling from the time
I was a little girl, I started going to Israel, Egypt, Trinidad, London.
None of the people around me had experiences like that.
It fundamentally changed who I am and my perspective on the world.
I discovered very early that the world was very big and wonderfully diverse. Life is beautiful everywhere.
You're an ethnographer amongst many things, what would you say your job title is?
I am a speaker, a journalist; I create grad school programs and teach at various grad schools.
I am a writer, model, mama, explorer of the world, wearer of sparkly things, a startup mentor, a creative consultant.
I am like a cat. I have lived many different lives :)
I spent 15 years working with big corporate clients like Apple, Microsoft and I ran offices for innovation consultancies
when I realized I knew more about what was going on in London and Stockholm than I did in San Francisco.
So between trips I started going to various tech events, which in a way lead me down the small business and
entrepreneurship path. Then in the last agency I was at, the CEO started a magazine called MISC where I was named
as one of the editors. This lead me back into writing, which I had done back in and after college.
Now, I write for Fast Company and other publications and I write for the people I create stories for.
That is why I do it: to be of service.
I also really like taking clients on inspiration tours around the world.
For example, I took a group around San Francisco and introduced them to amazing incubators,
accelerators and startups to help them plan their retail strategy for 2016. That was for a restaurant chain.
A few years ago, I took a group from Pepsi around Istanbul and helped them figure out what the future
of food was in Istanbul and Amsterdam.
Some people think of it as a trend spotter, but an ethnographer is probably more accurate.
I also introduce them to people who would make amazing partners or can give them new ideas.
My purposes in life are to spread light, to connect people and ideas, and to inspire.
I tell them, come with me, I'll show you all the wonderful things I've discovered in this city that can give you new ideas
for your company or strategy. I'll introduce you to people you wouldn't have access to otherwise,
because they're my friends. It's a total gift to me. I get to play with my friends all the time :)
How do you approach people?
Do you have any tips for someone who doesn't know how to expand their network?
I spend a lot of time in coffee shops, and when I am there I will talk to anyone about anything,
The person in front of me about which good pastry I should get.
The people sitting at that table about what they are doing.
On a professional level, I use LinkedIn a lot. I don't abuse it, I post interesting content and I only reach out
to people when it's appropriate. I also use social media in a really powerful way;
I'm active on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.
I consider people my friends, it's not networking or what can I get from you.
I make it a point of maintaining relationships, and then if I run into someone anywhere in the world that I think
you should know, I'll introduce you to them. So it's constantly being aware of being of service to the people around me too.
How do you choose the projects or companies you work with?
Is there something specific you look for when you work with someone?
They tend to be people who believe, with or without any spiritual connotation.
It means they are optimistic, enthusiastic, creative, and are drawn to possibility in the world.
The way I work is this: I'll give you a very clear, detailed outline of what we will be doing in this inspirational experience,
but I am not going to give you every single detail and I need you to recognize that it's going to change and evolve as we go.
So I request that you trust me, as well as the process, and at the end we will clearly achieve your business and strategic goals,
but in the middle it will just be fun and we're going to play a little.
So they tend to be be people who have a lot of faith, who trust and have an ability to play.
I have a lot of friends at many of the fortune 100 companies, as well as sexy startups.
Some of them have more creative cultures than others, but it's mostly about finding the people within those companies
who are known as the heads of innovation or as the creatives and the mavericks themselves, then connecting with them.
How do you stay curious in a fast paced and a deadline oriented lifestyle?
I travel a lot. I talk to strangers. I say yes to new experiences. I wear bright colours and glitter and feathers.
Anytime I am having a sad day or it's grey outside, I put on something bright or with sequins.
That's actually a wonderful trick in conversation starters, either wear crazy shoes or wear sequins.
People will stop you on the street to thank you for doing it, or they'll want to know where you are going.
How do you follow your instincts?
Many people put restrictions in their lives and plan every instant.
Structure is required, that's how things get done. You have to put a date, a time on it, along with concrete action steps
in order to make things happen. Within that, allow yourself time to sit, dream and imagine what it is that you want.
Meditation is really good for that.
I also spend a lot of time doing Google image searches, and whatever appeals to me like a shape, a place, a quote, an image.
I'll just gather them before trying to interpret and understand why I'm collecting them,
Sometimes I intuitively know, and sometimes I sit back and look at it.
For example, I've always been interested in burlesque, but I was wondering why was it coming back now?
I realized I am writing a book, and the art of writing a book is to bear your soul and be publicly naked.
It's about being extremely vulnerable because everyone gets to see the real you and every word you've written.
I then realized that the physical analogy of this is burlesque. There is an art, beauty and humour to both of them.
Is there someone you admire?
I love Maya Angelou; she was a poet, dancer, she was a madame at one point, a "madam" at another; a journalist;
and an explorer of the world, she's amazing.
There is also Zelda Kaplan. She died in the front row of a New York fashion show at the age of 95.
She was known as the woman who could out party Paris Hilton, meaning she really lived and spent her time going out
and playing. She was a philanthropist. She spent time in Africa, developed this really distinctive fashion style and made a point
of importing these textiles so she could give money back to the communities. She started doing it all in middle age.
She was just this powerful woman. I also love Amanda Palmer and Angelina Jolie.
There is no such thing as too late, no such thing as too early,
and there is no such thing as "well, you can't do that". Of course you can!
Any advice you would give?
I like looking up inspirational quotes, and today I downloaded the Steve Jobs quote that says:
"Have the courage to follow your heart and intuition, they somehow already know what you truly want to become,
everything else is secondary." I like that one very much.
E. e. Cummings, a poet I love, has this one as well, and this is just from today:
"It takes courage to grow up and become who you truly are."
What would you like to tell women, or what would you like to see women do more of?
Know they can. Believe in themselves. It doesn't matter if you have a 3-year old or a graduate degree.
You can create a life for yourself that you love, and that expresses all the parts of you.
You can look at yourself and know absolutely that you are beautiful and worthy and powerful.
You do make a difference in the world. You are loved. You are heard.
And your value is based on nothing you're done, just because you are.
Really look at yourself. Your are fabulous!!!
Any trends you see coming culturally or in technology?
One thing I am writing about is the merge of inner and outer science.
How we will live into our most powerful, positive future by embracing and creating technology
that enhances the best parts of what it is to be human, our creativity, our empathy, our compassion.
We get to choose our own adventure. Out of all the possible futures, there are many that are
beautiful and wonderful. AND they do include technology.
I am distilling sharing that vision, one created by the thoughts and dreams of scientists and CEOs
and amazing thinkers, so we can live into it.
Make sure to follow Leah on social media, and discover the projects she's involved in:
Leah is wearing the Jade Top & Dakota Skirt