Paige Arnof-Fenn: “Here are 5 things we can do to remain hopeful and support each other during these anxious times”
The biggest change for me and my clients from the virus is the shutdown of all networking events, travel, and conferences. Spring is typically a very busy time with many events, trade shows, business meetings on the road, etc. And now everyone is staying put and meeting virtually instead. To stay positive and focus on the future, I have had more Zoom and Skype calls with clients and colleagues in the past 15 days than the prior 6 months! It works with friends and family too, I have been catching up with college roommates, cousins, camp friends from childhood, basically everyone you always say let’s catch up/grab a coffee/a drink but never have or make time to do.
As a part of my series about the things we can do to remain hopeful and support each other during anxious times, I had the pleasure of interviewing Paige Arnof-Fenn.
Paige is the founder & CEO of global marketing and branding firm Mavens & Moguls based in Cambridge, MA. Her clients include Microsoft, Virgin, venture-backed startups as well as nonprofit organizations. She graduated from Stanford University and Harvard Business School. She is a popular speaker and columnist who has written for Entrepreneur and Forbes.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share with us the backstory about what brought you to your specific career path?
I did not plan on starting a company. I always wanted to go work for a large multi-national business and be a Fortune 500 CEO. When I was a student I looked at leaders like Meg Whitman & Ursula Burns as my role models. I started my career on Wall Street in the 80s and had a successful career in Corporate America at companies like Procter & Gamble and Coca-Cola and worked at 3 different startups as the head of marketing. I took the leap right after 9/11 when the company I worked for cut their marketing. I had nothing to lose. Being an entrepreneur provides me a platform to do work I truly enjoy with and for people I respect. I get to set my priorities, I have time to travel and hang out with my inner circle, and work out every day. It has been a journey to get here but I am lucky to have found it. I love the autonomy, flexibility and the fact that I know every day the impact that I have on my business. When I worked at big companies I always felt the ball would roll with or without me, that if I got hit by a bus someone new would be in my office right away. Now my DNA is in everything we do and I can trace every decision and sale to something I did or a decision I made and that is incredibly gratifying and fulfilling. Like most entrepreneurs, I am working harder and longer than ever and I have never been happier. Working for yourself and building a business you started in incredibly rewarding and gratifying. It has been a lot of fun, I joke that I am an accidental entrepreneur. I knew I had made it as an entrepreneur when Harvard wrote 2 case studies on my business a few years after I started it, we were very early to pioneer sharing resources on the marketing front (before my company it was really only done with HR, legal and accounting/finance).
Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?
I prefer the classics. How To Win Friends & Influence People — it is a classic with timeless advice on manners and people/human nature. You cannot go wrong with this one. Another good one is Getting To Yes — I took his negotiations class in business school and this reminds me of what he taught us, we are constantly negotiating in business and you have to always keep in mind what your best alternatives are and be ready to walk away.
Ok, thank you for all that. Now let’s move to the main focus of our interview. Many people have become anxious from the dramatic jolts of the news cycle. The fears related to the coronavirus pandemic have heightened a sense of uncertainty, fear, and loneliness. From your perspective can you help our readers to see the “Light at the End of the Tunnel”? Can you share your “5 Reasons To Be Hopeful During this Corona Crisis”? If you can, please share a story or example for each.
I am very concerned about the spread of this virus and the impact it will have on the global economy. This is so much bigger than 9/11 or Hurricane Katrina (I grew up in New Orleans). The biggest change for me and my clients from the virus is the shutdown of all networking events, travel, and conferences. Spring is typically a very busy time with many events, trade shows, business meetings on the road, etc. And now everyone is staying put and meeting virtually instead.
To stay positive and focus on the future, I have had more Zoom and Skype calls with clients and colleagues in the past 15 days than the prior 6 months! It works with friends and family too, I have been catching up with college roommates, cousins, camp friends from childhood, basically everyone you always say let’s catch up/grab a coffee/a drink but never have or make time to do. Well, now there is no excuse!
A virtual coffee date or cocktail is easy to plan and fun to do. Outside of chatting by phone and online I have a list of ideas to keep me busy too — read, knit, clean out my basement, finally organize the photos and scrapbook, do craft projects, play board games, binge watch shows and movies I missed, and do puzzles with my fellow quarantines. My knitting groups and the tai chi studio have been meeting at our regular times online too which has been great. It is starting to feel like the new normal by leveraging technology to build and maintain my relationships.
Finding routines and things we can control helps I think. These ideas do not require big budgets but they are fun and productive ways to pass the time. For professional service firms like mine we will recover even if our revenues slow from the crisis. Online meetings, webinars, etc. are a smart and productive way companies can continue to have conversations that educate and inform, build relationships and move forward during this crisis period. Maybe the silver lining is that this crisis reminds us that technology does not have to be isolating it can be used to build our real-world communities and relationships too!
When this crisis is over if my husband and I remain healthy and have stayed tight with our inner circle of people who mean the most to us and we all find a way to incorporate the lessons of gratitude, simplicity, friendship and love into the new normal I will be incredibly happy that we did not waste the crisis. I do not want to waste one minute of my life after this with people or things that do not matter.
From your experience or research what are five steps that each of us can take to effectively offer support to those around us who are feeling anxious? Can you explain?
The truth is we’ve always needed one another. In crises like this, we start to act like it too.
Start today and just pick up the phone and drop e-mails to check in on the people you care about. It seems so simple but people really appreciate it and love knowing someone is thinking about them and cares. Simply asking “How are you holding up?” “What do you need?” “How can I help?” It lets people know that “I see you and you matter to me.”
Keep a gratitude journal to track and remember things every day that make you happy. Research has shown that you’re likely to see the positive effects in as little as two weeks.
Get enough sleep, research shows that skimping on sleep affects your mental and physical health. For best results get to sleep at the same hour every night, and keep screens out of the bedroom.
Exercise regularly, it does not take much even walking for a half-hour or doing a more high-intensity workout a few times each week makes a huge difference in your wellbeing.
Finally meditate, by focusing on your breathing you have the ability to change your mental and physical state from anxiety to calm, from stress to ease, in a matter of minutes. It will stop the chatter in your head which will help you calm those thoughts and stay present. This is great advice for you too so do it for yourself and then share it with others who can benefit too.
What are the best resources you would suggest to a person who is feeling anxious?
Talking and spending time with close friends and family is really important to put things in perspective. Having a community with shared values and interests is great too. For some people it is their faith or books, for others there are TED talks like these that can be helpful too: https://www.inc.com/betsy-mikel/5-ted-talks-that-will-help-you-manage-anxiety-build-resilience.html?cid=nl029week13day23_2&utm_source=newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Inc%20Must%20Reads&position=1&partner=newsletter&campaign_date=23032020
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life?
My favorite quote is “people do not care how much you know until they know how much you care.” It has been attributed to many people including Teddy Roosevelt. I like it and find it inspiring because it is a simple reminder to listen more than talk, show empathy and try to look at the situation from another perspective. The goal is not to wear them down or impress them with your smarts. The goal is to connect, communicate clearly, solve the problem and move on.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)
Especially now I’d try to start a formal kindness movement, we have all been through so much these past few months. Crises like this bring out some of the best in humanity but I would try to create way during normal life that neighbors look after each other, we recognize and appreciate doctors, nurses, teachers, police, firemen, the elderly, sick, etc. I grew up in the South and people were generally nice, respectful, kind, and friendly. I do not believe life or business is a zero-sum game. We do not have to divide up the pie we can work together to bake more pies so there is enough to go around. I think the people around the world want good health, peace, clean water and we need to find ways to band together but it is going to take people from all walks of life to make it happen. There really is more in common across cultures when you realize everyone wants the best for their family and community so we should all be putting our energy into building stronger foundations and ecosystems that will help us all.
What is the best way our readers can follow you online?
Thank you for these fantastic insights. We wish you only continued success in your great work!