Slow Down to Do More: “Bake New Pies, Don’t Just Divide The Ones We Have” With Ashley Graber and Paige Arnof-Fenn

I would love to start a movement of kindness where everyone takes the high road, is a giver not a taker, gives people the benefit of the doubt, and realizes that life is not a zero sum game. If we all focused on figuring out ways to bake new pies and not just divide the ones we have we’d all be a lot better off. Just be kind. It would be a nice counterbalance to what we see in Washington and all over the media today.

I had the pleasure to interview 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, The New York Times Company, Colgate, venture-backed startups as well as non profit organizations. She graduated from Stanford University and Harvard Business School. Paige is a popular speaker and columnist who has written for Entrepreneur and Forbes.


Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us the “backstory” about what brought you to this specific career path?

I did not plan on starting a company. I always wanted to go work for a global 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 Mavens & Moguls after beginning my career on Wall Street in the 80s and having a successful career in Corporate America at companies like Procter & Gamble and Coca-Cola and then working at 3 different startups as the head of marketing. All 3 startups had positive exits. I took the leap right after 9/11 when the company I worked for cut their marketing. I had nothing to lose. Running a global marketing business 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 the accidental entrepreneur.

According to a 2006 Pew Research Report report, 26% of women and 21% of men feel that they are “always rushed”. Has it always been this way? Can you give a few reasons regarding what you think causes this prevalent feeling of being rushed?

I do think as you age it feels like time is speeding up. Every year seems to fly by quicker than the one before. However now with the speed of technology we all live on Internet time so it seems even faster than before. We have all found ways to multitask to try to accomplish more faster and it is exhausting. We eat in the car to save time, we listen to books while we commute, we shop online and have everything delivered. It is no wonder we feel rushed all the time!

Based on your experience or research can you explain why being rushed can harm our productivity, health, and happiness?

In my experience, real happiness comes from the simple things in life, smelling the roses, curling up with a good book or cup of tea, sharing a meal or just hanging out with an old friend. When you are rushing around you do not have time to enjoy the moment, digest your meal or connect on a human level. It is true that less is more when you are happy.

On the flip side, can you give examples of how we can do more, and how our lives would improve if we could slow down?

I think that respecting my time on the calendar and taking myself as seriously as I take my most important clients is the least I can do because if I am not at my peak performance I am not going to be useful to anyone else either. Give yourself permission to say no. Whether it means sleeping in (no to an alarm clock), getting a massage, taking a walk, or just turning off my phone and computer (no I will respond later on my own schedule), simple acts of letting myself relax and enjoy the moment are the very best gifts I can give myself.

We all live in a world with many deadlines and incessant demands for our time and attention. That inevitably makes us feel rushed. Can you share with our readers 6 strategies that you use to “slow down to do more”? Can you please give a story or example for each?

  • Exercise — doing something active every day to stay healthy and break up my day
  • Lunch meetings — I get out of the office 3–5 days a week which is a great way to stay connected personally and professionally and shake up my routine and get going.
  • Social media and technology are 24/7 so it is easy to get sucked into it but you do not have to let it run your life! My advice is to pick a few things you enjoy doing and do them really well. You cannot be everywhere all the time so choose high impact activities that work for you and play to your strengths.
  • Disconnect from technology and focus on cultivating human, face to face relationships. Meeting for coffee or lunch can accomplish so much more than e-mail exchanges, social media posts, etc. and it is a great way to get to know people better, their interests, hobbies, and dreams. I have found that building relationships is what drives my business and technology supports them once they are solidified. Technology helps advance the conversation but it will never replace the human interaction that builds trust over time. I plan lunch meetings 3–5 days a week and invite clients to events I think they might enjoy attending to spend time together.
  • Find creative ways to multi task that incorporates work and exercise. When I worked at large companies they had gyms at the office or groups who walked at lunch but when you are an entrepreneur you have to get creative to slow down and find balance. Instead of meeting up with your local colleagues at a coffee shop, over a meal or chatting with them on the phone, meet them for a walk so you can catch up while you are getting some exercise too. You’ll feel great after, the time will fly & it will be a fun activity to share. It works with customers too, I have clients who play golf so sometimes we meet at a driving range instead of the office to discuss things especially when you are trying to think outside the box. A change in venue is always nice and you feel so much better when you are moving and not trapped behind your desk.
  • Own your calendar — scheduling important meetings as far out as possible while leaving smaller blocks of time each week for opportunistic discussions and white space on my calendar so that I have time to think and recharge on a regular basis. When I started my business I used to over schedule myself and even double book networking events at night so I could be as many places as possible. Now that I am more established I prefer a less is more approach to events and meetings so that I can spend more time in fewer places.

How do you define “mindfulness”? Can you give an example or story?

Mindfulness for me is about being present and living in the moment. When I am working I give my clients 100% of my attention and when I am on vacation with my husband I do not check my voice mail or e-mail. I tell my clients when I will return and who they can contact in my absence. I prefer to work hard and play hard. When I am spending time with someone they are the most important person to me.

Can you give examples of how people can integrate mindfulness into their everyday lives?

When you are on a call do not be in front of your computer or device, you will sound and be distracted. When you are at an event talking with someone focus on them and do not peer over their shoulder to see who else is in the room. When you signal to people that they matter you will maximize every situation you are in and leave a great lasting impression.

Do you have any mindfulness tools that you find most helpful at work?

I have been practicing tai chi and qi gong for >13 years which is called a moving meditation so I often do exercises, breathing and stretching when I need to relax or clear my head. You do not need any special equipment or tools to just become present and focus your mind. It has helped me in so many ways personally and professionally.

What are your favorite books, podcasts, or resources that inspire you to use mindfulness tools or practices?

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.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you 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 inspire 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. :-)

Wow that is a tall order. I grew up in the Deep South where manners matter and people are raised to show respect. I would love to start a movement of kindness where everyone takes the high road, is a giver not a taker, gives people the benefit of the doubt, and realizes that life is not a zero sum game. If we all focused on figuring out ways to bake new pies and not just divide the ones we have we’d all be a lot better off. Just be kind. It would be a nice counterbalance to what we see in Washington and all over the media today. I think the people around the world in the center want peace and we need find ways to bring the extremists back into the fold but it is going to take people from all walks of life to band together 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.

Thank you so much for these insights! This was so inspiring!


About the Author:

After 15 years working in Commercial Real Estate in New York City, Ashley Graber changed the coast she lived on and the direction of her life from Real Estate to the worlds of Psychology and Meditation & Mindfulness. Ashley came to these practices after getting sober and in the decade plus since, she now runs a busy mindfulness based psychotherapy practice at Yale Street Therapy in Santa Monica, CA where she see adults and children and speaks on the benefits of meditation and mindfulness practices.

Ashley is an Owner and Director of Curriculum for the next generation meditation app & mindfulness company ‘Evenflow’ and launched the company’s one to one online mindfulness mentoring program. Ashley also educates teachers and administrators in schools and presents in businesses across Santa Monica and Los Angeles.

Ashley was trained in Meditation and Mindfulness practices by prominent teachers; Elisha Goldstein, Richard Burr and Guiding teacher at Against the Stream Boston, Chris Crotty. Her Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) certification was done through The Center for Mindfulness at UC San Diego. Additionally, Ashley is trained by Mindful Schools to teach Meditation and Mindfulness practices to children and families. Ashley’s unique combination of psychotherapy, trauma reprocessing and meditation and mindfulness practices make her a sought after therapist and mindfulness educator and speaker. Her passion for the benefits of mindfulness practices as well as her enthusiasm for helping young kids and adults is the drive to teach these very necessary, life long skills and why she wrote and runs the Mindfulness for Families program at The Center for Mindful Living. This is where she teaches groups of families with children ages 6–12.

Ashley was featured on Good Morning LaLa Land, presented on Resilience at the renowned Wisdom. 2.0 Mindfulness & Technology conference, and presented at the TED Woman conference offering an in-depth look at the profound psychological and physiological consequences of chronic stress, and how meditation and mindfulness practices can alleviate these effects. Ashley is also a nationally syndicated columnist on Thrive Global and Medium Magazine.