Category: Conversations

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Pace of Life with Tara Mann

We at KYŌ use Basecamp daily, allowing us to accomplish a high level of productivity and reach our full potential. Basecamp is a program that encourages mindfulness in the workplace and helps create a calmer office environment and work lifestyle. So, we were quite excited when we had the chance to sit and talk with Tara Mann, a designer at Basecamp.

Tara has a passion for technology and user-centred design. She has always paid attention and been attracted to the subtleties of design. Whether it was a bowl, a watch, or shoes, she often collected things she liked as a child, not realizing she loved design until later on. Gaining a formal education at design school in college is when she realized she could combine her love of technology, apps, and how humans think with design. She discovered interaction design, and a passion was born.

'I love all aspects of design.' Click To Tweet

Pace of Life

One question Tara often asks herself is, “Am I happy with where I’m living?” As someone who has moved to another city for a job, she finds it strange that people often move just for work. “To me, the city I live in is so important and affects me mentally on so many levels. It’s crazy that I moved out of the city I loved into a city I didn’t want to live in just because of a job.”

She explains the importance of figuring out what pace of lifestyle fits you and your personality best. For example, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and NYC – three cities Tara has lived in – all have very differently paced lifestyles. Tara believes that being mindful about which lifestyle works best for you will make a big difference in feeling fulfilled and at peace.

'What pace of lifestyle makes me most happy?' Click To Tweet


Balancing the Work Day

As somebody who works from home, Tara has the freedom to complete tasks as she desires and make her own schedule. However, setting boundaries and figuring out a balance when working remotely can be tough. She enjoys going for walks and takes breaks to remain composed and relaxed throughout the day.


Mindfulness; A Work in Progress

Living in a constantly connected world, and working in a fast-paced workplace can make it difficult to be mindful, but Tara acknowledges how Basecamp is helping her and others be more mindful. “Basecamp is a product that forces you to think before you write and be mindful in that way.” Tara also recognizes that mindfulness is something to constantly work on. “It’s something I haven’t totally figured out but I’m interested in it and figuring out how it fits in my life and my work process.”


Tara’s Questions for KYŌ (App):

  • What are my professional goals?
  • Why do I live where I live?
  • What pace of lifestyle makes me most happy?


We’re a proud customer of Basecamp. This software has literally changed our lives and the way we work at KYŌ. – Marc Champagne (KYŌ Cofounder)


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Finding Focus with Steph Liverani

Creating a company in your early twenties can be daunting, but separating from the company you created to help grow another at 23 is a unique endeavor. Self-starting entrepreneur Steph Liverani and a group of friends successfully created Crew, a labour marketplace (recently sold to Dribble), Unsplash, an online community of adventurers and photographers and then Crew Collective & Café, a space in Montreal that’s part collaborative work space, part coffee shop, and part event space.

A Choice to be Made

But through all the hard work and dedication Steph put towards growing Crew and starting Unsplash, something was off.

I hit a point where I felt guilty about going to watch a movie. Click To Tweet

At the time, Steph was heavily involved with the management and growth of Crew and Unsplash simultaneously. “I remember waking up early, working till late, and then getting home and feeling guilty about wanting some time for myself,” she continues, “I needed a change.” The change came when the team decided to sell Crew so they could focus on one business. The byproduct of this decision also helped Steph maintain a healthier work/life balance.


Finding Her Focus

Since deciding to focus on Unsplash, Steph has put an emphasis on becoming more mindful. “Self-reflection is very important,” says Steph. “It helps you be more comfortable with yourself. And the more comfortable with yourself, the more reassured you’ll feel,” she continues. Steph does a lot of her reflecting while walking her dog. “We walk our dog four times a day, but being in the natural elements is also healthy for me,” she says.

Whether it’s visiting with family and friends, checking out a movie, or taking her dog out on a hike, as Unsplash continues to grow, so will Steph while remaining focused on what makes her happy.


Steph’s Questions for KYŌ (App):

  • Why do I feel this way?
  • Am I being fair to myself?
  • What does happiness mean to me?

Photos: Unsplash

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Peace & Freedom with Jade McQueen

Jade McQueen integrates mindfulness into every day by making time for it herself and by incorporating it into what she does with her career. As the managing director of media and entertainment at Box, an enterprise content management platform, Jade gets to work in the most collaborative industry; entertainment. She works with music, television, gaming, sports and more. “We’re impacting creative work,” she shares as she explains what Box is. “We’re giving creative work the means to happen faster and securely.” Jade shares that there is a lot of mindfulness behind what she does because Box allows creatives to focus on what matters: creating. “My mission is to help creators out there not worry about technology and get to their best work. That’s what I do.”

Mindfulness at Box

“Box is the kind of company that allows you to be yourself.” Jade explains that at Box, when you walk into work, you have ownership over the role that you play and can apply your own values. She explains that doing the work you want when you want is where mindfulness plays a strong role. She wants the people she works with to understand, “It is not about getting the work done with you suffering. It is about you learning through getting the work done.” She believes having this kind of mindfulness with your work supports both personal and professional growth.

'Box is the kind of company that allows you to be yourself' Click To Tweet

Peace is Freedom

Jade shares that the most important thing to her is freedom, and freedom to her is being able to “tap into a place of peace where I have created – whether it’s mental or physical – a safe haven.” She continues, “Mindfulness to me means creating the space in my head, and the material and physical space around me, in order for me to have peace.” Because working with entertainment and business can be very stressful, Jade explains how important it is to have a rock-solid foundation that you can always go back to.


'Mindfulness to me is not just creating that space but constantly reinforcing that space.' Click To Tweet


Journaling En Route

For her career, Jade travels a lot. “I travel so much, so where I go has to become home.” She explains that she’s a big believer in becoming part of the environment you’re in rather than just being a visitor or foreigner to that place. One way she gets grounded in new places is buying a journal for every country she visits. “I use plane rides to allow me to just dump everything that I’m feeling because there’s no distraction.” She continues, “I find myself being able to get all these things out of my head and on to paper so that by the time I land, I’ve already been able to clear my head and I’m ready to take in the atmosphere of the place I’m in.” Writing allows her to ask herself questions about what is going on in her life, giving her a chance to evaluate if she’s telling the same story again and again. “I constantly challenge myself to think different. I’m a big believer in changing my own story.” By giving herself time to find freedom and to journal to feel grounded, Jade is able to incorporate mindfulness into her life every day.

'I am not my circumstances; my story can constantly change.' Click To Tweet

Jade’s Questions for KYŌ (App):

  • What does today mean to me?
  • What are you most grateful for?
  • Am I telling myself the same story?

Photos: UnsplashBox

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Taking a Personal Inventory with Joe Burton

Joe Burton lived a busy, cluttered life with a focus on driving his career forward and climbing to the top. His success in the world of business is what aided him to build his own company from scratch, but it was realizing his financial-focused career lacked purpose that inspired an idea. It’s never too late to start over, which is exactly what Joe Burton, the founder and CEO of Whil Concepts Inc, did. Whil is the leader in digital wellbeing training. They help employees reduce stress, increase resiliency and improve performance with programs based in science, mindfulness and positive psychology. As somebody who once lived his life focused on everything but his mental well-being, it took a lot of self-reflecting and learning to get there.


Mental Well Being > Physical Well Being

Joe Burton is naturally a type A personality. With a drive to win and a focus to be the best of the best, he worked for years in the professional services industry climbing to the top. But by doing so, his life was passing him by. As a global COO, he was travelling from country to country. “I’ve worked in 50 to 60 countries,” he explains. “I flew in, I worked late, I went to my hotel, I worked late, I flew out.” He was missing out on a lot of what life had to offer, and working so much was taking a toll on his body. Joe realized that stress and a lack of mindfulness was causing a lot of his physical pain. Recognizing that his mental well-being was just as important as his physical well-being was a huge turning point in his life, leading him to resign from his position and begin a journey towards mindfulness.

I want to enjoy my life. I want to create and build things. I want to savour and love what I’m doing. Click To Tweet

Asking Important Questions

Joe found himself drawn towards people who, like himself, had a connection to the corporate world but had dedicated themselves to becoming trainers in mindfulness and meditation. He took courses about stress, resiliency and how to sleep better and began to journal. He began by writing about what was going on with his life, what his challenges were, what was important to him, how he felt, etc. Joe shared the importance of asking yourself, “Who are you now and who do you want to be?” and “What are three things you stand for?” Asking yourself these kinds of questions allows you to evaluate where you are in your life versus where you want to be, something that proved very beneficial in Joe’s life.

Practice with Intention

One of the things that worked well for Joe was guided practice and practice with intention. As a former athlete, Joe recognized how the repetition of techniques is what helps develop skills. “That’s what we work on creating a Whil. How do we create learnable, repeatable skills for your average stressed-out professional?” Joe continues, “One of those repeatable skills is the art of journaling.” He shares that journaling is a technique that calms and focuses the mind so you can actually get something done.

I look at journaling as the life skill that you can learn and that is repeatable. Click To Tweet

Taking a Personal Inventory

Joe Burton discussed the importance of knowing where you’re starting from by taking a personal inventory. In order to live a mindful, fulfilling life, he suggests you start by asking yourself questions like, “What do you stand for? What are the three things that define you at your core? Who are you?” and comparing it to, “Who do you aspire to be? What kind of life experience do you want to be having?” Acknowledging that you are not where you want to be is the first step to getting there.

You have to understand where you are and where you want to go. Click To Tweet

Three Steps of Mindfulness

“Mindfulness meditation practice for yourself is wonderful, for other people it’s even better.” Joe shares how involving friends and colleagues in your journey towards mindfulness can make a huge impact. “Mindfulness meditation starts within”, he begins. “Then you take the next step outside of yourself with journaling, writing, exploring and thinking through issues.” He shares that the last step is to take mindfulness with you into your conversations and relationships, in order to bring it all to life.

Joe’s Questions for KYŌ (App):

  • Who are you?
  • What do you stand for?
  • What are three things that define you?

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The Joy Of LEGO & Micro Mindful Moments with Loren I. Shuster

When interviewing The LEGO Group Executive Vice President & Chief Commercial Officer Loren I. Shuster, it’s difficult to hold back the droves of questions about what it’s like working for one of the most innovative and globally successful companies on the planet. So, we didn’t. “It’s a wonderful company to work for,” says Loren, and that’s saying a lot considering his resume includes names like Google and Nokia.

To put into perspective, the joy LEGO brings worldwide, Loren tells us, “I travel a lot and I’m constantly going through immigration. Immigration officers aren’t known as the nicest people, but when they find out I work for LEGO, nine times out of ten I get a smile or someone tells me a personal story about how LEGO has affected their lives. It’s an amazing product to represent and be a part of.”


A Mindfulness Master

Loren’s job is to lead over 4,000 colleagues across the world to deliver the wonderful LEGO playsets we’ve all experienced in our lives. He travels a lot, is constantly in meetings, and motivates thousands of people in multiple offices around the world. And his secret is simply to live a mindful life.

“Mindfulness has been in my life for over eighteen years,” says Loren. “I’ve found it to be a foundational practice for maintaining a high level of general well-being.”

'Mindfulness is the foundation of my physical and emotional well-being.' Click To Tweet


The Gift of Presence

For Loren, being mindful is what keeps him centered. He says it, “plays into my capacity to stay focused and stay present when I’m working.” This notion of being present isn’t something he takes lightly. “I’ve come to learn that as a leader, the greatest gift you can give a colleague is the quality of your presence,” he shares.

Whether it’s in a large meeting with multiple team members, or an intimate one-on-one conversation, Loren prides himself on showing wholeheartedly that he’s focused on what his colleagues are envisioning. This could be anything from personal challenges to general feelings, he says the important part is to, “build a connection and fellowship to energize them.”

'the greatest gift you can give a colleague is the quality of your presence' Click To Tweet

Micro Mindfulness Moments

As one of LEGO’s international leaders, you can imagine how busy Loren’s day can get, but no matter how many meetings he has, he’s found a way to stay mindful throughout. “I have a lot of micro mindfulness moments,” he begins.

“For instance, when I’m going from one meeting to the next, I intentionally slow down my final five or ten steps before entering the room. I feel the sensation of the ground and I leave behind my previous meeting so I can connect with the next one. By the time I step into the room, I’ve gone through a transitional phase,” he says.

'Mindfulness can cultivate some critical emotional intelligence skills.' Click To Tweet

Another secret micro mindfulness moment is when Loren finds himself getting distracted in meetings. “I centre myself by feeling the sensation of my feet in my shoes, my shoes on the floor, and that brings me back quickly,” he shares.


Name, Contain & Reframe

As a EVP and CCO, presenting is a major part of Loren’s job. At any given time, he’s leaving an impression on thousands of people’s minds. With that kind of daily pressure and responsibility, he’s also found that anxiety is normal.

But instead of giving into the anxiety, Loren has learned to channel it. “With presentation anxiety, first I name it. Putting a label on the emotion helps calm my nerves. Then I contain it, meaning I feel where my body is reacting like my jaw, or butterflies in my stomach. Finally, I reframe it and channel that energy to propel my voice with greater confidence.”


Practice Makes Perfect

Loren didn’t just wake up with all this mindfulness wisdom, it’s something he’s practiced for a long time and continues to practice every day. “I wake up at 5:30 and meditate for thirty minutes every day,” he tells us. “I learned that it controls my impulse to get anxious,” he shares.

He’s also journals regularly and finds that airplanes are the perfect environment. “I’ll journal when I’m on a plane, and it’s usually to reflect,” he says. “Usually it’s just a stream of consciousness. I’ll write whatever comes to mind.” But journaling doesn’t only come in the written form for Loren as he often draws pictures. “I learned that if you use pictures, it’s a way of circumventing the logical lines,” he explains.

Loren Shuster truly lives the The LEGO Group brand. He’s a curious creator who enjoys the playfulness in learning. He’s an incredible motivator, and he does so in such a way that inspires others to act in a similar manner. And by living and practicing a mindful lifestyle, he’s helped people, companies, and even immigration officers experience the joy of building.

Loren’s questions for the KYŌ App:

  • What quality would I like to bring more of into my day?
  • What triggered me today?
  • Am I living up to my purpose?


Photographs: The LEGO Group Facebook

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The Soulful Creative with Caroline Zook

As hard as it is to believe, it took Caroline Zook years to be able to say to herself that she’s an artist. All it takes is a quick glance through her work and you’ll understand why referring to her as an artist is an obvious declaration. But that belief in self, that core of who someone is, and that realization of what drives our soul is exactly what Caroline and her online company Made Vibrant, help people with.



“Every day I’m trying to chisel down to what I am,” says Caroline as she explains Made Vibrant, her online learning hub for soulful creatives. “I constantly try to live as my most vibrant self,” she continues. For Caroline, vibrancy is so much more than a way to describe her artistic style and design choices. Through online courses, inspiring content, and keynote speaking engagements, she’s constantly teaching people to fully express themselves in a creative way.

When 'who I am' aligns with 'what I do', I feel the most vibrant. Click To Tweet


This realization of living with vibrancy didn’t just come to Caroline, it’s been a process that she’s both learned from and appreciated. “There’s a part of me that’s very much a people pleaser that I have to keep in check. Those things can start to skew our view on the world,” she explains. Keeping emotions like self-doubt and uncertainty in check comes with practice and exercise, but finding that intersection of creativity and personal growth is something Made Vibrant really focuses on.



Made Vibrant wasn’t always the goal for Caroline, but after launching a freelance design business, she realized that vibrancy meant more to her than just an aesthetic choice. “My business was a bit of a personal journey,” she says, “I was always attracted to these super vibrant colours, so I asked myself, is there more to this?” And the result is Made Vibrant, a digital hub of inspiring visuals, emails, videos, and social media content designed to teach people to become soulful creatives.



For Caroline, being mindful means living with intention. More specifically, mindfulness is insight, action and having a conscious ownership of your thoughts. And like KYŌ, she believes asking the right questions is key.

'I think asking the right questions can help you figure out those nuggets of wisdom' Click To Tweet

Whether it’s developing workshop materials or designing something new for Made Vibrant, Caroline Zook is definitely living the life of a soulful creative.


Caroline’s questions for the KYŌ App:

  • What makes you feel free?
  • Am I choosing something because I want it, or because I’m afraid of what others will think if I don’t choose it?
  • What can I do today to feel like my most vibrant self?

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Restaurant Harmony & Kitchen Therapy with Jeffrey & Troy

When you think of a stressful working environment, a busy kitchen in a successful restaurant is right up there with the White House Situation Room. Unless, of course, you work in the kitchen at The Sum Of Us or Tom & Serg with world-class chefs Jeffrey Cruz and Troy Payne. Their secret of keeping the kitchen relaxed, safe, and therapeutic sounds simple at first, but as we chatted with the cooking duo we discovered it comes from multiple sources.

'It’s not about keeping inspired - it’s about inspiring the people around you.' Click To Tweet

The Sum of the People

The kitchen is so much more than a place where delicious meals are created. Jeffrey and Troy see it as part teaching opportunity, part family gathering place, and part sanctuary. But for both world-class chefs, it’s not the ingredients or even the recipes that makes these kitchens special, it’s the people. “It’s not about keeping inspired – it’s about inspiring the people around you. And if you inspire the people around you, that inspires me,” says Troy Payne. “Never hire a cook, you hire personalities,” Troy continues. “You hire individuals that bring character. It’s like building the Power Rangers.”

Lessons Learned

As veteran chefs, both Jeffrey and Troy understand that kitchens can become volatile environments if expectations aren’t set or the right people aren’t in place. One way they’ve managed to avoid the typical high-pressure kitchen environment is to use it as a place to teach. “You shouldn’t leave the kitchen until you’ve learned something,” preaches Jeffrey, a consummate culinary student and master chef. “I never went to culinary school. I learned everything I know from being in a kitchen and I want to share this with the next generation of chefs,” he continues.


Finding Harmony

Beyond the people and how they operate is one final pillar of mindfulness that Jeffrey and Troy hold dear to their hearts, and that’s the passion. “We cook, that’s all we do. But we get the opportunity to do something with it to make someone happy,” says Troy. “If you like doing that, it’s not stressful, it’s therapeutic,” he continues. The harmony in the kitchen is infectious and spreads throughout the entire space. We are about creating an environment of escapism in busy Dubai and for Jeffrey and Troy that always starts in the kitchen.

'Being able to talk about things, and the freedom of open speech, we’re able to help build confidence' Click To Tweet

Reflect, Respect and be Yourself

When speaking about reflection and mindfulness, Jeffrey and Troy shared a simple, but extremely effective exercise. “At the beginning and end of every day, you shake hands and you hug,” says Troy. Then they gather the entire kitchen staff and have an open forum-style conversation. It gives everyone an opportunity to share their thoughts, and strengthens the feeling of family; and if a family member isn’t happy, you find a solution as a group. “By being able to talk about things, and the freedom of open speech, we’re able to help build confidence,” says Troy.

As successful world-class chefs at The Sum Of Us and Tom & Serg, both Jeffrey and Troy are very appreciative of what they have in their life. But when asked specifically about what they are grateful for, it’s not the industry fame or restaurant write-ups, “I’m most grateful for my family. And not just my home family, but my kitchen family,” explains Troy. And for Jeffrey, it’s “being given the opportunity to be in the kitchen and be myself.”


Based on how they’ve built their teams and created a family-oriented culinary experience, The Sum of Us and Tom & Serg feels like the perfect place to find an incredible culinary experience.

Jeffrey & Troy’s questions for the KYŌ App:

  • What are you passionate about?
  • What are you grateful for?
  • How can you be yourself today?

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Focus & Simplicity with Jeff Sheldon

Jeff Sheldon is a self-proclaimed “designer by trade and entrepreneur/businessman by accident.” He is the man behind UGMONK, a minimalistic and simplistic apparel brand. He isn’t your typical company founder, though, because Jeff wears the hat of graphic designer, product photographer, copywriter, and manages a slew of other roles. This way, there’s a real distinct consistency throughout the entire brand.

He admits that his reasons for starting the brand were mostly selfish, stating, “The desire to start it was really just to make stuff I really like; really simple and clean stuff. I’ve always tried to make products in a selfish way because I want it to exist.” It turns out a lot of people like Jeff’s minimalistic style as well. While brands tend to focus on following trends, Jeff continues to break those rules and creates an un-categorized new sense of fashion.

“The design has always been my drive ever since I was a kid, whether it was drawing or sketching or building things with Lego,” he explains. What he’s doing now is really just a manifestation of his skills and his passions. And he isn’t doing it alone; Jeff likes to keep the business in the family. His business partner is his brother, who handles more of the web development. His mom does all of the shipping, his sister-in-law does customer service, and his wife helps out in various ways as well.




It’s hard for Jeff to describe in much detail what a typical day is like, because no two days are alike. Especially since the birth of his son, his schedule has been tough to pin down. One thing that hasn’t changed, though, is how he starts each day; “I’ll sit down and write out my things I want to do that day.” He has three index cards, each with 10 slots. One says “Today”, one says “Someday” and the last says “Next”. He elaborates, saying “I’m constantly referencing this [Today] card as I work throughout the day and cross things off with a pen. It’s so satisfying.”

Since the birth of his son, however, Jeff’s been getting used to the balance between work and home. “I used to be able to work as many hours as I want,” he states, claiming that he often times doesn’t have that ability anymore. Not having that ability isn’t necessarily a bad thing, though, and it’s sort of forced Jeff to find that balance. “There’s time’s where I just really want to work and not change another diaper,” he admits, “but it brings some perspective to my day.”

'Setting aside time to be fully all-in with family gives such a refreshing perspective when you get back' Click To Tweet


“I’d say I’m actually really bad at separating work and life, because what I do is what I love and my work blends in so much,” Jeff confesses. One thing that has proven useful is taking small trips. He recalls, “recently we [his family] went to Up-State New York for four days just to disconnect and go hiking and be with family.” He proudly states that he didn’t even take his laptop out of the bag once, which is not the kind of discipline that typically comes easy to him. It pays off in the long run, though, because setting aside time to be “fully all-in with family gives such a refreshing perspective when you get back to work.” Jeff plans on taking more of these short trips, where he can shut down the work stuff for a couple of days.

'Realizing what went wrong and identifying those issues is the first step in improving it' Click To Tweet

When prompted for the most important questions that Jeff asks himself on a consistent basis, he delivers three superb responses. Firstly, “What are the most important things I need to work on today?” This lends itself to his whole index card system and how he manages to stay productive and organized. Secondly, “What things went right today?” Listing things to be grateful for, even if they’re as small as a good lunch with a friend, can go a long way. It forces you to really look back and appreciate what you have. Finally, he asks himself “What things went wrong today?” This isn’t as negative as it may sound. In fact, realizing what went wrong and identifying those issues is the first step in improving it, delegating it, cutting it completely, or fixing it.

Jeff’s Questions for the KYŌ App:

  • What are the most important things I need to work on today?
  • What things went right today?
  • What things went wrong today?

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Mindfulness & 4-Letter Words with Darya Rose

You know you’re in for a treat when you ask someone to explain who they are and they reply with, “sometimes I describe myself as a Vulcan.” Darya Rose authored the popular healthy-living book Foodist, created the digital content platform Summer Tomato, and recently launched the Mindful Meal Challenge, a 5-day challenge that helps you develop a mindful eating habit through daily emails and video lessons.  As you can probably tell, she leads quite a busy life.

Adopting a Healthstyle

Darya is a scientist at heart and she uses her background in neuroscience to help readers understand her concept of healthstyle. Healthstyle is a very personal set of all-encompassing healthy habits that include things like eating, exercising, and being mindful. But one thing it is not is that nasty four-letter word diet.

“I use it as a bad word,” explains Darya. “It’s a scientific term, but in pop culture it means restrictive food intake for the sake of weight loss.” Healthstyle isn’t just about weight loss, it’s about optimizing your quality of life in both body and mind. And one of the ways Darya teaches people to adopt a healthstyle is by developing a set of habits that help your mind feel just as good as your body.

'Healthstyle is about optimizing your quality of life in both body and mind' Click To Tweet

One of the ways Darya helps explain this notion of healthy habits is through her idea of putting the fork down. When eating a meal, we typically prepare the next bite as we’re chewing the first. It’s natural, it’s instinctual, and it’s a trigger our brains use to help save energy. But as soon as we become aware of this trigger, we become more mindful of how much and how fast we eat. “We live 90% of our lives on autopilot,” explains Darya. “Being aware of your triggers is incredibly powerful.”


The Value of Meditation

Darya has been practicing meditation for years. She admits it wasn’t easy getting started, but after going on a silent meditation retreat in 2015, her life hasn’t been the same. “I work better, I concentrate better, I’m slower to anger, I’m less reactive in general – I wish everybody could experience that,” she says. “But,” she continues, “mindfulness is not your brain’s norm, it’s like learning a language, you have to practice.”

Journaling Brings Meaning

Currently Darya doesn’t journal, but she fully supports those who do, especially those who have experienced trauma. The act of writing down thoughts can be extremely therapeutic because it can help bring meaning to a traumatic event. Getting started with journaling can be difficult because as Darya puts it, “confronting your own brain is terrifying,” but it’s a beneficial habit that can be developed over time.

'The act of writing down thoughts can be extremely therapeutic' Click To Tweet

Daily Reflection

Obviously, Darya isn’t actually a Vulcan, but we understand why she’s proud to describe herself as someone who takes pride in logic and reason. Her scientific background and ability to understand the value of mindfulness has helped her focus on what is important in her life. “I take time out of my day to cook, work out, spend time with my dog and my husband – those are things that are important to me,” she explains.

Darya’s Questions for the KYŌ App:

  • What are you doing today that has meaning?
  • How will you focus on what is important to you?
  • What are you grateful for?

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Exercising Your Creativity with Justin Teodoro

Justin Teodoro is a Queens-based artist, illustrator & designer. Originally from Vancouver, BC, Justin moved to New York 11 years ago to attend Parsons School of Design to study fashion design. “I’ve always been the artistic kid in school, and my dream was always to come to New York and live that life. It took me a while to figure out what that dream was, and fashion was something I was always interested in and was aware of but I never knew how to get into the industry,” he explains. Following an undergrad in Toronto, Justin excelled at Parsons and has been working in the fashion industry ever since graduating, working most recently at Kenneth Cole.

It was only around three years ago, however, that Justin realized that fashion wasn’t his true calling. So, he left his corporate position and started working for himself. “Like any designer, I thought about starting my own line, but I slowly realized that wasn’t exactly what I wanted,” he elaborates. He states that he was “separating the art side from the fashion side for a while; it was a day and night type of thing.” Eventually, Justin started taking on more and more graphic design and illustration projects outside of work and he quickly realized that’s the route he’s meant to take.  He breaks it down, explaining, “I do better when I’m doing a bunch of different things at once. When I was a designer, it was like ‘this is what you do’ and it’s very systematic.”


“I’m getting better at being my own boss, managing my time and my expectations, and just figuring out exactly what I can get done,” Justin admits.  He begins any project by asking himself “is this something I see myself doing?” He’s aware that he can’t be overly picky, but he does make an effort to only take on jobs that make sense for him and his style. He elaborates, stating, “When I take on a project, I definitely try to see what I can do that’s different from what I’ve done in the past and different for whoever I’m working with. Also, what are they looking for from me? How can I add my stamp to it?”

Justin’s ’stamp’ is what landed him an opportunity with another one of our interview subjects, Adam Hurly. Adam, the writer and editor of The Perspectives, loved Justin’s style and hired him to do all the illustrations for the popular serial. Together, they’ve created a superb product with a loyal fan-base.

He learnt from his career as a designer the importance of showing your ideas to your client (or boss or collaborator) before getting started. He stresses the importance of “brainstorming on my own and then showing the client my ideas before I start. I always treat these projects as collaborative as can be, and it builds a trust factor. Once I get the green light, I can just go with it.”



Like any self-employed freelancer, there are obvious ups and downs. For Justin, its important “I try and step out of it once in a while, especially when I get moments of mental block or frustration.” His most likely escape is just getting out, whether it’s to see friends or sisters, who happen to live in the city as well. He likes to take yoga classes when he can, or go to museums or shows; anything to stimulate the mind and keep him engaged. Even things as simple as watching a movie or reading a book help Justin separate his work life from his personal life.

I 'try and step out of it once in a while' Click To Tweet

One important thing that he’s learning is the ability to not stress and to treat his career like a job. The pressure of getting things done immediately can be torturous, so Justin is learning “to treat it like a job and work the hours that anyone else would.” This way, it stays fun. He elaborates on that, pointing out that, “There has to be an element of fun to it. Always remember to have fun. I would never want to see it as work instead of something I enjoy doing.”

'I would never want to see it as work instead of something I enjoy doing' Click To Tweet

Like any good artist, Justin treats his talent like a muscle that needs to constantly be exercised. So, whether he’s working on a paid gig or just making something for himself, he tries to create something every single day. Finding the balance between paid gigs and a personal gig is one thing. Finding the balance between creating and time for himself is an entirely separate subject. Such is the life of a freelance artist; it’s all about balance.

Justin’s Questions for the KYŌ App:

  • What can I do that’s different from what I’ve done in the past?
  • Is this something I see myself doing?
  • How can I add my stamp to it?

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Minimizing Distractions With Alex Nemeroff

Alex is a man of many hats. For starters, he and his friend Bryan are the co-founders of a digital design agency, called Dynamo. That was 16 years ago, when the pair was fresh out of business school.  He hosts a conference called Dynamic/MTL which brings together a slew of interesting guest speakers. On top of that, he hosts a monthly podcast called WorkMode. Alex is a father of two, a husband, and a thinker.



Let’s start with Dynamo; Alex’s agency which currently employs 32 people, ranging from designers to art directors to project managers to content managers to front-end developers to back-end developers to partnership managers to anything else you could possibly think of in the digital space.

Alex also hosts the Dynamic/MTL conference, put on by colleagues at Dynamo, which takes place every three months. These conferences bring together three speakers from the design and technology industries, each giving a talk to the audience followed by a large group discussion. According to Alex, the conference “brings together the community and also creates compelling conversations.”

Alex also interviews industry leaders in a podcast series called WorkMode, which is released every two weeks.



“It’s an interesting time to ask me this,” declares Alex. The reason being that he’s currently in the midst of a shift in his daily way of thinking. He credits a book called ‘Deep Work’ for changing his outlook on the standard workday. He’s also been working with a coach who drives home the concept of time blocking based on priority. His business coach serves as an in-person reminder that you can’t hit the snooze button on.

“I front load my day for what I consider to be important but not urgent things. Afternoons are usually wall-to-wall meetings. It used to be the reverse so I could get meetings done and have my afternoons, but my brain would be fried by the afternoon that way,” he explains.



Alex uses a number of different techniques to optimize his days. First and foremost, he tries his absolute best to differentiate between his work life and his home life. “I’ll give my kids breakfast and set them up for the day, and after that transition into work mode,” he describes.

Another key that Alex describes is something he learnt from ‘Deep Work‘, and that’s getting out of the habit of running your day by your inbox. In order to do so, Alex insists that “it takes breaking awful habits and using mindfulness or meditation.” He admits to still having some pretty bad habits when it comes to distractions or being led by his inbox, but that’s because “my brain has been wired to crave this idea of distraction. I think about meditation or mindfulness or just being brought back to the moment; that practice is so important to break those bad habits.”

'It would make me take a deep breath, calm down, and be aware of the moment' Click To Tweet

Alex stresses the importance of breathing, and how something so simple can make such a drastic difference. He even offers a simple tip for anyone who gets overwhelmed easily: use your passwords. Alex explains that we are rarely mindful of “the interactions that happen most often. For example, every day I probably enter my password 100 or so times.” He continues, “One example is a guy who broke up with his girlfriend and his way of getting over it was he changed his password to ‘ForgiveHer’. My password is now something different, but it was ‘Breathe’ for a long time. It would make me take a deep breath, calm down, and be aware of the moment.”

He’s also hyper-scheduled. At the beginning of each week, he creates a map for the week ahead and is able to allot “one thing I want to focus on for each of those days.” Alex insists that this idea of ‘One Thing Per Day’ helps give focus to his entire week and allows him to be completely aware of what needs his attention. (Check out ‘One Big Thing with Nick Burka‘ for more on this)



“I could make a good case on why to bring mindfulness into your day-to-day life, but I’m awful at actually doing it,” confesses Alex, who admits to still being very early in this journey. He does his best, though, even going as far as to bring a guest speaker from MindSpace Clinic in Montreal to speak to his office and educate the whole team on mindfulness.

'Differentiate between important and urgent.' Click To Tweet

He sums up his mentality and approach to mindfulness in four main thoughts:

First, the “easy one”, is the ability to ask what’s actually important right now and differentiate between important and urgent.

Second is the concept of breathing. “We don’t understand the impact it can have or how important it is. It has these wonderful ramifications down the line,” he stresses.

Third, is the ability to say no. Alex clarifies how saying no allows you to “get things out of the way and focus on the important things or the one big thing.” Saying yes too often can lead to clutter and eventually become unproductive.

Lastly, Alex explains that “every day when I walk into my house I do my very best to make the transition as clear-cut as possible.” Admittedly, he isn’t always capable of making the distinction so evident. “If my wife reads this she’ll be rolling her eyes big time right now, but this is something I aim for and I’m working very hard on,” he confesses. Ultimately, the work world is another place, and home is where his phone can be shut off and “I can take all the things that I think are important and make them go away.”

Alex’s Questions for the KYŌ App:

  • What’s actually important right now?
  • What can I say no to?
  • How is my breathing?

Images: WorkMode & Unsplash

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Finding Perspective with Adam Hurly

In an age where everybody and their grandmother wants to be a professional creative, real artists are becoming less and less common. Sure, making that album or that web series would be cool, but what separates a creative from a legitimate artist is their motive. Adam Hurly is an artist, true and true.



Adam, the author of ‘The Prospectives’ series, isn’t doing what he’s doing for followers. He isn’t trying to “go viral” or appeal to the masses. He’s simply trying to make something that he loves and that he’s proud of, without anyone’s opinion clouding his judgment.

A lot of people have a strong grasp of ‘What’ they do; whether you’re a doctor or a lawyer or a fireman. People also know ‘How’ they do their thing. What’s special, however, is when someone can clearly identify the reason ‘Why’ they do what they do. Adam Hurly wants to create, and he wants to create with the purest of intentions. That is, for all intents and purposes, the definition of an artist.



“I started writing it in May of 2014 and launched it in July,” states Adam. He started it with clear intentions to do this series for three to four years, which is impressive because he’s planning on finishing off the series March 2017, almost exactly three years later. He began the project with three clear goals in mind. Firstly, he wanted to start something and see it to completion. Check. Secondly, he wanted to create something that he’d be really proud of regardless of what the feedback was. Check. Lastly, he wanted to create something that he’d love every day and that would motivate him. Check.

In the three unique series—two fiction and one nonfiction, each ranging from seven months to one year—he collaborates with an illustrator friend to deliver a graduated narrative and visual that slowly lends a few lessons. His illustrators have been Sam Kalda, Levi Hastings, and Justin Teodoro.

The project, which you could call ‘the first Instagram serial of its kind’, has a loyal following and Hurly is making sure to end things on a note that the people who care about it will appreciate. More so, though, he wants to end things in a way that will propel him forward. Although his series has a loyal following, Adam still considers himself far from a success story. “I have $200 in my bank account right now; I don’t know why people think that’s successful.”


Adam constantly asks himself, “Will doing this help me grow in a way that I want to grow?” He admits that blowing up isn’t one of his priorities; therefore he doesn’t do much promotion. He’s also an editor himself, so he knows from experience that any pitch he receives from a publicist is just because they’re being paid to do so. Any pitch he’d send to an editor about his own project will likely get ignored because “of course someone is going to pretend like his own work is outstanding. I’d think it was B.S. if someone sent me that, plus I doubt any of those editors finds the time to actually read it. And I understand that.”

That being said, the project has landed him a lot of work as a freelance writer. His current client roster includes GQ, Men’s Fitness, YouTube, Bloomberg, and BMW; many of those editors—effectively, his bosses—have found the project impressive.

'It takes life’s rough tumbles to shape you into the best version of yourself' Click To Tweet


Ironically enough, it took writing a series called “The Prospectives” for Adam to find true perspective. He learnt many valuable lessons along the way, starting with the notion that patience is a virtue.

“I couldn’t have done it at 25, that would have been absurd,” he explains. He continues, offering, “I think my advice to people is just wait 10 years and screw up as much as possible, because at 30 you’ll be happy.” It takes life’s rough tumbles to shape you into the best version of yourself. People, much like Adam’s projects, require patience in order to grow steadily and evolve naturally.

After moving to New York from Sioux Falls, SD, Hurly found himself caught up in a life he wasn’t happy with; “I felt I was tired of trying to keep up with a certain crowd or trying to live outside my means.” He points to social media as the biggest proponent of this “people trying to be something they’re not” mentality. Hurly soon found a group of friends he felt comfortable with and developed the support system he needed. He admits, though, that it’s not something you can force. Once you’re able to recognize what happiness is to you, then you can begin to preserve that feeling and cut out the rest that makes you unhappy. “I had to do a lot of wrong things to make me realize what was right,” he admits.

Another thing that Adam admits to learning is the ability to find the good in having little. “I’m happiest when I’m broke,’ he claims, continuing “There’s actually an advantage to having few resources because you get creative and you get innovative and you start to realize the benefit of what you do have.”

'find the time to stop and think' Click To Tweet

It’s all about perspective and being aware of your situation. Adam credits his ability to stay levelheaded and focused to his mindfulness practices. He takes every opportunity that’s available to get his head right; whether it be a daily jog, which he recommends strongly, or simply enjoying his daily commute and using that time to relax and think.  He urges everyone to find those moments throughout our hectic days to find the time to stop and think, otherwise you get too caught up in it all.

Adam’s Questions for the KYŌ App:

  • Is this editorially interesting?
  • Will doing this help me grow?
  • Do I have the patience to let this grow steadily and evolve naturally?

Illustrations: Justin Teodoro

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Mindfulness & Design with Willem Shepherd

It’s a tale as old as time. As we grow up through middle school and high school, we often have an idea of what we want to become, but all it takes is one moment or encounter in life to change all of that. For Willem Shepherd, that’s exactly what happened to him.

Through high school, Willem thought he was destined to be a mechanical engineer. The idea of designing and architecting how machines move and work was interesting. However, one specific teacher changed all of that with his multi-media class. Working on one of the first Macs, Willem dove into the video course helping with an upcoming film festival and a new passion was born around design.

When it came time to figure out college, Willem still applied to the majority of schools for mechanical engineering. He had only applied to one for design in Toronto. Even though he was accepted to all of the mechanical engineering schools, he didn’t accept them. Something inside told him to continue with design.


After University, Willem wasn’t super eager on jumping right into the design world. So, he traveled landing in British Columbia planting trees. “I’ve planted more than 210,000 trees, some 13 square kilometers.” He then went halfway around the world to Australia. After meeting someone, he lived in Paris for a while, but knew he needed to work and returned to Montreal to figure out his next steps in the professional world.


A New Start

Willem didn’t know anyone in the city or have a job lined up, but what he did know is what motivated and inspired him, design. When it came to design it’s more about the science of it. “I’m not an emotional designer, it’s more about the structure, alignment and grids.”

'I’m not an emotional designer, it’s more about the structure, alignment and grids' Click To Tweet

Fast forward to today, Willem is a designer at Shopify, the popular Canadian-based e-commerce software company that is helping retailers to sell online. As a designer, inspiration and a daily routine is important. “I’m still figuring that out, but it’s definitely getting more polished,” said Willem when asked about his morning routine. One thing Willem does do is try to run three to four times per week as exercise and health is extremely important to him. He also bikes to work every day. “It’s peaceful biking in the city in the morning,” he said. “I’ll put on some music with both headphones. It’s super chill just weaving through traffic.”

'It’s peaceful biking in the city in the morning' Click To Tweet

Being Mindful

Mindfulness is another concept Willem is working on these days. “I’ve made a real effort to put away my phone when I walk around,” he said. The idea is that people often don’t live in the moment. Technology constantly surrounds us and by putting it away during certain moments you can be more mindful and conscious. Willem added, “Another example is closing my laptop during meetings.” One of the pieces to mindfulness for Willem includes being healthy and exercising. Earlier in life, he would workout for aesthetic reasons. Today, it has a direct correlation to being able to think clearly. “I know that if I’m not fit and healthy I don’t think well.”

'Having the optimism to not think about it as a daily grind is key' Click To Tweet

Willem has an interesting perspective on the life and work balance and the daily grind as well. “There are two ways of looking at work and life. One is to see them as separate, but the other is not believing there’s a difference. My life is my work and my work is my life.” By seeing the two as one there really is no daily grind and that’s why working at Shopify has been so exciting. He’s able to discover what excites him and remains optimistic about his projects. Willem said, “Having the optimism to not think about it as a daily grind is key.”

As we often do with these interviews, we ask what keeps these individuals grounded and connected. Two themes that we have found are constant in the journaling world. For Willem, his family plays a huge part. “The influence of my family through my life,” he said. “My parents have instilled in me to work hard and be humble. It’s not always easy to do, but if you can it’s an awesome feeling. Do what interests you and be happy.”


Writing It Down

Lastly, Willem combines everything he does through mindfulness, exercise, life and work balance, and family into a form of journaling. Every three to four months, he will sit down and do a brain dump of everything he’s feeling and experienced over that part of time. He notes that there are usually recurring themes in his writings, like being healthy and happy, “It really helps me to get everything out on paper and decide where I’m heading and what’s next.”

Willem’s Questions for the KYŌ App:

  • Are you happy?
  • Are you making excuses?
  • Are you taking advantage of the current moment?

Images: Marc Champagne & Susan Yin

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One Big Thing with Nick Burka

You’ve probably heard it a million times; Focus on one thing at a time. The concept isn’t new but it’s powerful, and Nick Burka, the founder of the One Big Thing app, totally agrees. It’s why Nick and his brother, Daniel, have created a purposefully simple app that does just that – asks you what you want to focus on for that day, that one thing.

'Focus on one thing at a time' Click To Tweet

The Concept

Nick’s brother Daniel Burka is a serial entrepreneur. He’s currently with Google Ventures, which works to fund startups under the Google name. With one of Daniel’s coworkers, John Zeratsky, the two began discussing a model for staying focused, mindful, and getting daily tasks finished efficiently. “There’s a pre-existing model called the 1-3-5 model, which focuses on one big thing, three little things, and some other stuff each day. John and Daniel came up with a sticky pad version with a clean, simple, and beautiful layout” said Nick. After just two tweets from John and Daniel, they received tens of thousands of responses saying the model was helpful and very useful.

Daniel then took the idea to his brother, Nick, and the two began working on it as a personal project. The goal was to create a simple app that asked users to write down one thing they wanted to complete for that day and would remind that user of it. Even better, each morning the app notifies users to jump back in and enter another one thing. “It was a chance to work together, which we haven’t done for a while,” said Nick. “The project was an evenings and weekends kind of thing.”


One Big Thing


Being Mindful

Nick agreed to working on the project because philosophically he believes in it, saying, “I actually do create the task to complete it. It’s refreshing to finish a task and cross it off your list.”  When asked about work and life balance, Nick referenced that concepts like One Big Thing help him to not panic. It allows him to see a whole pile of things he needs to do and pick from the top and work his way down. Otherwise, he would get overwhelmed.

Nick hasn’t always known how to live a mindful life. In fact, he previously thought the only way to be mindful was to engage in systems like meditation or yoga. “The big switch for me is that I was thinking I wasn’t doing it “right,” but rather it was just a different mindful thing than a system that people usually do,” he remembers. “I had to go through trying the system to realize that I needed a more personal mindfulness.”

'I find mindfulness in the activities that draw me into them by actually doing them' Click To Tweet

So what does Nick do to stay mindful? “I find mindfulness in the activities that draw me into them by actually doing them,” he said. A couple examples Nick gave us include spending time with his son in his classes helping them organize or work on an art project. He also mentioned cooking as a good activity. “These are mindful activities to me as I’m thinking about core things in my life that are important. True things to me work better than a system like meditation or yoga,” he finished.


It’s Fluid

The biggest takeaway for Nick, that may also apply to many others, is that every day is different. Therefore, how you stay grounded or mindful can shift and change. One day it might be a yoga class that helps you, but another it may be a strenuous workout. At the end of the day, Nick sums all of this up nicely by saying, “Life is stressful. The goal is not to get rid of all the stress. The goal is just to manage the stress. There’s a balance.”


Nick’s Questions for the KYŌ App:

  • What are you doing that really matters?
  • What are you doing to help others?
  • What did you visually appreciate today?


Images: Marc Champagne

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Find Your Sauna with Greg Isenberg

In today’s corporate world, very few people can call themselves a serial entrepreneur or investor. But for Greg Isenberg, current founder and CEO of Islands, that’s exactly what his life has been to date.

With a focus on consumer products, Greg has spent his life creating marketing and social media campaigns for some of the biggest brands in the world, creating Wall Street’s most popular stock market simulator, investing in early stage startups, and building remarkable digital products – many of which have been acquired.

Most recently in 2012, Greg was founder and CEO of a startup called 5by, a startup that gave consumers a simple button to push to retrieve the most popular videos on the web. By 2015, the company was acquired by StumbleUpon. “After the acquisition, I told myself I needed some time off,” he said. “I had been working since I was the age of 13 and I wanted to take a break and do nothing.”

'Being alone is underrated' Click To Tweet

The break didn’t last long. Greg had met a woman in Los Angeles who had a rare cancer. She had created a group of 50-60 people that would converse daily through email. “I tried to get them all on Slack thinking it would make it easier for them,” he remembered. “The entire group said it was too difficult to use and they couldn’t figure it out.” With that, Greg’s next entrepreneurial adventure began and Islands was born. The product is still in private beta but users can sign up to join the waiting list. The concept revolves around providing a de facto community platform for communication, much like the group the women in LA created to stay in touch.

islandsWhile being a serial entrepreneur and investor may sound glamorous, the pressure and continually having to be “turned on” can take its toll. When asked how Greg steps back from the daily grind or stays inspired, he noted, “Being alone is underrated.” After realizing he was getting a bit overwhelmed at work that day, Greg gave the example of starting his day with a walk in the old port of Montreal, listening to music – alone. “I even put my phone on airplane mode,” he said. Being alone allows him to regroup. “I also think nature helps a lot,” he added.

Like other interviews we have conducted, we often ask about meditation. “Depends how you define meditation,” said Greg. The point is valid. We often think of meditation as sitting, legs crossed, and chanting. However, meditation can vary be individual. For Greg, he doesn’t practice the traditional sense of the word, but rather has found his version in the form of Russian Bathhouses. “There’s this one I go to in San Francisco every time I’m there,” he said. “It’s amazing. You submerge yourself in the sauna and then do a cold bath that’s like 38 degrees.” The bathhouse offers Greg the opportunity to disconnect, but have both a mental and physical rejuvenation. “It’s one of my life hacks,” he ended.

'People need to find the things that keep them balanced' Click To Tweet

What’s your opportunity to disconnect?

At the end of the day, Greg does a great job summing up how many people are living and working today and why types of meditation and forms of journaling are so important. “While some people are fine with just being a cog in the wheel, others are working to optimize their lifestyle and do more with their lives,” he said. “People need to find the things that keep them balanced. They need to find their sauna”


Greg’s Questions for KYŌ App:

  • What am I worried about?
  • How am I spending my time?


Images: Marc Champagne