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From the Archives: What I Gained By Giving Things Away

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From the Archives: What I Gained By Giving Things Away

Happy Flashback Friday! We're going back to the original travel stories and experiences that led to the creation of Serenflipity. 

Serenflipity started as Cara's personal project to get unstuck, back in 2013. She convinced 90 people to write 90 adventures for her to complete as she traveled solo through India and Southeast Asia; a friend wrote them into cards, and she flipped a card each day and wrote a blog. Friends and strangers started following along, and one challenged her to turn the project into a product.

Today, we're diving into what happens when you follow give away what you love... and how to spark cycles of generosity and connection. 

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Ikat & Non-Attachment 

 

Originally published on April 2, 2013

Cara Thomas

Today, I gave away what were supposed to become my new favorite pair of pants. Last week, we’d traveled through Kochi, home of fantastic fabrics and speedy tailors. I spied a gorgeous pink ikat print and rushed to bring the fabric and a pant model for the tailor to replicate. A few hours later, I picked up an ill fitting pair of pants. The next day, I returned to get them fitted more narrowly through the leg. I came back to find them fitted much too narrowly through the leg. We added buttons. We tried a different fabric. I looked like Aladdin meets Chicos. These custom-made pants were becoming quite the energy-zapper and were definitely not a positive indicator for a future career in fashion design.

After stitching, sewing, recutting and redirecting, I gave up and figured that maybe after carrying them for a few weeks, they’d magically morph into the pants of my dreams, and I’d be taking many a tourist photo in my chic new Indian custom-made pants (if only the pants or my body would change!)

Yesterday, on the way to the beach, I struck up a conversation on textiles, jewelry and design with Malwina, a chic Polish yogi who’s a costume and fashion designer. If these pants were to ever be wearable, she would definitely be the one to give them the sleek boho-chic life they deserved. My intention was sealed after this morning’s yoga session on non-attachment: I knew it was time to become non-attached to this pair of pants that, as much as I loved the idea of, weren’t working for me… And were adding weight to my backpack.

I figured that giving away my pink pants to her would result in that old-pat-on-the-back feeling and I’d walk away knowing that these pants I’d labored over would potentially have a good home. After the pant exchange and more conversation on fabrics, she invited me to join her at a local scarf-seller’s home where she was going to look at hand-made fabrics. I never say no to a local adventure, so off we went to Camille’s home to peruse her wares, which are intricately beaded, mirrored and stitched fabrics, resulting in incredible skirts and tops. Apparently, these are wedding dresses, and the one that she’s wearing (below) was made by her sisters and aunts for her own wedding years ago. Her husband has since passed away, so she wears it in his memory, and continues to design new dresses during the monsoon season as homage.

It’s amazing how much I got back from giving something away. In return for gifting that pair of pants, I made an awesome new friend, got to experience a talented local woman’s craft and spend time in her home, and even got a little ankle bracelet as a thank you. “You get back what you give out,” Malwina, looking super chic in her pink ikat pants, told me as she tied on my new ankle bracelet.

So I’m attempting to move into non-attachment mode. Maybe it’s the detox, the local wares that I don’t have room for, or living on confined means. My backpack is becoming a bit like a life metaphor: by lugging around items that I don’t need, but am attached to for one reason or another, I block myself from acquiring new things and experiences. I don’t have capacity for anything new or different. I’m stuffed (literally) with my old ways. But for every thing I let go (physically, mentally, emotionally), I open up space for something new to fill that void… And today I’m reminded that it always comes back in great, unexpected ways.

Thanks to my mom for the great challenge to buy something and give it to someone else!

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Meet The Flip Fam: Cal Fussman

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Meet The Flip Fam: Cal Fussman

Today, we’re interviewing the master of interviews, Cal Fussman, an acclaimed writer for Esquire and speaker around the globe. If you haven’t heard his story before, be sure to check out his two interviews on The Tim Ferriss Show.

Born in Brooklyn, Cal spent ten straight years traveling the world, swimming over 18-foot tiger sharks, rolling around with mountain gorillas in Rwanda, and searching for gold in the Amazon. He boxed against then-undefeated world champion Julio Cesar Chavez, won a James Beard award and served as sommelier atop the World Trade Center. He now lives with his wife—whom he met while on his quest to discover the world’s most beautiful beach—and his three children in Los Angeles, where he spends every morning eating breakfast with Larry King.

He tells us about his life-long commitment to adventure, how to approach every day as an opportunity to embrace the unknown and how to make the office a more serenflipitous place.


What gets you out of bed in the morning?

The greatest gift that we get is waking up. So, I get up looking for the gift!

 

What does adventure mean to you and why do you think it’s important?

Adventure means waking up in the morning and not knowing what’s going to happen. When I traveled for 10 years, that was my choice - I’d wake up not knowing who I was going to meet, where I’d be sleeping that night, what I’d be eating that day, or which situation I’d be stumbling into.

And, after ten years of that, I ended up meeting the love of my life, which meant the end of that trip, and the start of a whole new adventure. After I married, had 3 kids, got a cat, a dog, and so on, I still didn’t feel like the adventuring was over.

No matter whether you’re at home or living on the road, adventure is about new experiences, and when you have kids, you come to rely on the growth of your children for new experiences. You get to relive something spectacular and truly enjoy it - even just watching your 3 year old eat an ice cream for the first time.

As the kids have grown up, I go on to create new adventures, like training under the world’s top sommelier. And now, I’m speaking all over the world...and that’s a whole new career for me. There’s really no sameness to my life.

I’ve gotten to come back to myself in a way...I can feel my 20’s reawakening all over again and I can’t wait!

 

Do you think that people have to learn to be adventurous or are some people just born that way?

Well, as I just recently learned at a Tony Robbins conference, there are two types of people: those who need certainty and those that don’t. If you’re the kind of person that has to be in an office every day at a specific time, then you have to figure out a way to bring the element of uncertainty into your life.

But then, for someone like me, I have to actively look for certainty in order to be able to put three kids through college!  

 

What’s your go-to way to get unstuck?

I visualize the other side. I look beyond, I look up, I repeat a mantra: “If you can separate yourself from the perceived pain, you won’t feel the pain!” If you can see challenges as opportunities...then you’re looking positively at that situation, and you’re probably going to get that positivity right back.

 

What advice would you have for people who have a tough time getting out of their comfort zone?

Simply visualize where you want to go beyond your comfort zone; identify the fears that are holding you back, what it would be like without them...and then go there!

 

How do you Serenflip?

I’ve started doing corporate keynotes on the power of curiosity, and I invented a “corporate poker game” using Serenflipity cards as a group exercise to help employees step outside of their comfort zones.

It works like this:

After sharing stories of people I’ve interviewed over the years, and tales of how they’ve pushed themselves or society in their own unique, positive ways, I pair up the attendees.

I ask them to discuss two questions with each other: “What was a time where you had to push yourself out of your comfort zone, and what was accomplished by it?” and “What would you do if fear wasn’t in the way?”

Now that they have a better understanding of each other, I ask everyone to take out their deck of Serenflipity cards. Each person has to pick 3 cards for their partner to help them get out of their comfort zone and overcome what holds them back. It’s wonderful to see how invested everyone is in this -- almost agonizing over which cards to give his or her partner.

What the employees don’t know is that their executive team has pre-ranked each of the cards based on perceived difficulty. We reveal the ranking to the audience, and have them score their hand based on which 3 cards were given to them.

Out of a total pool of 30 points, we had two winners clock in with 27 points each. And they get extra points if they actually complete the adventures after the conference.

Everyone walks out of the room learning a bit more about how to interview, how to share themselves, how to take in information to push them to higher ground, and how to make strategic decisions for someone else in a very purposeful, connected way.

 

Learn some more and follow Cal’s adventures here!

http://www.calfussman.com

Twitter: @calfussman

IG: @calfussman

 

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From The Archives: Getting Available for Adventure

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From The Archives: Getting Available for Adventure

Happy Flashback Friday! We're going back to the original travel stories and experiences that led to the creation of Serenflipity. Today, we're heading back to Myanmar, and diving into what happens when you follow your heart's desire... and how to get available for adventure every day. 

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Meet The Flip Fam: Nonee Kay

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Meet The Flip Fam: Nonee Kay

Welcome to our Flip Fam blog series, where we interview members of our community who artfully build the spirit of adventure and serendipity into their everyday lives!


Kicking off our series is the magical Nonee Kay of Glendale, CA, a special events pro with Kay12 Catering and community gathering guru. We had the pleasure of interviewing Nonee in her family-run artist compound called “Theatre13”, where she shared nuggets of inspiration, adventure, and creative tips for getting unstuck.

Nonee

Your favorite nickname:

Well, my name is short for Antigone, the storybook princess said to be one of the first activists of love (she’s a character from a Sophocles novel). So, technically, I was born with a nickname.

 

What’s your role in the Kay sibling business?

My position is all about bringing people together and building community, and I get to orchestrate celebrations for people and feed them delicious things! My brother and I say “what we do is the anti-war”. We use events as an outlet to remind everyone that life is meant to be lived, and that the best moments of your life should be celebrated.

(Fun fact: When I was younger, I never thought I would be working with my family...I actually thought I’d be a nun to ensure my seat in Heaven! Not sure if I’m still getting one of those!)

 

What’s your go-to zen spot in LA?

I started a hiking group called “The Air Humping Hikers”. Every Wednesday (HUMP day) morning, we’ll pick a trail (I like them all!), start off with a meditation and set an intention, and at the top, dance our asses off to a new song. We tape it to broadcast to others that even Wednesdays can become the best day of the week, as long as you do something incredible with it.

 

What’s your most beloved travel destination?

Anywhere I’ve never been!

 

Why is adventure important to you and what do you do to infuse it into your daily life?

For me, adventure is anything that gets my adrenaline pumping, and more often than not, something I haven’t done before. I do my best to put myself out there, jump out of my comfort zone, and maybe even surprise myself. Especially any time I can meet someone new, that’s always going to spark a new experience for me.

 

What's your go-to 'thing' to get unstuck?

If I’m having a day that feels too “normal”, I will get back to a book that I haven’t finished (usually non-fiction that’s going to give me new tools and skills) or listen to a TED talk that I’ve had bookmarked for months.

Doing either of those things always makes me think of other people who I then want to reach out to — sometimes it’s direct, as in the writer of an article I’ve read, the consulate general of a country I really want to visit, or, in the case of Serenflipity, reaching out to Cara when I first bought the deck of cards (when she was still in beta!).

In essence, I get unstuck when I realize that the life I’m living isn’t just the city I’m in and the community I have - I can to reach out to anyone, wherever they live and whoever they are. Then, the planet feels a whole lot smaller and far more accessible.  

 

What's your mantra for getting through challenges or tough times? (And can you give us an example of how that's come to life for you?)

“I am healthy, I am well, I am here and I am now”. We have to remember: we all came into the world already as winners - we started as sperm, we swam the fastest through a tube, we held on the strongest to an egg, we managed to survive in a little room shooting foreign objects our way, and then we were born. We’re walking on a planet amongst winners. It’s that reminder that humbles me and helps me realize that no matter how much I screw up in one day, I started as a winner and I can always go back to being one.

 

What’s a piece advice you have to someone who is resistant to adventure or to doing something different?

There’s really no reason not to go out and try something new. We create these comfort zones in our heads — if we step too far away, we know our way back. Once we become aware that these places could put a halt to our soul’s growth, we are more inclined to step out of them. Everyone gets a little nervous to try something new at first, but isn't that feeling of nerves even a little bit exhilarating?

 

How do you Serenflip?

I use the cards not only to instigate adventure on my own, but for others, as well. I love that moment when you surprise a stranger by buying them a cup of coffee and watching them get taken aback by a random act of kindness. We all have lost a bit of faith in humanity, so I Serenflip to bring that trust back and do more good for people. We all want to feel loved, so why don’t we spread some more of that good s**t?

And, it doesn’t even need to be about flipping a card every day, but rather shifting my awareness and thinking on a much bigger level...to be open, willing and curious.

 

What do you think about adventure potentially being the next meditation (and what could the benefits be)?

Look, we all do things to help us feel better. Some of us meditate to reduce stress and anxiety, others go for a run, some of us crazies go out into the street and silly string strangers because a (Serenflipity) card told us to “instigate fun”. Whatever you can do to become the best version of yourself, while hopefully helping others do the same, should be the “new great thing” to do to feel amazing. :]

 

Follow Nonee’s adventures here! 

@noneekay + @airhumpinghikers + @vertigoeventvenue

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How to make magic happen anywhere...

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How to make magic happen anywhere...

Over the past few months, we've been experimenting with a new idea -- a brunch adventure series called Serenflipity Saturdays. While getting out of your comfort zone is fun solo, we think it can be more fun together. 

Our most recent event was themed around March Magic, and our thirty attendees had 30 minutes to make magic happen for someone. So out we went, in groups of three, onto the streets of Venice to connect with each other and strangers and to see what we could create. 

One group started a game of "Trade Up" with a measuring tape they found on the ground; they met a group of women who had just come from an eating disorder walk and traded their measuring tape for affirmation cards. This group of women definitely took note of the symbolism of the trade, and the power of personal affirmation and positive self-work to trump physical measurement metrics. (A serenflipitous encounter indeed!) The trading up continued, and the artifacts that the team returned (Gjusta jam for one!) which were definitely envy-inducing! 

Another group treated a child to ice cream, and shared back that even more than the act of purchasing a gift for someone, the connection that was created with the boy and his father was most impactful. "I felt like I showed this little boy something positive -- and hopefully he'll remember that and want to do that for others. Small acts can lead to big, positive impacts," Tara shared. 

And yet another group spent time in the homeless encampment a block down. They received a note that says "stay positive," a stone that represents the magic of nature, a dollar, and a special, legal-in-LA surprise. "The big lesson for me today is that the magic I received from real connection from acknowledging others as humans and the power of love and acknowledgement," Aviva shared. 

Another group shared about the simple power of a smile in creating magic for another. "We walked by a cafe filled with people eating together and see this guy sitting all alone with his phone in front of him — and I knew I had to make magic for him. I decided I had to make him smile — so I walked straight up to him and did it! He was so grateful and mentioned how simple it can be to brighten someone up. So I asked him, 'are you gonna do it for someone else?' and he said, 'yes, of course!'" 

There are so many more stories, and the impact that compounds after these experiences continues to remind me that at the end of the day, we all want to connect and meet each other on a real level — beyond titles and formalities, but down to the human essence of who we are. And it can be as simple as a smile, words of acknowledgement, or purchasing a treat for someone. 

As we discovered together, kindness is magic. 

Enjoy some of the photos below! 

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Check Us Out At The White House!

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Check Us Out At The White House!

Can you spot the SERENFLIPITY? Super psyched to have been a part of these amazing gift bags for the White House Correspondents Dinner and the Time 100 Gala.

It boggles my mind to think that just a few years ago this was a crazy personal project to get unstuck.

Then it was a side hustle that I dreamed about becoming a full time thing, and chiseled away at, at all hours while living in Asia. Then I had some serious personal setbacks, as many of you know.

Now, it's in places I would never have imagined (even a few months ago), and growing into a real business, day by day.

My dad shared this gem yesterday: "All I can say is: pursue the path you have chosen with ever-increasing confidence, and conviction that the outcomes will not only be surprising but lead you to people and places you never dreamed of. Life is a voyage of discovery so set full sail to savor its delights."

Thank you guys for the fantastic support!

With love,

Cara

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How 7 Strangers Got SERENFLIPITY Into Beyonce's Hands

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How 7 Strangers Got SERENFLIPITY Into Beyonce's Hands

Last week, 850 SERENFLIPITIES got shipped to some serious A-list galas. A few challenges ensued -- to say the least! But with the help of strangers on platforms like Facebook, Uber and SHYP, it takes a little resilience, vulnerability and creativity to make almost anything happen. (And some good snacks!)

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How I Serenflipped My Way Out of a Brush With the Law

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How I Serenflipped My Way Out of a Brush With the Law

Tonight, SERENFLIPITY got me out of a ticket.

I was driving home from a long session shooting videos, and may have crossed over a divider a few seconds too late. Before I knew it, blaring lights and sirens were following me, shouting to get off at the next exit.

Crap. My first moving violation. Ever.

I pulled over, shaking and a bit nervous. Was I to play the tearful and helpless girl? Pretend I didn’t know what happened? I’m not a fan of using my femininity to get out of situations, so I decided to just be straight-forward and apologize.

I rolled down the window, and two cops towered over me, demanding the usual protocol that I’ve seen in movies.

“What do you do?” the cop asked me, as he looked at my license.

“I’m an entrepreneur,” I responded, figuring that was pretty safe.

“What do you create? Is it secret?” the other cop asked snidely.

“Well, I created these adventure cards that help you have more fun and serendipity in your life.” I responded, a little wary of how that would go over with two serious cops about to smack a fine on me. After all, fun and adventure aren’t the things you want to bring up with a cop who’s just pulled you over…

“No way…” the first cop lit up, as he responded. “Like what kind of adventures?”

“Here, I’ll show you… You guys can even pick a card to do.” I held out the deck to the two towering gentleman standing over me on a random exit in downtown LA.

They leafed through and started smiling.

“You better get on Shark Tank with this!” the first officer exclaimed. “Look, I have to find the oldest person I can and do something nice for them. It won’t be hard to find old guys back at the office!”

“Yeah, I wish people were nicer and did nice things for us. We’re not bad people,” the second officer joked as he flipped his card. “Hey — I have to buy the person behind me in line a coffee…”

“Well, you better stand behind him when you go get coffee,” I suggested to the first officer, and we all laughed.

“Listen,” the first cop got serious again. “You get yourself on TV with these cards and we’ll call this a warning. But I better see you on Shark Tank – deal? I’m gonna hold onto this card!”

Deal. Thank you, LAPD for the vote of confidence in my start up, and reminding me that simple acts of human connection and kindness can make even the most annoying situations into something serendipitous and positive. And for giving me a whole new edition to build: SERENFLIPITY for the glove compartment!

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Dude Looks Like A Lama: Getting A Mantra From An Unexpected Rockstar

Elizabeth Real challenged me to ask a stranger for a mantra, and what better stranger than an inspiring rock-n-roll hero.

In my hotel lobby, I saw a familiar face, long tousled hair and layers of distressed denim that only a famous rocker could wear as effortlessly as I wear my Lululemons. Unflanked by guards or an air of celebrity, he was perusing the shop windows, admiring sumptuous fabrics and sparkling gems just like any other well-heeled tourist. With my challenge in my wallet, I knew he would be the ideal person to ask. I back-and-forthed over whether to approach a lime-lighter clearly enjoying an off-stage moment, and how to acknowledge his celebrity, as I admired the showcases just a few feet away.

I overheard his familiar rasp, and figured he was put in my path for a reason.

“That’s a familiar voice!” I exclaimed, just as I might have to any other American thousands of miles from home. He smiled and turned and we began to chat about where each of us had lived.

“You lived in Aspen? Well, how’s your ass been?” He joked.

“Well it’s been great,” I responded with an exaggerated hip slap. “I’m on sabbatical for three months traveling the world.”

We chatted and laughed about travel and my three months off as we sauntered down the hall admiring jewelry, and picking up a few onlooking Americans in conversation.

“I have a strange request for you.” I summoned, after a deep breath. He looked at me, perhaps expecting an ask for an autograph or a large donation. “My friends are giving me challenges to do over my 90 days away, and today I have to ask a stranger for a mantra… Would you be up for giving me one?”

He smiled and crossed his arms in thought. “Wow, that’s a good challenge.” More pauses, an elbow to the wall and hand to the back of his head, and through his tousled hair. He paced and furrowed his brow.

“I’m sorry to ask you such a difficult question on your vacation,” I backtracked. “It’s completely fine if you can’t think of one.”

“No, no… This is good.” More pausing and thinking. “A mantra… Just one word?”

“Well, it can be a phrase, a word of advice, a flash of inspiration… Whatever comes to mind.” I was feeling like I had overstepped my bounds.

As he kept thinking and pacing, his friend assured me that I had indeed asked the right person. A few other hotel guests started to look on. More pauses. My brain quickly sidled up to gawk at the scene of one of the world’s most famous rockers pacing and thinking, and a trepidatious American fumbling and glancing around the marble hall: I can’t believe you asked this man for a mantra… And then, he had it.

The only way to get to the other shore is to lose sight of the one you’re on.

“This is amazing,” I beamed. “It’s perfect and so applicable to where I am right now.”

“Me too,” he smiled. “Me too.” Status and circumstance washed away, and we continued to chat as we walked down the hall, a small group of us connected by the desire to look to new shores. The type of shore we were each aiming for, fancy and famous or small and simple, seemed superfluous. Just knowing others, even the most celebrated, sought new shores and a little inspiration for the swim was a strong enough current to push me farther away from the fears of that familiar, footprinted sand I’ve treaded for so long.

Much of my travel has been about letting go of old ideas, whether my need to control and plan or my ability to turn a simple decision into a detailed drama. Over the past few months, I’ve had to let the current pull me farther from the plans I’ve pre-meditated and closer to the possibilities I can’t yet fathom. And what a laughably-perfect way to practice floating with the flow than to be presented with the need for a mantra and a superstar stranger.

I still hadn’t given nod to the fact that I knew how famous he was, and at this point in the conversation, it seemed odd to throw in how much I admired his work, how enthralled I was at age 9 by “Janie’s Got A Gun,” or to call him by name.

As we parted ways, we wished each other well on our respective shore-hopping journeys. I was reminded that lamas come in many forms and that we all can teach from our experiences. Anyone can be a lama, often unintentionally and sometimes just for a moment. You just have to ask.

Originally published on yestoexcess.com.

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