Positive Relationship Building: Surround Yourself with People who Get Sh*t Done

Have you ever noticed that some people energize you while others drain you? In some groups, you feel smarter while other groups make you feel less intelligent? Perhaps your productivity differs depending on the type of company you’re with.

So I’ll just come out and say it – yes, your friends matter.

In the 1950s, a psychologist named Solomon Asch did an experiment with a group of volunteers to study group conformity. Imagine that you, a participant in the experiment show up to the experimental room where there are seven other participants. You don’t know this at the time, but the others aren’t actually participants, but co-conspirators of the experimenter. You’re the only real participant. The experimenter tells you that the study is about visual judgments, and places two cards in front of you. One card shows one straight vertical line, while the other card shows three lines of various lengths, labeled A,B, and C. The experimenter then asks each person to indicate which of the three lines matches the length of the card with only one line. You’re the last person to answer. You can tell that line that perfectly matches is obviously C, but one after the other, the “participants” say that it’s B.

What would you do in this situation? Would you conform? Or stick to what you know is right?

While in the control condition, where participants did not have pressure to conform to a unanimous answer, only 1% chose the wrong answer, yet in the experimental condition, over 1/3 of participants chose the unanimous and obviously incorrect answer.

What happens in our brains from a neurological perspective is that when we have an opinion that matches those of people around us,  our brain’s reward center releases the neurotransmitter dopamine, which gives us a jolt of pleasure. We feel good, validated, and closer to others. Yet when our opinion differs, we feel bad. The area of our brain responsible for pain is activated, and we can either pretend to agree with others but secretly hold onto our own thoughts, or more likely, our brain will actively change how we think and molds our thoughts to align with those of the crowd that surrounds us.

When we choose to hang out with those who bring us down, the naysayers and pessimists, who tell us “no” and rain on our parade, we get less done. Misery loves company, and people who don’t get sh*t done don’t want you to either! Our brains are rewired to say, “it’s okay, I don’t have to do it.”

But yet, if we choose to spend our time with high achievers, people who are dreamers and more importantly doers, they inspire us and supercharge us to do even more than we ever thought we could. If you surround yourself with like-minded people, who are full of energy and ideas, are excited to put themselves out there and to make things happen, you will too. While misery demands company, so does success. People who are successful actively surround themselves with people who also successful. When we spend time with these people, our brains are rewired to say, “They did it, and you can too.”

“If you’re the smartest person in the room, you’re in the wrong room.”

— Richard Tirendi, CEO and Co-Founder of VisionQuest

So how can seek out mutually beneficial relationships with other successful people to help us achieve more?

Who You Should Spend Time With

Spend time with people who inspire you. Have you ever looked at a friend and thought, “Wow! I wish I could be more like you in ___ area?” Spend more time with people who inspire you to be a better person through their own behaviors and examples. Ask them their secrets to success and pick up a few life hacks!

Spend time with people who share your values. Authenticity matters in friendships. When you spend time with people whose values differ vastly from your own, you not only run the risk of setting off your brain’s pain receptors (ouch!), you also might end up changing your opinion to match theirs.

Spend time with people who you can learn something new from. I love having friends who come from different backgrounds and have different skill sets. It not only makes life more interesting, but it also gives me the opportunity to learn something new.

Spend time with people who make you a better person. Real friends who will call you out on your BS are gems. They not only tell you the truth, but they will also continue to raise the bar on your personal growth. Treasure them!

Who You Should Not Spend Time With

What you don’t want to do is spend time with people who are consistently negative, who aren’t achieving their own goals, who don’t share your values and are constantly dragging you down with drama. This person doesn’t have much to offer you but is always asking for help. They spend a lot of time tearing others down, gossiping and complaining. If you have people like this in your life currently, make an active choice to minimize their role in your life.

What About Networking?

The word networking is intimidating, but it shouldn’t be. People who are getting sh*t done are all around you, and in fact, are likely your friends, family, and colleagues. Take a look at your personal network. Are there people who you would like to be spending more time with, but you aren’t currently doing so? In this day in age, where we have social media, email, and more importantly, smartphones, your future cheerleaders are often just a few clicks away. Notice that they’ve done something extraordinary lately? Send them an email of congratulations and let them know how much you admire their achievements, then simply ask if they would like to grab a coffee or drink sometime. After all, the worst they can say is no, and more often than not, people are usually quite willing to spend time with you.

Another idea is to host informal gatherings or parties to bring people together. Do you have different groups of high achieving friends who might benefit from getting to know one another? Make the introduction simple by inviting a curated group to happy hour, or perhaps an intimate dinner party. The activity of breaking bread tends to break the ice, and to me, people who eat together often also achieve together.

Ultimately, it’s scientifically clear that you are the people who you choose to surround yourself with. According to the motivational speaker, Jim Rohn, “The law of averages says that the result of any given situation will be the average of all outcomes. Therefore, you are the average of the five people you most associate with.” So take a good look at your innermost circle. Are you associating with those who are bringing you up, helping you become a better person, and get sh*t done?

Fancy Bites for a Upscale and Casual Girls Night In

I love planning parties. I love the idea of bringing people together and I love cooking for others. I love the challenge of planning a menu, especially when it comes to lots of different little bites.

To truly sparkle as a hostess, you’ll not only want to delight your guests’ taste buds, you’ll also want to be calm, cool and collected, and have everything nearly ready by the time people arrive so can you really mingle. Creating a menu with many things that have to be served hot and made to order can take away from the party’s ambiance. So to create the best experience for both you and your guests, I aim to plan carefully on what can be made ahead, what can be kept warm, and what can be plated and served at room temperature or cold.

When I plan a menu of hors-d’oeuvres, I try to choose 5-7 bites. I like to err on the side of being able to serve most things room temperature or cold and have a balance between bites that are savory and sweet, decadent and refreshing, and a good mix of meat, seafood, and vegetarian. I always ask my guests if they have any dietary restrictions prior to the party and make sure that all guests can eat at least most of the items.

For my Valentines’ Day girls night in, I invited about 12 girls over to my tiny New York City apartment for a treat of fancy bites and cocktails. Here’s how I did it.


Prep the day before: print out your menu, prepare a tealight candle and grab a neutral tablecloth and some spray roses. Nowadays, I opt to frame my menu in a simple gold 5×7 picture frame. I got this one from Target.




Planning your display ahead of time can be really helpful. I typically place my buffet setting the night before – that way I already know how everything will look before the food is ready to be served.


I had my guests start with gruyere gougères. These can be made in advance, frozen and placed in a hot oven for a few minutes to warm up. Not only does it make the house smell wonderful, it also allows you to greet your guests with a delightful, fresh warm bite with little effort and stress.


As guests snacked on the gougères. I started to put together the rest of the appetizers. Several friends came a few minutes early and were able to help me with a few last minute touches.


These beet-pickled deviled eggs are not only beautiful, they also pack in so much flavor! A little bit of curry powder adds a unique twist to the classic deviled egg, and soaking the boiled eggs in beet juice gives them their pretty hue.

chicken liver

These almond financiers are made perfect with the addition of creamy chicken liver mousse. This sweet and salty combination is inspired by a dish I had at State Bird Provisions in San Francisco. They use a duck-fat financier, but I opted for the classic brown butter version of the little french cake.


Buckwheat blinis with smoked salmon, crème fraiche, paddlefish caviar and chives are the perfect fancy bite. It’s luxurious, delicious and makes a serious impression.


four appetizers on plate

Each of the bites were approximately the same size, and ranged between 1-2 bites, which is perfect since I didn’t need to provide my guests with serious silverware. Instead, I put out tiny cocktail forks in a glass.


For dessert, I prepped a tower of sweets and refreshing fruits that the girls could dip in either dark or milk chocolate fondue. Not only was this easy to prepare, it was also really fun and delicious. I typically spend a lot of time baking, but wanted to focus on the savory food instead, so I ended up buying things like cookies from Trader Joe’s and pound cake for dipping.


We had so much fun! To me, this was the perfect way to treat my girls to a night of decadence, love and celebration.



Paddlefish Caviar and Smoked Salmon Blinis

Chicken Liver Mousse on Almond Financiers

Beet Pickled Deviled Eggs

Roasted Shrimp with Green Goddess Dressing

Carrot Ginger Shooters with Gruyere Gougères

Milk and Dark Chocolate Fondue

Salted Brown Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

Recipe Sources:





Here are a couple of books that I used for reference and recipes for this night:

State Bird Provisions: A Cookbook

By Stuart Brioza, Nicole Krasinski, JJ Goode


Payard Cookies

By François Payard, Anne E. McBride


The Latest in Mindfulness is Pasta Meditation: Making Garganelli

For a long time, I felt that I wasn’t good at meditation. In my mind, meditation meant that I was sitting cross legged, hands gently resting on my thighs, palms up, head clear, breathing in and out slowly and purposely without letting my mind wander of falling asleep. Whether it was guided or unguided, I felt like even 5 minutes was too long for me. Not only did I always feel like I didn’t have time to meditate, when I could find the time, I couldn’t even sit still for the short duration. Thinking that this type of meditation wasn’t for me, I knew I needed a different solution. And that’s when I stumbled upon the idea of cooking meditation.

Cooking is an activity that inherently requires us to be fully present. After all, if you’re not fully present while chopping vegetables, you might just cut your fingers off. You have to be fully present to put the right amount of salt and seasoning in your food, you have to be present not to burn dinner, and you most definitely have to be present while measuring ingredients for baked goods. Not only does it require full presence, it also allows for connection. To me, cooking provides me with a way to connect. I connect with food through my hands, and I use food and cooking to connect with others. It’s an activity that is both productive and creative, purposeful and meaningful. When we fully engage in cooking, we engage with all of our senses – our sense of smell, taste, sight, touch and even sound.

When I think about all of my favorite hobbies and things to do, cooking ranks up there as probably my favorite thing to do in the world. I love cooking for myself and my husband, entertaining our friends, or challenging myself to make something new and exciting. Cooking satisfies my soul in a way that nothing else does. It provides me and the people I love with nourishment and pleasure; it satisfies the the mind, body and soul.  It calms me down after a long day of work, and it gives me the space to be creative and to enjoy beauty and excellence.

So, of course, one of my favorite youtube stars is Andrew Rea, or Oliver Babish from Binging with Babish. If you’re not familiar with the show, it’s basically short tutorials and recreations of recipes from television and movies. In one episode, Babish makes il timpano, a baked pasta dish filled with meatballs, boiled eggs, red sauce and garganelli. As soon as I watched the episode, I knew I wanted to make garganelli one day.

A few weeks ago, I finally got my chance to make homemade garganelli – a tubular shaped hand rolled pasta that requires fresh pasta sheets being cut into small squares 2×2 squares, folded on a wooden dowel and rolled on a small wooden comb called a pettine. Similar to their less glamorous cousin, penne, garganelli differs in that a “flap” is visible where one corner of the pasta square adheres to the rest, as opposed to a perfect cylinder in penne.

To understand this specialty of Emilia-Romaga, I  read a cookbook called Making Artisan Pasta by Aliza Green. Aliza described garganelli as coming from the Italian word garganeli, meaning a chicken’s gullet, or “gargle” in English. The dough contains a healthy amount of Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese and freshly grated nutmeg, giving it a speckled appearance and a delicious smell. The dough is slightly moist but pretty firm, and has the texture of a nice cool playdoh.

 Here I am, rolling out dough using this awesome kitchen-aid pasta tool. It's an absolute must have for all your homemade pasta sheets, and it's 100x easier than using a traditional hand crank pasta machine.  Here I am, rolling out dough using this awesome kitchen-aid pasta tool. It’s an absolute must have for all your homemade pasta sheets, and it’s 100x easier than using a traditional hand crank pasta machine.   Once the dough was rolled out to the right thickness, I used a ruler and a fluted pasta cutter to cut the dough into 2x2 squares. This particular cutter could cut either a fluted or straight pattern.  Once the dough was rolled out to the right thickness, I used a ruler and a fluted pasta cutter to cut the dough into 2×2 squares. This particular cutter could cut either a fluted or straight pattern.

Though immensely tedious, I gave my full concentration on each of those fluted square shapes, taking the time to gently place each one on the dowel and rolling it onto the board just so- that the tiny ridges formed and the edges sealed perfectly, resulting in a perfectly shaped garganello. Sliding the tube gently off the dowel, I reached for the next piece of square dough.

 The gentle yet firm folding technique on the board that creates the grooves in the pasta and seals the edges.  The gentle yet firm folding technique on the board that creates the grooves in the pasta and seals the edges.   Each completed garganello brought me a little bit of joy.  Each completed garganello brought me a little bit of joy.

The purposeful balance of being not too light- as to not stamp on the ridges and give the dough a proper seal, or too heavy- which would make the dough stick on the dowel and in the board was my only task. With each gargenello, I improved my technique. It was as natural as breathing, yet it required sheer concentration. When one didn’t come out as perfect as the others, I simply noted it, letting the pasta gently slide onto a wooden board without judgement. Soon, a portion’s worth of garganelli was laid in front of me. I kept going. 6 portions later, I was done. A few hours must had passed. I’m not sure exactly how much time had elapsed, but I felt so calm, so satisfied, a container of perfectly formed hand rolled pasta sitting in front of me. I had just meditated for hours and didn’t even realize it. My mind had been clear, completely in focus. My hands moved organically yet purposefully. I had entered into a complete flow state, where I lost track of time, the temperature, hunger or thirst. I was fully absorbed in this beautiful activity of making pasta.

 Once I got into the grove of this activity, I completely lost track of time.  Once I got into the grove of this activity, I completely lost track of time.   6-8 portions of garganelli, all done.  6-8 portions of garganelli, all done.

When it comes to mindfulness, I believe in doing what works for you. What calms your mind? What makes you feel completely at ease? What activity can you do where you feel completely absorbed, where you enter the flow zone? Where your hands, mind, and heart are all connected and fully engaged? For me, it’s making this labor intensive, beautiful pasta. If you don’t believe me, try it! It might just work for you too.

 The second best part of this mindfulness activity: eating it.  The second best part of this mindfulness activity: eating it.

Want to try making garganelli? Here are the tools that you’ll need.