Lawyers and doctors and dentists (Oh, my!). Our community is filled with people who have all sorts of professions (fine, so mostly those three and “real estate”). But let’s face it, they’re all
businesses at heart, and everyone wants theirs to be a million dollar business,
right? Well, we picked the brain of Jason Reuben, 29-year-old serial entrepreneur and philanthropist, so we could learn by example. He co-founded Gemvara (formerly Paragon Lake) while still in college, and by the time he was 21, he was named one of BusinessWeek’s Top 5 Entrepreneurs Under the Age of 25. Gemvara, a 60 million dollar venture backed, online custom jewelry retailer (try to say that ten times fast!), is only one of the businesses founded by Reuben. His most current project is with Lucky Group (formerly BeachMint).
What do you really need in order to become a successful entrepreneur (besides for a kick-“tush” business plan, of course)? There’s no guarantee, but after learning about Jason Reuben, I found a few guidelines for success, and they apply to everyday life just as much as business.
“Everyone in life has a journey,” said Reuben, “you know when you hit it. For me it was Babson College.” Reuben co-founded his first major success, Gemvara, in his Babson dorm room. He concedes with Entrepreneur Magazine as they dubbed Babson College as the number one school for entrepreneurship 19 years in a row. “The physical environment inspired me,” he said about Babson. Jason’s mission is to use technology, data to be more specific, to better the lives of others, and studying at Babson led him to that calling. “Everyone is going to have their own calling,” said Reuben, and he recommends that each person find his or her unique path (some people only hear money calling, though). Surrounding oneself with people who are wiser, more hardworking, and more creative provides inspiration to be better. Reuben drew inspiration from those around him— professors, peers, experienced entrepreneurs, and his father. “My father inspired me [to get my Bachelors in Entrepreneurship],” said Reuben, “He always wanted to support himself.” Too much comfort can stunt growth, but passion leads people to work with more vigor than they imagined possible; it’s the fuel behind success.
The Support System
Having a proper support system is vital for success. Family, peers, and mentors were prodigious elements throughout Reuben’s interview. His freshman professor, Len Green, taught him the importance of honoring his parents’ legacy. Reuben’s parents were in the Jewelry industry, and they helped both inspire and facilitate Gemvara. “We are very fortunate in our community to have supportive parents,” said Reuben. He once approached Professor Green, impassioned with an idea— the diamond belt. “It was stupid,” he reminisces, but Green wrote him a $20,000 check to invest without question. The professors were personally invested in their students (pun intended). Their mentorship was very powerful in Reuben’s eyes, and it’s clear why Babson was such a significant experience for him. Even his classmates contributed to each other’s success. Support systems allow people to carry a lighter load on their shoulders, to take more risks, which could lead to a higher payoff, and to develop to their maximum potential.
Make your mistakes define you. “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.” Besides for being a cliché, that motto stands true, and it seems Jason Reuben would agree. “Don’t be afraid to fail… failing is a part of life. You grow, ask questions, and get humbled by it,” said Reuben, who admits that he “could have done a million things better.” One example Reuben gave was a newspaper company he had started that ended up, as he called it, “a complete disaster.” Humans, by definition, make mistakes—and they sometimes repeat those same mistakes over and over—but the real failure is letting those moments pass without learning and growing from them.
Don’t worry; be happy (cue reggae music). Happiness, “that’s what life is all about,” according to Reuben. “I wake up every day thanking G-d; there hasn’t been a day I woke up unhappy–and if there is, I would have to take a minute to reset” he said. Sounds like the dream to me. But it’s not just because of his success. Happiness is a choice. To wake up everyday positive and thankful takes strength in character, not just auspicious circumstances. (If Negative Nancy had everything in the world, she would still wake up thinking about every way her life sucks).
Please note the humility Reuben epitomizes when recognizing that everything is a blessing from G-d, and not solely his own doing. Leave some things for G-d to handle! When we believe that our success in life depends solely on our actions, we don’t leave any room for G-d to help out. It applies to everything, from business to dating (c’mon, you know I had to throw dating in here somehow). Do your best and leave the rest up to Him.
Keep moving forward. Despite several booming businesses under his belt, our inspiration, Jason, said that he still has “a long way to go.” He continues to look ahead and seems to avoid complacency. Reuben’s current project, The Lucky Group, is a joint venture between publishing giant Conde Nast and e-commerce fashion company BeachMint, for which Reuben is currently the Vice President of Operations. Reuben certainly feels lucky working with Diego Berdakin, Greg Steiner, and Josh Berman, whom he described as “dream mentors”. “Shoot for the moon, even if you miss you’ll land among the stars,” sorry for more clichés, but it seems Reuben aimed high and didn’t stop there. Dreaming big is the only way people can get “big.” Makes sense, no?
Give back. When asked what his most significant project has been so far, Reuben mentioned that by the time he is 35 years old, he wants to be an adjunct professor at Babson College. He also mentors and guides younger entrepreneurs; he’s all about giving back to the community. About his work in the Jewish community, Reuben humbly said, “It’s our obligation… we must give back.” Passionate about the subject, he continued, “Our immigrant parents have given so much to us, so we should be giving back the love and energy to everybody.” Most importantly, though, is that he’s giving back in a personal way, with his time and expertise, and not just by throwing money at the community.
Even in school, he attracted classmates with the same value of community work: Matt Lauzon, Cristina Acevedo, and Daniel Marques played a significant role in his life, and they encouraged each other to be involved with various organizations. Using one’s unique strengths to better the world is the most fulfilling form of helping others, and some might argue that it is the actual purpose of life. It no doubt contributes to the strict “be happy” policy stated above.
The Work Ethic
Finally, be prepared to pay your dues (work it!). It takes time and energy to do something right. Nothing lasting happens overnight—easy come easy go. Reuben started out with an hourly wage as a box boy, then moved on to working on another company’s website, and has had companies that didn’t take off quite as well as Gemvara and BeachMint, but he worked, and still works, to build the proper foundation to make those companies last.
Jason Reuben is an inspiration in more ways than one, and he gave us a true formula for success.I’ll leave you with one final cliché: “Only a fool learns from his own mistakes [or experiences]. The wise man learns from the mistakes [and experiences] of others.”
How To Thrive On Yom Kippur: Three Tips For An Easier Fast
Yom Kippur, one of the most sacred Jewish Holidays of the year, is upon us. As much as we dread the idea of not eating for 25 full hours, it can be an inspiring time to engage in deep spiritual practice. Here are ways you can prepare yourself for the 25 hour fast. These pointers will help keep your stomach from grumblin’ and your breath from stankin’.
1) Cut down on the caffeine For all you coffee/tea lovers out there, your morning cup of caffeine is a must. In fact, some of you are quick to develop headaches/migraines if you don’t have that cup. What to do: Days preceding the fast, try to minimize your caffeine intake as much as possible. Try some herbal tisanes, perhaps. Hydrate. Hydrate. Hydrate. There is nothing better you can do for yourself than to drink. Stay away from alcohol; poppin’ bottles will only make you more prone to dehydration, causing unpleasantness during the fast.
2) Did I mention HYDRATION? The difficulty we experience during the fast is not usually linked to lack of food; rather, it is the lack of fluids. Best choices: You can never go wrong with the good ol’ H20. Experts suggest drinking EIGHT 8 oz cups of water per day. Try to reach that goal or even surpass it by drinking more the day of. Eat your way to hydration by eating up plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables that are naturally full of water. Some of the most hydrating foods include: Cucumber, iceberg lettuce, celery, grapes, tomatoes, watermelon, green peppers, and spinach, to name a few. A handful of these ingredients mixed together sounds like a delicious salad, no?
3) What to eat the day of? On the day of the fast try eating balanced meals. For the meal before the fast, eat a proper meal that includes protein, carbohydrates, and plenty of vegetables. Eating more carbohydrates will help make you feel fuller longer (you can never go wrong with potatoes, pasta, and bread). Try to avoid salty and spicy foods as much as possible. The over-consumption of salt causes thirst because the body requires more water to absorb the extra salt. Knowing that we won’t be able to eat for 25 hours drives us to eat as much as possible before the fast begins. However, do yourself a favor and try not to eat a heavy 5 course meal fit for a Prince. The more you eat, the more water is needed from the body to digest it.
Now, you are fully equipped to a have a meaningful fast! May we all be inSKRIBED and sealed in the Book of Life!
High Collars, High Holidays
Never in a million years did I think I would be fond of the ‘high collar’, also known as the ‘turtle neck.’ I still cringe everytime I hear the name. I remember my mom making me wear them when it got cold outside… But hello, we live in Los Angeles. When does it get cold?
Dressing already modestly, by covering my knees, elbows (song playing in my head), the thought of covering my full neck is like dude, can I show any skin!? It almost felt like I was covering too much, as if I couldn’t breathe! It is as if someone is choking and restricting my head!
Seeing this trend all over magazines and fashion blogs, I decided to give it another chance! Lo and behold… I fell in love. The choking high collar has NOW become my ultimate favorite thing. Just ask Judith, co-founder of our fashion line RaJu. I keep adding turtle necks to all our styles to the point where we’re almost tired of it. The high collar has a sense of class and elegance to it. It has personality, dimension and is more mysterious. Wearing this dress, with all of its details, print and ruffles, I felt like the high collar tied it all together. The high collar makes you of high end, it’s a luxury, a lifestyle. It forces you to carry yourself in a certain way by maintaining a straighter back and a better posture. Everything manifests differently because of this magical collar.
The high collars forces you to hold your head up high, like a princess. When I see someone wear it, it really adds a beautiful sense of royalty and confidence. As we come into the High Holidays (the Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur), a solemn time, a time for judgement and reflection, we must remember that we are all daughters and princesses of a king. Wear what you may, during these High Holidays… you know what I’ll be wearing!
Six Mindful Eating Tips for Your Body and Soul
The average person spends at least one hour a day eating. So by the age of 30, you’ve spent the equivalent of two years just putting food in your mouth. How can we make this a more pleasurable, productive and meaningful experience?
Traditional Jewish thought has much to say about what we eat, how we eat, when we eat, and even why we eat, and much of it is also recommended by modern scientists.
- Eat Hungry.
When was the last time you pulled over at a gas station to fill up your tank that was already full? Probably never. However, when was the last time you ate something when you weren’t hungry?
Checking your hunger gauge before popping in that random bite will allow you to keep your weight in check as well as build your self-control.
Going to your second event of the evening, already fed, and still have an urge to pop down some more food? Like the modern day nutritionists, King Solomon advises against the unnecessary consumption of food, saying “The righteous eat to satisfy their souls” (Proverbs 13:25).
- Sit Down.
Late to work? Running after the kids? Doing errands? No problem–it’s just not the best time to be chomping down your meal. Although it may save time, it’s a bad idea. The Talmud uses harsh terminology against those who eat while standing. The Rambam, in his magnum opus Mishneh Torah, says that one should never stand or walk while eating.
Modern day scientific research also claims that this kind of eating is fattening and unhealthy. In fact, there is even a diet based on this understanding, called ‘The Sit-Down Diet’, which suggests that we consume fewer calories when we eat sitting down versus while standing up or walking. We are also more likely to digest food better when we sit down and chew our food properly.
You’re hungry and sitting down to your meal, now recognize where the food comes from. Taking three seconds to acknowledge basic details of the culinary dish placed before you can set the tone for rest of the meal. Something as simple as verbally acknowledging the work of the cook, especially if it is a parent or spouse, can have a profound effect on your mood. Paying attention to all of the individual ingredients can make the experience even more tasty.
On a deeper level, every time any food is consumed, Jewish sources tell us one should recite a blessing of recognition prior to taking the first bite. A common misconception is that the blessing or bracha that is said before eating is a form of thanksgiving. This is not accurate; while the after-blessing of Birkat Hamazon clearly mentions the act of thanksgiving, the initial blessing makes no mention of thanks. It is a statement acknowledging that God is the Creator of the food (Blessed are you Hashem … Creator of ….).
- Remove Distractions
Imagine our reaction to someone in a movie theater who is on their phone half of the time. Would we have the same reaction to the ever-so-common sight of someone munching down an entire meal while consumed with an iPhone, TV or computer screen? One cannot fully enjoy a meal while answering emails or scrolling through their Facebook newsfeed.
Unlike many other religions whose ordinances promote abstinence from physical pleasures, Judaism incorporates the pleasure of eating in every one of its holidays. However, we rob ourselves of this enjoyment every time we mindlessly eat.
Don’t care about enjoyment? Distracted eating causes your digestion to be less effective in breaking down your food, leading to less flavor and increasing the possibility of bloating, gas and constipation. Trying to lose weight? Research shows that the more you distract yourself during a meal, the more pounds you add. Doing simple acts of mindfulness, such as paying attention to the smell, taste, appearance and texture of the food, can keep the focus on your meal.
- Chew, Swallow, Wait… Repeat.
Ever mindlessly wolf down a meal in one minute? Scarfing down an entire meal can leave you feeling disheartened, but it can also leave you with unwanted extra fat on your hips.
Taking your body off of autopilot mode while feasting has great spiritual benefits as well. In describing ways of going against animalistic eating habits, the great nineteenth-century Iraqi sage Rabbi Yosef Hayim, in his famous book, Ben Ish Hai, gives a recommendation that is sure to slow your scarf. He writes that one should not reach for the next bite until the previous bite has been completely swallowed.
Speaking from experience, this one tip is much easier said than done. However, once mastered, this habit is sure to leaving you feeling in control and elevated, especially if you take it to the next level and put down your utensil between bites.
Now that you’re satiated and your spirit is recharged, it’s time for some thanksgiving (without the turkey). Saying thanks is much harder when you have somewhere else you want to go. Maybe that’s why the only biblically ordained blessing is the Grace After Meals and not the blessing before the meal (Deuteronomy 8:10).
Being appreciative is a core Jewish value. In fact, Jews are called Yehudim from the word L’hodot, or to thank. Messages of appreciation are found in the stories of our forefathers and foremothers. Gratitude permeates the entire Jewish experience, from the first words that are uttered by our lips when we wake up in the morning, “Modeh Ani”, to the thrice-daily communal prayer service throughout the day.
Surprisingly, recently discovered side benefits of gratitude include improved health, increased self-esteem and even better sleep. Taking the extra minutes to appreciate our privileged satiated stomachs should now seem more meaningful and hopefully a little easier.
Although not practical for every meal, striving towards these goals should help us lead more meaningful, in-control and healthy lives. For what it is worth, I will personally vouch for it!
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