• Chelsea Rustrum

Refreshing for 2017

Updated: Feb 21

2016 was a challenging year for many, myself included.

Regardless of the challenge, I’d like to take a step back and appreciate all that I had the opportunity to complete, the beautiful people I met along the journey, and the progress we all made in integrating sharing into the very backbone of our economy.

Today, I release a new website, which was completely rewritten and retooled to reflect where I am now as well as where I’m going. When you’re constantly learning, shaping, and changing, a web presence can read a bit like an artifact if you don’t continue to nurture not only the moment, but also a new reflection of what that moment actually is.

This year, I did a lot of sitting, reflecting, and being… uncomfortable in a way, even for me. When I say, even for me, I mean that I’m a person who prides themselves on intuitive intelligence, dancing with sparks of creativity, and moving as the scape moves. Yet, there was so much I wanted to say and do that increasingly felt undoable. The storms to great. The powers that be, too big to shake.

2016 started with speaking about Platform Cooperatives at Goethe Institute in New York City. I was joined by Trebor Shultz and several other social entrepreneurs, as well as a legal expert.

This, on the precipice of writing, The Sharing Economy, A Social Movement Dying to Become an Economic One. That post took me two months to write. I wrote 5 versions of it before settling on the last. I knew that I had to denounce what the sharing economy had become, but hold onto the strings that will continue to weave the next step of our collective economic evolution.

The crazy storm of NYC came and went and so did I.

The next moments were in Bali, where I knew I had to let go of many things, including a romantic relationship of several years. I also had to let go of who I’d become in order to morph into what I was in the process of becoming. The sharing economy was never about the efficient delivery of resources or scaling labor networks. I dedicated my life to this because I care about the way we treat one another. I care that transaction teaches us to use one another as a means rather than to fully experience our life given interdependence. I care that business has become about scaling, first and foremost, often exploiting labor and resources in the process. I care that community is often a term co-opted by marketing departments rather than a way of life.

So, I continue to dedicate my life to that.

After much solo time in Bali, I returned a bit early because my dear aunt had passed away of terminal bone cancer. She didn’t tell the family how sick she was (although, deep down, I just knew), so I got a phone call when she passed. I was with a group of people I’d just met on the western beaches of Bali when I found out. And because I couldn’t get great internet, I freaked out when I couldn’t call my family. I’m not sure I’ve ever wailed like that in front of strangers. They were kind enough to get me to a hotel where I could call and learn that my dear auntie had passed in the night.

Death is hard. I still don’t know what to make of it. And I feel the gravity of pain in body still. Grieving is difficult. My aunt Lisa was like a second mother to me. While in Bali, I saw a talk by a man I’ll never forget – Stephen Jenkinson. A friend of mine frequently cites his work and has spoken to many times about the Orphan Wisdom program and how much it’s changed his journey. So, I’m sure you can appreciate that the guy who I shared a ride with to Ubud was the one to invite me to a talk by Stephen, on the other side of the world, in Bali. In that talk and through this guys full out wisdom, I learned how we keep death to ourselves, the circle becomes smaller and smaller when someone is on their way out, and how our appreciation and grace with death reflects our ability to to truly appreciate life. There is so much, if you’re interested in his work, listen to this podcast.

Anyway, I saw him speak just days before my aunt passed. While I returned as quickly as I could to my family, I felt like I’d jumped out of my body because losing someone feels like too much to bare. In fact, I overheated on a motorcycle ride and ended up in a Ubud hospital with an IV just moments before traveling home.

Months went by and I sat meditating, thinking, and reflecting on the book by Charles Eisenstein that I’d read bit by bit in the mornings overlooking the rice fields in Bali, The More Beautiful World Our Hearts Know Possible. I spent what felt like weeks writing this post questioning the language and institution of blame as applied to death, criminal activity, and human relationships. I came to the conclusion, a life changing conclusion in fact, that blame is a small, subtle act of violence and more often than not results in judging or otherwise passing on pain. To that end, I wrote a post that rounded out at 2,500 words, Blame: An Inquiry into Why We Separate. While hardly anyone commented on it, it’s one of my most proud, vulnerable public writings. I learned a lot by sitting and feeling, accompanied by deep inquiry. I learned that my personal conclusions were just as, if not more valuable to me, than any external validation.

Around that time, I concluded that I must write another book. The book would be called VALUE, but I wasn’t and to be honest, am still not sure what all of the moving pieces and sections are. I’m letting that be revealed to me. The basic tenant of the book is that we measure what we value and use value distribution mechanisms to assign and reassign what our values are, often in the form of currency. There are many other ways to do this, and my writing at the beginning of the year on sharing becoming an economic movement will give you a pretty good indication of where I’m going with that. What I’ve learned about writing though, is that it’s emergent. A new friend gifted me, Big Magic in Bali. He left it as a parting gift. It’s one of the best gifts I’ve received because it gave me permission to listen in the seemingly silent spaces, ready for divine inspiration when she comes, instead of simply when I’m ready.

March arrived. While I was still mending an inflamed heart, I kept saying yes to things that sounded inspiring. One such thing was an event put on by Outsite, called Pitch on a Lift. I’m not super keen on startups anymore, but I caught wind they had a huge bus and some interesting people as well as investors coming, so I went! There I pitched an idea that wrapped around platform cooperatives and value distribution. Because I do a lot of public speaking, my 60 second pitch was chosen for The Pitch, a podcast listened to by thousands of entrepreneurs and prominent investors alike. During my segment, I basically attacked the very idea of VC itself and said that typical investors wouldn’t invest in a cooperative idea because the incentives are outside of their range – and made a quick shout out for the onset of equity crowdfunding, which would become legal in May of 2016. I pitched Belong, which was a competitor of sorts to Airbnb, which focused more on the social experience and created a true, value shared community with the hosts, including the sharing of equity and governance and decision making.

In April, I worked with several clients, including Twilio on wrapping the understanding of the sharing economy around technology providers, who enable the very backbone of trust and communication through marketplaces. One of the initiatives I co-produced was a 250+ attendee evening session at Twilio, by which I named, promoted, and moderated titled, Twilio Talks – The Technology Layer of the Sharing Economy.

During that same season, I moderated my second talk at Interzone in Vancouver. The guys that put on this conference have become my friends, so it’s always a joy to go to Canada for Interzone. I really wish they’d post their talks online, but alas, you have to attend to get the AV – otherwise, you can just take my word for it that it’s the best cloud computing conference ever produced and regularly remains on the fringe of business as usual and attacking capitalism. I don’t know too many tech conferences that bleed on that edge.

Around the same time, I put together an event in San Francisco, when best-selling, ten time author, Douglas Rushkoff was in town. I had to opportunity to see him speak at City Light Books, host him for a talk at General Assembly, and to join him for dinner at Good People Dinners. He’s a real gem and a pro. When I asked him how he got so good at speaking, he sort of sheepishly and confidently responded that he has a background in theatre!

You can watch the talk, which was a little under an hour, above. I tried, sometimes successfully to get Mr. Rushkoff out of his auto groove. He’s lovely – I look forward to collaborating more with him in the future.

Toward the end of April, there was a memorial service for my dear auntie Lisa. I was one of approximately ten people to speak and I spoke a poem that I wrote about the grace she held people in. I wrote the poem just days before the service and recited it during the event. I think the verses really captured some of the essence of the way she loved.

In May of 2016, I traveled much of the month, heading to Italy and France for several speaking engagements. I was originally setup to speak at the Sharing Festival in Ferrero, but there was some miscommunication, so I ended up in Italy anyway! Since Italy is legitimately one of my favorite spots in the world, I planned on spending a week in Montalcino, on random serendipitous advice I’d received earlier in the year. Montalcino is home to Brunello wine, rolling hills, wildflowers like you’ve never seen, and a peacefulness that escapes most of us. I stayed in an Agriturismo in Montalcino, which in this case, translates to a farmhouse where they make their own wine. For those of you who know me, I’m a bit of a wino as that’s, in part, what I studied at Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo. The best part was that the reviews said don’t go unless you have a car. Of course, I still went. I took one bus to another bus, to a third country bus. The country bus never came, so I begged the teenagers next to me to get their mom to give me a ride to my farmhouse. I barely used the internet, walked everywhere, drowned myself in local wine, painted outside, and cooked for nearly a week. This may have been one of the first times that I really, truly enjoyed my own company and didn’t feel like anyone or anything was missing.

Chelsea in Montalcino, Italy

After my solo romance in Italy, I headed to Paris to speak at Ouishare, followed by a session at European Parliament in Strasbourg with some policy makers at a youth conference attended by 5,000 people.

There, myself and several others helped the European Union think about taxation and policy where the sharing economy is concerned. If you want to learn more about this talk, you can read this post and listen to the podcast at the bottom. Upon heading out, I met a bright eyed girl who liked what I had to say enough to invite me to come speak in Cyprus that November. I immediately obliged as Cyprus sounded farther off the map than I normally choose to go. Why not?!

After traveling for nearly a month, I was really happy to be home and to enjoy the summer and being near my family, friends, and community. I realized that I hadn’t planned a Hippie Hour in more than a year, so I immediately sought to rectify that. I planned to get 50-100 people together in a park (the event date was July 6th after all!), but I realized the night before that it would be raining, so my friend let me host last minute at the Red Vic, a fitting location for the event – centered prominently in the Lower Haight of San Francisco.

Hippie Hour 2016

I was a bit of a stress case over the summer, but I funneled that into building community and bringing people together. I also planned another Hippie Hour at The Glint, albeit smaller. On August 26th, there was some guitar, singing, coloring, gifts, way too much kombucha to drink and new friends made. I’d say, that makes Hippie Hour a success.

Around this time, I started looking for a spiritual community and found the Center for Spiritual Living in Oakland. When I found the center, I ached for more young people. I even thought about starting my own version. But alas, decided that I can’t keep generating new communities. I needed to start actively pursuing and participating in ones that already exist. In the last half of the year, I started realizing how little I operate in the world as a teacher vs. learner. Once I got that wakeup call, I decided to go back to the drawing board and educate myself once again. I began attending the Oakland Spiritual Center for living every Sunday, oftentimes tearing up during service. There’s actually no religion at my church, which makes it very different from most places of spiritual worship. The basic idea is “Global transformation through individual transformation,” meaning that we have to take care of ground central if we are to be of service to others.

In July, I started bringing some of my best friends to my hippie church, taking them on adventures in the east bay simultaneously. In the adventure pictured above, we went to Thai Brunch and Lake Anza also that day. That same day, I recorded a submission for SXSW – from the lake! You can see it below.

As I started thinking about possessions again and the idea of ownership, I became aware that I had a $160 per month storage unit that I never went to, nor any longer had the key for. This represented not only a nearly $2,000 annual expense I’d maintained for the last 6 years of living in San Francisco, but also parts of my past life’s that I’d held in avoidance. The first step was to visit this jail cell of a space. When I arrived, I was met with boxes of old paperwork, remnants of decorations from living the ex-boyfriends, childhood photographs, the hand chair I’d imported from Bali years back and a whole lot of junk.

Part of letting the stuff go was realizing that stuff is often used as a proxy to human relationships. When I digitized the parts that mattered, I was able to let go of the rest. And letting go was quite a deep process as it mean not only letting go of people who had hurt me in the past, but also forgiving them and holding all the memories with gratitude and even rather publicly. I posted over 100 photos of ex lovers, ex friends, happy moments, sad moments, and everything in between. In letting go of the stuff, I was able to truly revel in the gratitude I have for all of these experiences… revel in not having to hold them in box in a dungeon somewhere.

A big part of being able to do this was the help of Omni Storage, a new on-demand storage provider in San Francisco and beyond that allows you to store items, paying a monthly fee, and cataloging them in an app where I can click to have the items delivered. The best part is that I can also share my inventory with others by giving them access to my catalog. When they request one of my items, Omni will deliver it to their home or office address. The same thing happens when you want to return something. Genius!

moving out of storage

When Omni helped me move out, my bill went from $160 per month to $40 per month and I gave away most of my things. As a part of this experience, I wrote Ownership is Dying, but We Need Stuff to Tell the Story of Who We Are. The photos I posted to Facebook, I titled The Missing Pages, as these photos say a great deal about who I’ve been, informing who I am today.

In August, I co-produced Barnraising Cooperatives with Danny Spitzberg in Oakland, helping several existing digital cooperatives find their way amidst building community and finding necessary investment strategies using hybrid models, including platform cooperativism. In fact, Matt Jorgensen of Josephine wrote about his findings after the event.

Moving Out of Storage

Barnraising Cooperatives

In August, I started to get a bit restless. I wanted to build a new website for myself and to shed the past for the present sentiment, as I was eluding to at the beginning of this post. In that angst, I decided that I needed to pay for a very high quality, talented photographer to take new photos for the new me to shine. After getting over fifty recommendations for very talented people, I recalled the web presence of a girl that exudes her essence. In that moment, I decided to hire her photographer, which ended up being In Her Image Photography, a couple as I’d find out later, who has taken photos of many feminine heroines around the world. These two only take pictures of women and their are a team of two… so you get several different angles.

Even though, I immediately committed to the taking the photos, between the session and processing, it took a few months. And I didn’t want to sprinkle the web with them until my website was done, so I’ve been patiently sitting on them for months! You can see them all over the newly launched site and there are a few on the bio & photos page as well.

Chelsea Rustrum

In early September, I was going through yet another revolution of the mind… understanding feminine power and how to live in that part of myself. How to reside. How to stand as a witness of of myself in the feminine embodiment. I don’t want to get into too much detail because I wrote a whole post about Stepping into the Feminine that goes into deep detail about what this means to me and serves as a proclamation of stepping into this part of myself.

Around this same time, I asked my mom to come to San Francisco to visit me and to know my life. I’ve always felt like my family became more interested in my life when I had a partner, so I invited my mom to come, see, meet, and spend time with my glorious girlfriends – the women who give me the strength to be myself each and every day. As a piece of stepping into the feminine, I realized how much I subtly discounted relationships with my friends or resisted going deep. This year I’ve shed some walls and invited them in…. in this process, I invited my mom in as well.

On this evening, I cooked tapas for everyone and we sat in a circle on my studio floor, surrounded by food, wine, and candles. Each of us spoke and listened and then one of my good friends led us in a full moon meditation. This is definitely one of my favorite evenings of the whole year and one of the more sacred moments of my life thus far – one I’ll never forget. You can see a picture of several of us as things were getting started. In the end, I think we had a group of 12 or so.

My Mom with Best Friends - Chelsea Rustrum

In mid September, I was treated to an adventure in New Zealand. One of my best friends is Kiwi, so she took me with her as a subject matter expert to Auckland, Christchurch, and Wellington. After an amazing flight on Air New Zealand, the two of us decided to head to the beach to stretch and properly arrive. At this point in the year, I’d been doing so much yoga that if I didn’t do this pose at least once per day, my body would cry out.

This is where I first gave my signature talk, Moving from the Sharing Economy to a Shared Economy in both Auckland and Wellington, plus had the opportunity to meet with the City Council and several Chief Resilience Officers in Christchurch, helping them understand how sharing can play a crucial role in the aftermath of the quakes. The City Council meeting in the photo below.

Meeting with City Council regarding sharing economy in Christchurch New Zealand

This talk, which I gave in many locations throughout the rest of the year looks like this!

In late September of this year, I headed Bethlehem, PA for the Sharing Summit, where the conference organizers bought every attendee a copy of my book. I spoke at the conference about value sharing and distribution in my talk, Moving from a Sharing Economy to a Shared Economy.

Sharing Summit and Its

After Pennsylvania, I headed to New York City in early October, where I setup a talk at Meetup.com HQ, discussing what’s new and next in the sharing economy (with the agenda of talking about value sharing). At the last minute, I invited the founder of Republic, a spinoff of Angelist to come and speak about equity crowdfunding and the radical ways this could help shape the future of business.

The event had a great turnout with interesting discussions of how companies can distribute value now and in the future.

Back in San Francisco, I had the opportunity to attend Bioneers, which was a huge wake up call and another opportunity to experience a deeper layer of grief… the grief of the indigenous who have fought to be heard since the founding of this country as we know it today. Mass genocide. The way we treat the planet as if it’s not alive. So many ways that we systematically remove ourselves from feeling responsible. Bioneers might have been one of the most important things I’ve done this year, as the conference woke me up to my own casual apathy. While I’m constantly on the lookout for ways to make our economy more loving and equitable, if all I’m doing is talking about a future that doesn’t exist yet, that’s not enough! To summarize the felt experience of grief walls, I wrote this post, Grief Walls, which is a worthwhile read if you’re at all curious.

Bioneers was the first time I had the opportunity to hear the grief and challenge of indigenous people. To witness their tears. To sense and experience their connection to the earth – a connection I scarcely felt at the time. There was all of this talk about Standing Rock too.

To be honest, I had no idea what Standing Rock was until I went home. When I researched what was going on, I felt called to go and to help in what ever way I possibly could. And so, the day after the presidential election, I did just that. More on that in a minute.

Toward the end of October, I put on a Sharers Talks event sponsored by HooYu and Covo. I was also very happy to have one of the original employees of Omni Storage come and chat about their product. To see what happened at this event, check out the video below.

As November approached, so did my ride to Standing Rock. So did the election. Everyone thought HRC was going to win. When she didn’t, people just stood their in shock. They stood in disbelief. Parties turned quiet. And I felt disoriented. This was the first time since September 11th that I felt death in a room.

The very next day, myself and four other courageous women took the journey to Standing Rock, a 30+ hour drive. When we arrived, we camped in below freezing weather, navigating who and how to help. We took classes on doing direct actions, volunteered in the kitchens, and went to sessions about white privilege. Being there helped me understand that democracy… heh, freedom… is a sort of lie. I didn’t want to see this ugly truth, but being there helped me see that we need to do more than build apps and new business models. We need to stand up for what’s right in whatever form that might take. We need to rise, together. And we’re running out of time.

Standing Rock brought out the dormant activist in me. I’m still deciding how deeply I want to pursue activism, but I honestly don’t feel like any of us have a choice. I wrote two still unpublished post about why now is the time to be an activist and yet another on what new age activism could look like. If you’re interested in getting involved as an activist and educating others, please take this 3 minute survey that I put together.

After Standing Rock, I literally traveled for 45+ hours to get to Cyprus to speak at the Cyprus Insights conference. There’s no easy way to get from Cannon Ball, North Dakota to Cyprus, so that’s the price I had to pay. By the time I arrived, I could barely stand, so I slept for two days and downed water. The conference itself was pretty amazing – great speakers and programing. I was happy that the conference was on the smaller side too – this gave me the opportunity to make new friends. I met a few people there that I really connected with, especially on a sociopolitical basis.

After Cyprus, I had a week in between conferences in Athens and Athens was yet another wakeup call. I got a more thorough education in democracy from my Greek friend who now lives there. He took me to Polis and explained how the Athenians did democracy and voting by lottery. Later, on Thanksgiving day, other friends who got married on the blockchain and now live in Athens took me to volunteer at a anarchist squatted, refugee supported hotel, where 400+ families are living.

The photo below is me at Polis, in Athens, which sits across from the Acropolis with the ravine where the old marketplace was sitting between.

After Athens, I met one of my good friends and a new friend I met in Cyprus at Slush in Helsinki, which is a conference with 20,000+ attendees underground. My friend asked me to co-facilitate a discussion on AI, but the talk turned out to be pretty minimal, so I mostly just attended the conference. And if you know me, you know I don’t love startup conferences or freezing temperatures, of which this was both. Good thing I had the same stuff I packed for Standing Rock with me, including massive Sorel boots.

Turns out the Fins are pretty shy, and yet they don’t mind getting naked with each other in the sauna. I went to a sauna party on the last night of the conference… pretty interesting. Looking back, I’m disappointed I didn’t hop right on in with them.

Upon returning from Standing Rock, Cyprus, Athens, and Helsinki, I pretty much crashed for several days. And by that point, December had more than arrived.

After about a week of being in San Francisco, it was time to fly to Portland to ordain the ceremony of my brother and his new wife. Even though I speak all of the time, the gravity of this ceremony seemed pretty huge. I was proud of myself for getting a navy blue dress and a copy of the Universal Life Church certificate of ministry. Actually writing the ceremony didn’t really happen until I arrived. Luckily, one of my new friends from Standing Rock had previously ordained her bros ceremony…. so she had some great tips and an example ceremony to share with me. One of my favorite ideas of hers was to say, “I now pronounce you wife and husband. You may kiss.” You’ll notice several modifications there.

If you’d like to read the full ceremony, you can do so here. Once I spoke enough with them, I quickly wrote the whole thing and according to the feedback from my family and friends, the service was well received. The DJ thought I did weddings for a living!

Now that I’ve arrived back home in San Francisco, I’ve been playing outside wit my friends quite a bit, enjoying the end of the year sunshine, whilst trying to reflect and plan the coming year.

When I started writing, I had no idea that I end up writing all day…. and recapping, play by play some of the more significant personal and professional moments this year. This definitely makes me realize how much I’ve accomplished and continue to accomplish through many channels of exploration, process, and building. Since I’m a free agent and often travel, it’s easy for me to forget all that I’ve spoken, written, participated in, taught, and learned.

I’m also much more cognizant of the arc this year has taken. There have been big lessons in grief, self love, compassion, freedom, human rights, and of course, a deepening in my own journey on what ownership and sharing means now and in the future.

I’m looking forward to being even more focused in 2017, rich with beautiful relationships, a centered heart, practicing generosity as a life skill. I look forward to taking the next steps in my chosen path professionally too. Launching this website is the first step.

We have a big year ahead. I look forward to collaborating and helping one another, living in collective responsibility, and holding each other in community and shared purpose.

How was your year?

1 view0 comments