Gail Conn’s life shattered over a decade ago when her husband’s body shattered literally after falling off a cliff. In this week’s Common Scents Podcast, we learn how she coped and overcame (and what happened after that fateful day).
TAMAR: Hi, everybody, I am so excited to bring to you a friend of mine from the industry and the founders community. Gail Conn. Thank you so much for joining. Where are you located?
GAIL CONN: I live presently near the UN. So, in Midtown Manhattan.
TAMAR: I know New York City in particular has been hit pretty hard. I was reading about how a friend of mine had seen as kind of procedure a ghost town. What’s your experience right now?
GAIL CONN: Well, New York, definitely, don’t have enough. There’s not as much activity. But the truth is, the traffic is up. I live right off the corner of Second Avenue. And when I see more traffic and more people on the street, things are happening. We did have tremendous uptick in this area of homeless people. Because our mayor has decided to use some of the hotels that are not being used by diplomats for homeless people. And when they’re not in, they’re out on the street. So, we have a lot more people on the street, doing interesting things. Depends where you shine your lens, but it’s kind of frightening that there’s a lot more people who are doing drugs on the street, having sex on the street, and drinking. So, we are supporting them. Because as liberal people, people feel so terrible. So, we just give blankets and money and tents and all that kind of stuff. But I’m not sure that’s the answer to help people when they’re in need.
TAMAR: Right? Yeah, I’ve been reading about that. I’ve been invited to a few and I live outside the city, have been invited to a few Facebook groups where mothers, young mothers in particular feel threatened. And yeah, it’s literally like bringing the 70s back. That’s what it feels like.
GAIL CONN: It’s not funny because some people I know, I lived in California for over 20 years, and there is an extreme problem in California. It’s just extreme with homeless people. And the thing is, as a country, I think we have the ability to decide if we want to help people. So, if people are drug addicts, they need to go to drug rehab, if people are alcoholics, they need to either attend or go to rehab, people who fall off the wagon lose their job, and all of a sudden, they’re homeless on the street. Let’s try and help them get jobs and get back on their feet. But there’s also a group of people that don’t want to do any of those things. They just want to be on the street. I have friends that have worked in that community for a long time, 30 years of experience with homeless people. But we have to make decisions and some of them are tough. And we either help people or it’s very disconcerting when they disrupt businesses and frighten people and do things because we’re people too. So, what about our rights?
TAMAR: Right, right. Yeah, it’s difficult right now, it’s just an incredibly crazy time.
GAIL CONN: It’s a storm of having it get worse. But talk to people in California, there’s a big lawsuit right now in California, of a homeowner suing the city of Los Angeles because he can’t get out of his house, he can’t use his garage. Because people have built tents in front of his garage, and he can’t use his garage.
TAMAR: That’s crazy. This is insane. We live in like, the craziest time, like, what a time to be alive. And like there’s obviously pros and cons. But like seriously, what a time to be alive.
GAIL CONN: This takes tremendous problem-solving capabilities and people with, not only compassion, but really people who are willing to bring solutions. And that’s why entrepreneurs are so great, because we’re trying to find solutions to things.
GAIL CONN: I hate to say it, but homelessness somewhat is a business opportunity for somebody new. It is as redefining prisons, because we’ve turned prisons into business in the United States. So, if anybody wants to figure out how to make prison light or prison serious, or whatever you want to do, art prison, whatever you want to do, there could be a business opportunity, but you have to be really creative and want to sort of take on the established business.
TAMAR: Right, 100%. So, let’s talk about that. Because you talked about how you’re like an entrepreneur and you’ve worked in many different career paths and like you’re from the blue and now you’re in the city. So, tell me a little, tell the listeners about that.
GAIL CONN: Yeah, so I originally went out to California in the late, late 80s. And California was still in Los Angeles anyway, was still somewhat of a sleepy town. It was still kind of funky on the food side. I lived in Santa Monica. And that area was very sleepy surfer town. But things had not changed on Main Street which was the main drag in Santa Monica. For years and years, we’re talking like 20,30 years, everything was sort of a throwback. And I worked in the TV business for many years. I, from television, used to sell airtime, I got involved in buying and selling movies, scripts, finished films. I used to go to the Cannes Film Festival. And it’s funny that it took a little over 30 years for me to movement, because there’s been a meat to movement, and very underground since the 40s. I mean, if anybody’s read a Raymond Chandler book, nothing has really changed. If you read Raymond Chandler, and just take the dates off of when he wrote those books in the 40s, it’s still the same. So, you have to have a sense of history. I left the film business partly because I can only stomach just so much. Man’s hands on your legs and that sort of thing. But then I got into the internet business which was even worse. So, in many ways, because it was the Wild West, and when you have not to be political, but mostly the guys were starting the companies. I mean, they were getting funded. There were not that many women in technology back then, like in the middle 90s. And it was, so anyway, I did that trajectory. I was in the internet business, I worked at a very famous startup called Broadcast.com and I worked for Mark Cuban, he was my boss, we got to Yahoo for $5.7 billion dollars. I was in the room when we went public. There was Mary Meeker who was our investment banker. I mean, I went through a whole women bust to the first.com era. And then after that, I decided I wanted to be an entrepreneur. Why? Because it’s making a lot of money for a lot of people and you’re getting a fraction of it, even stock options, no matter you’re not getting paid what you know, the owners of these companies were, you’re bringing millions of dollars into close deals and partnerships and that sort of thing. So, I started my first research company in 99. And worked with a partner doing that for a couple of years and realized that what I needed to do when I started another company, was really build more distinction. The more you do your work as an entrepreneur, the more you understand how to define your category. It’s not that simple. So, what I learned in the first few years of being an entrepreneur is that I needed more distinction, and we needed more distinction. And when I invested the second time around, when I started a company and a software that I built, so, it’s not for the faint of heart to build your own software, when you’re not a technical person. But I knew what I wanted to do. I didn’t know how to get there. So, we built a software. And to this day, I have my own software. And it’s been rebuilt many times, but I keep learning in my own business, how to build my distinction. Because as you work with more people and different players in your world, you learn a lot more. So that gives you more strength and impetus to continue because then you sort of hone yourself. You’re like a sculpture, and you’re constantly sculpting. And that’s what’s fun about being an entrepreneur because you can do it for yourself as you’re always do for someone else. When you’re an entrepreneur it’s like you’re on that horse and it’s just running through the meadow. You got to hold on if you want to, you got a hold on, and you just keep going because it’s up and down. But I love it. And I’m very exhilarated by what I do.
TAMAR: That’s awesome. Yeah. So, it’s funny because I hear you and in the context of kind of understanding the point of distinction. I mean, I’m a perfume brand, but I had to figure out how I’m distinctive. And then how do I distinguish myself even further. And as I tell the story, even though I’m not really officially out yet, I’m learning that there are areas like, I don’t necessarily feel like I’m a competitor to different perfumes. I feel like I’m a competitor to the mindfulness space, the coms and the headspaces of the world. That’s extraordinarily distinctive, I don’t think there’s anybody out there that can lay that same claim.
GAIL CONN: Right?
TAMAR: But that’s where I want to, that’s where I feel like I’m carving my path.
GAIL CONN: But if that’s what you feel, then you’ll build the attributes and the information and your context around that. Because no one tells you that you can’t do that.
TAMAR: Right. Exactly.
GAIL CONN: So terrific.
TAMAR: Yeah. Great. So, I have to ask you a question before we go into the crux of the podcast here. I’m sure other people are going to ask this, hence my question. Or probably have this on their mind. But what was it like working for Mark Cuban?
GAIL CONN: Well, Mark was single in those days. Okay. And it was kind of like being in the wild west to a certain extent. It was a fly by the seat of your pants. Mark had a partner named Todd Wagner. Those two guys started Broadcast.com. Mark was just a lot wilder. I mean, the day we went public was very funny, because of Jerry Yang, his partner in the room. And they were so crazy, because Mark had two champagne bottles he was drinking out on both sides of his mouth. And, jumping up and down, he just made half of $5.7 billion. And because he was kind of a wild sort of person, they made sure that they corralled themselves around him. There were security people. He should not touch anyone. Do you understand why he should not, as people were, let’s put it this way. When I worked at Broadcast Comm we would go to meetings, and they would make us share rooms, which I always thought was really pretty crazy. And that was every other week. A girl from Dallas, because that’s where the main office was, I was virtual in California, would pull up her shirt and show you her new boobies. It was kind of a wild company. Yeah, we got notes on our desk, when we would go to meetings. If you have drug and alcohol issues, call this number. It was kind of like crazy Dallas, like everybody popping into people’s beds. You got thrown out of your bed at night, it was just a crazy wild scene. And Mark, obviously comes from the top, does it not? I mean, I can’t see my bed with anybody or do anything. But it was just, a wild time at podcast.com.
TAMAR: Yes, I guess that’s what motivated the plotline behind the TV series Silicon Valley? Because it sounds very similar.
GAIL CONN: Yeah, I mean, it was at a time where we’re just such a runaway train. There was so much money. Also, what’s interesting, and there’s none there. I mean, we didn’t own a content. What did we do, we just rebroadcast things that were already there. I mean, he did come up with the idea of doing the Victoria’s Secret runway show, which really changed the nature of his business and became a case study at Harvard and didn’t break down the internet. It broke down their group of servers. That’s what that meant, which people if you’re not technical, don’t understand you need to have capacity to run, a lot of servers, and we didn’t have enough servers. So, when you say you broke the internet, what around the universe? No, just out. So anyway, it was a fun and interesting time. And working at Yahoo was less fun and interesting because they were in search of business. And the truth is Yahoo had bought GeoCities also. Do you remember that company?
TAMAR: Yeah, I had, I didn’t, I never had a GeoCities site but I’m very familiar.
GAIL CONN: GeoCities was the first personalized homepage. So, if you have any perspective, GeoCities was a precursor to Facebook, except it was HTML. So, if you would marry the technology that Broadcast.com had, which was video broadcasting, which kind of been a precursor to YouTube, and then you had Facebook, you could have built out some businesses that were very interesting. But clearly, when there’s no vision involved, you just buy these businesses for billions of dollars and just squash them. I mean, it’s only money. Right?
TAMAR: Right. Yeah. Interesting. Very interesting. I guess it doesn’t surprise me. And as soon as he said that, I’m like thinking, that was like Prince Harry. He had that reputation. Like he was the party guy. And he then comes down. So, I guess that’s what you see. And that’s like, I watched Shark Tank pretty, pretty religiously and it’s like, eventually everybody teams.
GAIL CONN: Some do and some don’t. I mean, there’s plenty of people that don’t. I mean, look at Conrad Black. I mean, there’s plenty of people who don’t even when they get married and do whatever.
TAMAR: Some people want to live forever, like pretend they’re in their youth forever.
GAIL CONN: Yeah, I mean, it depends on how many times you want to get married. A man couldn’t have children at 95. Yeah, so they have different capacities. And it also depends on the money level. I mean, women get looked down upon if you have a boyfriend that’s 30 years younger, but men don’t.
TAMAR: Yeah, very true. Yeah, we still have to change the way the world has seen the perspective and the perceptions. Yeah. So, let’s shift to, I guess you definitely have a story and you’ve kind of alluded to it and I haven’t let you finish because I want to have it shared here. So, I have my reaction. And my jaw drops and you can hear my jaw dropped while we speak but you have a rise above the ashes, rise above adversity story that is basically unfathomable. So, tell me a little more about that. Because I know we’ve kind of built upon it.
GAIL CONN: So, I’ve run this business for close to 16 years now. And about 11 years ago, my husband was taking Mike, our son to a Boy Scout camp on Catalina Island. And my company is virtual. So, one of my partners was in California, another partner was in Houston, live in Virginia. And so, the company hummed along, but we were virtual. So, my husband goes on this trip to Catalina with my son, and he calls to wish me good night. And the next thing I know the phone dies. And the thing is, it’s very common in California to have bad cell reception. The phone is constant, so I didn’t think anything of it. And I’m actually at a friend’s house, an old college friend of mine, and I’m going to spend the weekend with him and do a makeover because my friend was single, and he needed to meet people. And so, I was going to do that. And so, what ends up happening was I get a call at two o’clock in the morning. And they asked me, are you Mrs. Conn? And I said yes. And they said, “Well, can you please come to this hospital in Long Beach” which is about an hour from where I am. “Your husband has had a fall.” And so, I ended up going to this hospital in Long Beach, which is a gated hospital because it was part of a church. And so, this hospital is now in this kind of park-like setting. And I showed up and it’s now three o’clock in the morning. And there My husband is lying on a slab. And he looked like a total monster. Because my husband had just fallen off a 42-foot cliff. And it was a very interesting convergence of things because it was a moonless night. And that plays a huge part in why he survived because he fell from this cliff onto rocks in the ocean. And if it had been a night where there had been waves, he would have been killed by the fact that he would have been drowned. But what happened was when my husband fell, he was a big Yogi. He did yoga every day of his life. And he managed once he figured out he was falling, because he doesn’t remember this. But it has to do with the injuries he sustained. He managed to fall ball his body up and fall on one side as opposed to the back because if he had fallen on his neck, he would have broken his neck and his back and he would have been dead that way. But because he fell only on his right side he had all these other injuries. But needless to say, when you fall, what happens is your body goes into complete shock and you swell up to three times your size. So, there I was at three o’clock in the morning with the trauma surgeon, I didn’t know what those were. There’s the doctor like a Humpty Dumpty man, he puts you back together again. And he’s going to tell him what’s going on. And he proceeds to tell me that they’ve taken all these x rays, they don’t know the extent of the injuries, but these are the things that are wrong. First thing was that my husband, when he fell, clearly broke his jaw and his jaw moved to the other side of his body practically hitting his shoulder. And so, all his teeth came out and what happened was the worst part, that’s not the big deal, you can put a jaw back together again, but he had swallowed teeth in his lungs.
TAMAR: I’m cringing by the way. You can see me cringing, but the listeners can’t see.
GAIL CONN: So, the first operation which I did not know about that we had to do not once but twice was called a bronchoscopy, which is how you have to go into the lungs and remove any foreign matter because you immediately get pneumonia. Your teeth are filled with bacteria. So anyway, that was first and then you know there’s a brain injury. I mean, there’s a person who’s completely out we’re talking like a slab, and you’re on intensive care and all we’re doing was operation after operation, putting a jaw back together, wiring a jaw, setting broken bones, and then constantly looking at what’s going on with the head. Because if a person’s out, you want to know, are they going to come back? Are they not going to come back? What’s going to happen? And this is going to sound like a shock. But I called a friend of mine because here I am, here’s my husband, the kid at the time. I had an adopted kid. And that’s a whole other story.
TAMAR: You didn’t tell me that he was at a Boy Scout thing. So, your child, your son has had experiences. So how close was he to your husband with this? Did he see everything?
GAIL CONN: So, my husband had walked away from the Boy Scout camp. So, when they found this out, and how my husband got found in the first place, was some people from the Boy Scout camp were learning shortwave radio, and they gone to the cliff because that was the only place you can get reception. And they hear some noise, and they were able to radio Baywatch. And they came in on a small boat and put my husband on a surfboard. And then they got him to a little island, and they airlifted him to the mainland.
TAMAR: So, when they said they heard a small noise was it like moaning or within hear of radio.
GAIL CONN: They looked down and they heard a sound and the fact that it was moonless. So, there were no waves coming. Because if there was, . . .
TAMAR: You wouldn’t hear anything,
GAIL CONN: Right. You wouldn’t hear anything. And it was a moonless night. So, it was completely still and I have photos because the people who picked him up sent me all these pictures, including the blood on the rock. I mean, the whole nine yards. I have a light, I have everything. So, the Boy Scouts just kind of kept my son. Somebody, the troop leader took him home. At this point, I have not seen my kid, I haven’t done anything. I’m with my adopted daughter, and my friend took her. So, I’m the only person because I have to make all these decisions, blood transfusions, what’s going on, what can I sign, because then it’s 24 seven, and then realized I’m there for like a day, they need to feed me because I’m just talking and filling out forms. It’s a hospital. So, then what happens is that we go through this period, and there’s so many things that go on in hospitals. I mean, crazy stuff. And I realized that most hospitals in the United States, smaller ones do not have trauma surgeons. Trauma surgeons are only in places where there are a lot of gunshot victims or people in very serious accidents, because they’re an expensive person to keep on staff. Right. They’re kind of like butterflies. They come in and then they leave.
TAMAR: Yeah, A familiarity from Grey’s Anatomy. So right. Okay, right.
GAIL CONN: So, as we’re going through this, I realized that gee this hospital is really not that equipped. And one night when my husband is getting this very long surgery, like an eight-hour surgery, and I’m in this little waiting room. Some crazy person accosted me in this waiting room, and started yelling at me that he’s gonna wear my teeth around his neck and frightening me and I was reading a newspaper and I just kept it up in front of my face while this man was spewing, and eventually he just left. And I think “Oh my God, I’m unsafe myself. Like I can’t keep coming to this place.” And I went to the administration of the hospital. And they say, “We’re going to give you a security guard to walk from the hospital to the parking lot because that first night, there was a gunshot victim in the parking lot like somebody had murdered gangland style in this hospital, because this was in a very, very compromised, very difficult area. Okay. So, then I started to realize this is going to be a crazy ride. I mean, because every day I’m now driving almost an hour and a half back and forth from my house to this hospital every day? I only missed one day because I got sick myself. My friends told me I shouldn’t go to the hospital. So, my husband after three weeks of being in and out of coma, begins to wake up. He has no idea who he is. He doesn’t know where he is. He doesn’t know me. He doesn’t know anything. So, my husband gets transferred from ICU to another floor. But the thing is I didn’t know until after the fact was, they never changed his medical protocol. So, his medicines, water levels, all the things. I’m not a doctor but all the things you’re supposed to, sooner when a person’s waking up. And then the other thing because my husband’s mouth was completely wired because he had broken his jaw, right? He can’t talk. So, I started doing my own therapy with him, even though they were screaming at me the entire time not to do this. I kept showing him pictures of the family. I kept asking him like, “Do you know who I am?” I’d asked him, he couldn’t write, he couldn’t do anything, because he’s also now chained down to the bed because they did not want him to touch his mouth. And he had a catheter, and really wired up with a lot of stuff. And then the neurologist would come in once a week and ask him what day of the week it was. This was my favorite question: “What day of the week is it Mr. Conn?” And of course, my husband would (make sounds) . How would he, he doesn’t know who he is, do you think he knows what day of the week it is? And then I realized, “Gee, this is a really crazy thing to be asking somebody who’s just had a head injury, doesn’t even know his name, and what day of the week it is.” And I started to question the neurologist. Well, clearly, nobody liked me in the hospital because I was starting to question protocol. The trauma surgeon called me and screamed at me, said he’d throw me out, was going to borrow me from the hospital. And I said, “Bring it on, like I don’t really care. And so, what I began to realize was that this hospital was a hospital that got a lot of funding from the city, and a lot of the patients in the hospital, believe it or not, were prisoners, or people who had ankle bracelets on. Meaning that they had to be watched, they were prisoners, and that I was a great person to be in this hospital. My husband was because we were paying full freight, because we had insurance. Okay?
TAMAR: Right, right.
GAIL CONN: Anyway, the story gets more phantasmagoric about the mistakes and things that go on in the hospital. But the best part of the story was, I staged an intervention, I came down, and I decided to start documenting what’s going on with this hospital and came up with a camera around my neck. Okay. Now, granted, I’ve been taking notes on my phone, I had seen notes because I’m very anal about stuff like that. So, I’m googling every medicine he’s taking. And I’m saying, “Why is he taking an upper and a downer in one medical run, all this stuff. And so, I came down with the camera, and they won’t let me in the hospital. And I said, “Are you for real,” and I made such a scene. I’m talking about I am screaming, and I’m flailing and then they caught me off like I’m a prisoner myself into this conference room. I have to add that I was calling the head of the hospital every day. And making like, I did know a lot of people, I knew people in radio, I knew people in television, I’m going to tell my story. And if they don’t release my husband from this hospital, to go to a better hospital where he can get some rehab, and not just be chained to the bed, I’m going to go to the press about this. Okay. So, then they dragged me into this room and the whole hospital staff is there and all, the head nurse and nurses and doctors and I don’t know what happened to me, but I must have been possessed. Stood up on my chair with this camera, and I started screaming like a crazy woman. I don’t even know I haven’t totally hit rock.
TAMAR: But it’s like rock bottom where you’re just like, he’s not getting the adequate care.
GAIL CONN: Right.
TAMAR: We don’t know what’s going on. You need to make progress. You need to do crazy things in order to achieve crazy things.
GAIL CONN: He’s my husband and I wasn’t going to take it anymore kind of thing. So, I just lost it. And what happened was so crazy. So, after this, the head nurse slipped me a note, like not that moment, but she saw me and slipped me a note. And she goes, “You got to get him out of here.” Okay. And it was like I had wings, then I was done. I spent hours on the phone trying to find my caseworker at Blue Cross because they don’t want you to talk to the person who’s running your case. And what I realized was, if the hospital doesn’t submit paperwork daily or weekly about the progress of the patient, they don’t know what’s going on. And so, everything is business as usual. Let’s write off another week. Let’s write off another week. And so, what I had to do was I had to enroll the staff to get their act together on the paperwork. And so, I hounded people to demand what was going on and I’d be like running after them. I wouldn’t let it go. So finally, I was able to get them to get their paperwork together so I could get a transfer which is very unheard of, to get a transfer from one hospital to another. So, what ended up happening and this is my husband’s first memory, I love this one, I finally got him this transfer and the ambulance got lost on the way to Cedars Sinai, which is the most famous Hospital in Los Angeles. And Mike remembers that, because he remembers that going, where is it? It only takes up three city blocks in the middle of Los Angeles.
TAMAR: Yeah, you can’t miss it, you didn’t miss it.
GAIL CONN: So anyway, what happened, my husband got to Cedars, and then they realized that he could have died just from being dehydrated. They had not given him enough hydration in the time. So anyway, we’re at Cedars for another couple of weeks. He gets rocked at Cedars Sinai, his nurse robbed him of his cell phone and his laptop, and right before Christmas. And then I actually made an appeal at Cedars, telling them I’m going to sue them because they realize that is someone on their staff. They finally gave me the money to buy this stuff again. And then my husband got released. And then there’s more to that story. But anyway.
TAMAR: So, how is he doing now? Yeah.
GAIL CONN: So, eleven years later, my husband has some obviously residual issues. There’s a lot of nerve damage. There’re issues with eyes and stuff like this. Cognitively he’s terrific, considering what he went through. You know, he’s in very good shape. There are some memory issues, but not tremendous.
TAMAR: Did he say he didn’t know you at all? Did he have to relearn that was he able to recall eventually?
GAIL CONN: Eventually, he had to relearn a lot. And then a lot just came back on its own. I mean, the brain is really pretty crazy, because my husband always had like a little tick, just like a little thing. And for almost two years, he’d lost that tick. And then one day, it just like came back.
TAMAR: Oh, wow.
GAIL CONN: I mean, there’s certain weird things that the brain just kind of rewires, some of it. Like, a lot of what happened to his eyes is very interesting, because you have a lot of optic nerves that kind of move your eyes. They’re kind of like hair, the nerves are so skinny, they’re like your hair. And because they were compromised by the brain injury, some of that just did not come back. That’s also one of the reasons we moved to New York because he has no peripheral vision, and he can’t see up because they didn’t bounce back. I mean, no matter what you do, they’re not going to come back. I mean, certain things come back, some things don’t come back. You can spend your life going to doctors, to be honest with you to find out what’s working, not working. I mean, essentially, he works. Do you know what I mean? He walks by and he stands up, he remembers some things. Some things, none of this. Doesn’t remember the fall, doesn’t remember the hospital, remembers nothing. And also, you have to understand you’re very drugged up a lot of the time. I mean, I’m talking about drugs. He hallucinated the day I picked him up, he told me he was with John Lennon. I mean, he was completely in another world. It’s hard when you’re drugged, and you’re not. And you’re the one in charge. It’s very complicated. But needless to say, I had to keep my business going, because this was my life. And my husband and I worked together. So, I had to keep my business going, do business calls, talk to clients, take care of these two kids, one is my biological son and this adopted child and keep my life going by myself. I mean, because I was alone and I figured it was a moment I didn’t even know I had it in me. All I can say is that I just did it.
TAMAR: You just did it.
GAIL CONN: Yeah, you got to put one foot in front of the other and what I said when I originally met you, and what kept me going, was I became very Zen. I blanked out absolutely everything that wasn’t necessary. And my mantra became chop wood, carry water, nothing entered that wasn’t essential. I couldn’t worry about it. It didn’t matter if the people who left food on my doorstep, if every day it was mac and cheese for six weeks, it just nothing mattered. It just mattered to get through this and know that there was going to be another side. And that slowly we rebuilt because even when my husband was released from the hospital, he couldn’t walk, in a wheelchair. And my husband’s over six feet and he was like, 140 pounds. You’re with somebody who’s like, this is your husband, oh my God, it’s a skeletal person. And so, it was for me, humbling. Let’s just put it that way.
TAMAR: Yeah, not an easy thing. But look at the fact that you’re here and you’re telling the story. And it’s definitely something that I would say is extraordinary. Like, it’s just so trying on the psyche. It’s trying on everything, physical, mental, everything about it.
GAIL CONN: Yeah, and I mean, time in that sense, it’s very interesting. Like right now time seems to be speeding up. But when you’re in something like that, time is glacial, it’s really slow.
TAMAR: Yeah, I understand.
GAIL CONN: Yeah, it forces you to concentrate deeply.
TAMAR: Right, and you feel like it won’t end. But eventually it does.
GAIL CONN: And that’s why, leading it back to being an entrepreneur, when you have really bad times in your business and things are not happening, you just know that it’s a period to lead. I mean, you can’t take it personally. It just happens.
TAMAR: Right. Yeah, it’s the same way I feel. Like when I’ve been in the depths of my depression, I always thought it’s never ending. I look back and I’m like, “I hope I could have the same resilience and strength that I have now.” So totally understand that. Yeah. So, you talked about Zen. So, I think that’s probably a self-care ritual. Tell me a little more about your self-care rituals.
GAIL CONN: Well, at that time, what I would do was I would make sure, I know it sounds silly, but that I would eat. I’m a foodie person, food is a big part of my life. I love food, I love creating it, I love making it. It was just very hard to have any kind of relationship with, like nurturing, because I was just so tired. Sleeping was really tough. And what I did was just force myself to try and keep as much of a normal life. At the end of the day, when I would leave my husband in the hospital, I was the last person to leave, I would go home, I would have some food, I put the kids to bed, I’d go to my room, I read a book. I was so exhausted; it was pretty easy to sleep. But then you’d have to get up and start the whole thing again. It was just like a cycle. And I really tried very hard. And I was very blessed with some, what I learned about that period also is, not the closest people to you are going to take care of you. It’s the most bizarre strangers that pop out of nowhere that just come to your aid.
TAMAR: That’s true. So true.
GAIL CONN: I mean, people were so kind, but it was not the people who were closest to me at all.
TAMAR: Right. Yeah, it surprises you if you learn who your real friends are. It’s hard to understand what to make of it.
GAIL CONN: Yeah, I can’t explain that. But people who I didn’t know became, and I still don’t even know some of them. I tried to write thank you notes to everybody at the end. But just people left stuff for me and took care of me in ways that were unbelievable, but not the people that knew us.
TAMAR: Yeah. The dynamic is so weird. Like, it’s just mentally difficult to grasp what their expectations or the requirements of them are.
GAIL CONN: Yeah, they couldn’t do it. But I mean, this really and that was terrific. And I just sort of whatever came my way that felt right, I just embraced it.
TAMAR: Yeah, you have to. You have to. It’s your own self-preservation.
GAIL CONN: Yeah, you can’t judge, you can’t decide you want this. It just is. And you take what you get. And you have it feed you and to be honest with you, I have a friend that’s a psychic. And I called him right away to ask him if my husband was going to die because I just wanted to get his opinion. And he said, “No, he’s not going to die but you just have to go through this.” I know, it sounds absolutely crazy. But I just knew that we just had to go through this.
TAMAR: Yeah. Interesting. Interesting.
GAIL CONN: I worked it out because I felt it, because I’m very intuitive myself. And I felt it. And yeah, it was just the anniversary of the death because, I mean of the fall and everything. And when I say the death, it was death of our old life.
GAIL CONN: But it was just the anniversary like a few days ago, 11 years, and you just do what you have to do. And I’m telling you that this is a metaphor for so many things that we go through in life that we think we can handle. And it’s you’re choosing to a certain extent if you can handle it or not. You have it deep within yourself and find some dignity in it also because one of my favorite books is Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl.
TAMAR: I’ve been told to read that a lot as a lot of the self-help books that I read references him a lot.
GAIL CONN: Last thing, nothing compares to that book. Because of what this man went through and what he saw to find dignity.
TAMAR: Right, so he’s in the Holocaust for those of you who have never read that he went through, like the worst of the concentration camps, and then some.
GAIL CONN: And he wrote a book about it.
GAIL CONN: It was never about being bitter.
GAIL CONN: It’s about finding grace and strength in the human condition and helping people. He was a doctor in the concentration camps. I mean, he did have an opportunity to leave, but he could not have left without his, they wouldn’t let his parents leave. So, he decided to stay. And truly he never whines, never say why me, never says anything, just how you can find strength in the most difficult situations.
TAMAR: It’s an appropriate thing for now, as we’re all suffering, like we say, why are we all living through COVID? I mean, just tying it to something that is a little more relatable to now. Like, I keep saying to myself, what a time to be alive. I don’t say I think it’s a blessing. But yeah, it’s sort of a curse, too, but it’s a blessing. And you can make it a blessing. And I mean, I don’t think he’s saying that because I haven’t read it. But I’ve certainly read the references. I mean, everybody, like I’m sure thousands of people have referenced him. Such an inspirational thing. It’s definitely on my to do list. I’m reading a lot of other books on happiness and self-wealth right now.
GAIL CONN: I can’t understand but, in his way, it is to find the happiness. Honestly, I mean, the fact that he would see the sky one day made him very happy. Like a patch of blue sky, or you saw a bird. I mean, it doesn’t take much and we have to, as people redefine a lot of what we’re driven by? And what is happiness? And what is really peace? And things that you really value and it’s within yourself? I mean, I think everybody has it, you have to decide about it
TAMAR: It comes down to mindset, because it’s within everybody. But you really do have to think it, you have to will it.
GAIL CONN: Yeah, you have to understand where you have to have your strength. And I think that it’s very easy to like melt like a puddle. But the thing is, we have it in us to be strong and you have to find it within yourself. And you can it’s like just some kind of discipline. And for some reason I have it or I found it in myself. And I realized I you know can use it. I use it in my business all the time. I mean, just because you have to say no.
TAMAR: Yeah, 100%. Yeah. So let me ask you one final question. I guess I would call it the Common Scents question. If we can tell, I guess maybe 12 years ago, you can go back to Gail from totally years ago and ask and give her a piece of advice, what would you tell her?
GAIL CONN: Oh, boy.
TAMAR: I love the loaded question. I always love the reaction.
GAIL CONN: Yeah, yeah, that’s an interesting one. Well, I’m still working on it. So, it’s not like I’ve got it down.
TAMAR: No one, you never have an answer to this.
GAIL CONN: I think the thing is that it’s really just to like, I mean, everything is about just making it all much lighter.
GAIL CONN: Because we just have to be freer. I mean, honestly, to enjoy as much as possible. I mean, even in the most hideous, profound ways, things that we don’t like, we have to find some enjoyment in it. I mean, truly, it’s all part of the experience.
GAIL CONN: We can’t always get what we want. That’s just not obviously Mick Jagger can sing and he knows it. But what I’m saying is you just don’t always get what you want. And we just have to be happy with whatever we get, and the thing is, it was very interesting living in a place like Malibu. We ended up there for many funny reasons, but it had to do with school and Mike’s and all that because we found a school we really liked, we ended up moving there. But when you live in a place where there’s such two things, profound beauty and an unbelievable wealth, and we we’re not in that really wealthy crowd. You can’t compare yourself to people. You have to just kind of laugh and find the humor in it all,
GAIL CONN: And it’s hard for people because we’re in a race to get there, wherever there is, we’re all in the race to be there. So, I’m just saying, I think that it’s a wonderful thing to lighten up, I think that’s the thing that I would say myself for 12 years that I’m still learning to accept. Now I truly think that we just have to enjoy the journey. The bad, the ugly, just lighten up and enjoy the journey. And it’s something I work on all the time. I mean, even just the littlest things and enjoying good coffee, or having breakfast with my husband, or getting a phone call from my son, or winning a new job or learning something that I’m excited about learning. I try and celebrate all the things that I do as much as I can and give that as a gift to myself and then be happy.
TAMAR: I hear you. I love it. I love it. I was just reading; it came out a research. The New York Times came out a few weeks, about two, three weeks ago, about all walks. A W E walks. If you take a walk even on your regular pathway; normally would take a walk, and you just try to appreciate the beauty of what happens around you. It helps you over time, there’s a longitudinal benefit to it. So, it’s all about lightening up and I’m really appreciating what’s around you and kind of like it’s all about mindfulness, anchoring yourself, noticing what’s in the moment.
GAIL CONN: Yeah, I mean, even right in New York City, you look at the new building a new way and look up. I mean, we always look forward, but we don’t look up. Look up. See what’s going on.
TAMAR: I love. I love the city for that reason. I love observing and love the buildings. I miss it.
GAIL CONN: Yeah, you see another angle, you go into somebody’s apartment, or you get into a building and you see another angle. It’s like, wow, I never saw that before. I mean, it’s just appreciating. I took a walk in the country on Saturday, we did a nine-mile hike. And it was really amazing, just looking at the leaves. And this part of the walk is this way, the leaves there another way. It doesn’t matter what it is. It’s just the resilience of just doing something to help yourself.
GAIL CONN: We can steward ourselves much more than we think we can.
TAMAR: I love it. Awesome. Well, where can listeners find you and learn more about you, follow all the things?
GAIL CONN: Well, so a couple of little tidbits, I’m Gail Connely on Instagram. I’m a bread baker, so I make sourdough bread for my family. And I’ve been doing it for years even before the lockdown.
TAMAR: You could have made it as a big business.
GAIL CONN: Yeah, I could have done that. I am a sourdough bread maker and love that. So, you can follow me on Instagram but my business is called phipower.com. P H I power.com. And I’m online.
TAMAR: And C O N N and not like KHN or kh C O N N.
GAIL CONN: Right. And that’s it. Yeah.
GAIL CONN: So, thank you very much for this. This is fun.
TAMAR: Yeah, thank you as well.
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