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Her mental health experiences prompted her to launch an app

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Maija Russell is onto big things for 2020 (and beyond!) and they’re especially needed. Her upcoming app launch, AppreciateU, is all about living in a positive mindset through compliments and affirmations. But Maija wasn’t always living with positive self talk, nor did she have the right influences.

TAMAR: Hi, everybody, I am delighted and excited to bring Maija Russell in. I met her in a Zoom networking event a couple of months ago, and she is doing something really, really cool. Something I completely resonate with, kind of flows very well into the Common Scents Podcast, and thus I have her here. So, thank you so much for joining. Well —

MAIJA RUSSELL: Thank you so much for having me Tamar.

TAMAR: Yeah, I’d love to share where you are right now physically and what you’re doing. Tell us a little bit about yourself.

MAIJA RUSSELL: Hey, yeah, sure. I’m coming in from Orlando, Florida. Beautiful weather down here on this crazy post-election day. I’m creating an app that’s designed to help users decrease negative self-talk and increase thoughts of empowerment, happiness and self-worth. We’re going to be using fun uplifting games, playful graphics and powerful affirmations to do that. So, I’m hoping to help people retrain their brains to love themselves more to think more positively and to create a happier, healthier life for themselves.

TAMAR: That is so cool. And I have to say, when I first heard that, that it totally resonates with the lifestyle that I’m trying to embody myself. So, I love that you’re doing this. I know that you’re a little early, but I really cannot wait to see how this plays out.

MAIJA RUSSELL: Thank you. Me too. It’s definitely evolving and unfolding every day, which is really fun to see. Of course, it’s never moving as fast as we want it to be right. But I guess that’s just how life works. And trying to roll with the punches and create the marketing plan and going forward and talking to investors daily and all of that fun start up life that I’m living.

TAMAR: Yeah. So just a few words of advice here. I would just say number one, don’t wait till it’s perfect to launch. Obviously, you still are a little early, which is fair. And that’s only the recommendation.

MAIJA RUSSELL: Oh, will not let me wait it out. So, we’re going to be producing an MVP very, very soon. Have minimal viable product, that is. And they’re like, “Okay, two revisions, girl, get this out.” So like I “Okay, yeah. All right. Well, and it’ll be great.” I’m excited for the feedback from everybody when we do launch because it’ll be — Remember, like the Facebook.

TAMAR: Yeah, yep. I remember the Facebook.

MAIJA RUSSELL: Not that great. It’ll be hopefully a couple steps up from that. But I always try to think of that when I’m  — like a perfectionist nature.

TAMAR: Yeah, that perspective is really helpful. The other thing that I was gonna say is literally like, “Yeah, everything does go slow.” But it needs to go at that pace. You need to obviously feel comfortable. And yet for me personally, I thought things were going to be fine on two years ahead of where it is now. Like, “It’s totally okay. Yeah, we’ll wait.”

MAIJA RUSSELL: Yeah. It’s insane. Yeah, that’s a startup life. How is your perfume?

TAMAR: Ah, so I’m in the middle of sending samples out. I have my samples. Everything was ready. I had to change the form a little bit. So, it took a little bit of time. But now I’m getting it out and it’s funny. Yesterday, people started posting on social media about it. So that’s really exciting. I’m getting some interesting feedback, definitely not what they had expected, which is exactly what I’m trying to do. I’m trying to disrupt a marketplace so not looking for the conventional mall-like fragrances. I’m trying to create new ones. I’m excited about it. We’ll see what happens. I am having my boxes for the retail products being designed and finalized hopefully this week if not next, and then we’re very close to coming to the end and we’re gonna see what’s going to happen. I mean, kept coming to the end in terms of finalizing products. Ah, it is scary. But yeah, and then I have to figure out what happens next because I’m trying to do things I completely still have from a bootstrapped perspective.

MAIJA RUSSELL: I’m so proud of you. That’s awesome and very, very exciting.

TAMAR: Yeah, thank you. But let’s move, let’s shift the conversation to you. Tell me a little bit about your story. Like what you’re doing now, but I know it came from a different kind of, I guess your adversity? Where were you before? What were you doing, what brought yourself to create this product? I guess it is like a melding of the two main core components of this podcast or, like, what’s your career trajectory to where you are today? I guess it ties into what’s your rising above adversity story.

MAIJA RUSSELL: Sure. Directly before this, I have a sales and marketing background. So, I did sales and marketing for a local microbrewery here in Orlando, Florida. And beer is one of my passions. I try to always steer towards passions, learned that through adversity, and we’ll get into that. But I was a homebrewer before and I wanted to career change. So, I have a background in sales. I’ve always excelled there. So, I reached out to a brewery and I was like, “Hey, I think I can help your brand, you should hire me.” They trained me and we got out in the field. And we did really good work. And it was a great company, of course. March happened, and the layoffs and everything like that. And still big love to them. But it also put me on this great trajection to do something else that I’m passionate about.

TAMAR: Yeah, I love it. That’s such a different life. Like it’s literally moving from alcohol to appreciation, you know. That’s it.

MAIJA RUSSELL: All very much in line with who I am and where I come from. The product, the app, and company is called Appreciate U, the letter U like university. So that’s going to be hitting the market hopefully soon. But I feel like everything that I’ve experienced in my life has brought me to this conclusion. I am meant to do this. I’m meant to put this product out. And I was born to do this very thing in life. Can I go back and tell you a little bit about the story?

TAMAR: Yeah, yeah. But before you do, I’m just going to give you an idea. You might have thought about this. I know you’re kind of building the app for affirmation and self-love and all these things. You know, university is something that I think is awesome. But I really hope that what you’re doing is potentially like leveraging university type of courses. The other night, I was taking a walk and when I take a walk, I listen to podcasts. And I was listening to a podcast about how universities are doing a lot of you know — They’re obviously trying to pump out new content in I guess different scopes. Like, Coursera and all the different sites, Lambda School, all these things, they’re trying to really focus on reaching people through their auditory and their video content. I really hope that you can find videos, or high-level videos, so that you can get this Appreciate U degree. I think that could be really fun. And it could be an extension to the product. I think you should give a certification at the end. Thanks, Coursera. I’m in the middle, in the last couple weeks, which is really kind of just executing upon some of the learnings. But the Coursera course of the Science of Well-Being by Laurie Santos, I’m a big fan of that. At the end of it, you end up getting a certificate. So, you should do, like in the context of the university, you should kind of do education, and have that education, eventually right   to certification. I get my appreciation, you agree.

MAIJA RUSSELL: Yeah, that’s fun.

TAMAR:  And get a lot of people in due time get like self-help people and people who could provide that positive self- talk in a  more of like a university- ish setup.

MAIJA RUSSELL: Like a day course of retraining the mind to, you know, move forward. I like it.

TAMAR: Yeah.

MAIJA RUSSELL: Also a great way to possibly get some university funding.

TAMAR: Yeah. You never know, it could be any other thing. So, the podcasts that I was listening to were talking about how the universities are trying to do things a little differently because I guess financially, they’re in a different financial place. I’m not entirely sure of the specifics like the business and the financials behind the idea of this positioning. But I do believe that having this type of access to a wide variety of people could, you know, bring people in like that another person. Another Coursera course I’m taking right now is based in the University of Michigan, and it’s on negotiation of all things. But it’s interesting because the second course in the second video in the series, is like the professor saying: “Here’s what the University of Michigan is like, and here’s what life is like in Michigan,” and it’s that idea to sell the university through Coursera. I think that’s what some of the perspective is, which ends up working out. It markets the university through the unconventional video content they’re doing so that could be a way to like, you know, earn the University of California some sort of say, a PhD psychology professor sharing some sort of insights. Yeah, I feel like if they would want to have some market, they want to do some marketing, this might be a way to capture those eyeballs.

MAIJA RUSSELL: Absolutely. And that’s definitely something that I’ve considered. I’ve been reaching out to different universities and seeing how we can make a partnership happen. So yeah, I like the idea of that, especially it being in my age group that I want to be focusing on.

TAMAR: Yeah, absolutely. I just thought it was a cool idea. I was thinking about that. Go ahead, share your story.

MAIJA RUSSELL: Oh, thank you so much. It’s great insight, and I welcome it perfectly.

TAMAR: Cool.

MAIJA RUSSELL: Yes, I was saying how I really feel like everything that I’ve done has led me to this outcome. This is this unfolding that’s happening right now. So, I come from Portland, Oregon, or just outside of Portland, Oregon, a town called Troutdale. Very small. But my father was a therapist for schizophrenics. And talking about mental health, depression, the way people think was very commonplace at our dinner table. We didn’t shy away from that. A lot of people in my family had the depression, or it was something that was spoken about frequently. So, I didn’t grow up with any of the stigmas around mental health or going to therapy or anything like that. One of my earliest memories is going to a schizophrenic home in Portland, Oregon, and my dad would play the piano or play the guitar and I would sing. We went there on Christmases to kind of give back and be a part of that community. And I think I was like five or six years old, and I was looking around the room and seeing these people who had this whole world in their head that we couldn’t see. It was mind blowing, right? Of course. I mean, literally they see someone sitting across from the table that we don’t see. It’s a whole different reality that they’re living in. And it just made me develop all of these questions around what creates our reality? Why do we experience what we experienced and how we experience it, and just these questions     blossomed. And then when I was in middle school – I mentioned that I come from Troutdale, Oregon – the suicide rate is extremely high. And one of my classmates, she took her life. And I was about 12 years old when this happened. And it was like suicide spread like wildfire. Every week, we knew somebody else, another classmate that was in the hospital for harming themselves in one way or another. And   throughout my entire childhood from then on. If we were going to funerals pretty frequently, it was —

TAMAR: Was there a reason for this? Is there a particular thing that is the rationale behind this high suicide rate in your area? Or you don’t know?

MAIJA RUSSELL: Good question. Definitely a question that’s crossed my mind many, many times, something that I’ve talked about with my father with other people that come from there, the rationale that I’ve kind of come across is 1) it was a pure thing. And so, when one person does it, people are like, “Oh, that’s not an option. I can do that, too.”

TAMAR: Yeah.

MAIJA RUSSELL: So it kind of, it’s an association with, it’s a possibility. And, you know, [when] your boyfriend breaks up with you [it] feels like the world is ending. So, you can take your life, you can do that. That’s now an option because somebody else did it. I can do it, too. There’s also no evidence around the weather, you know, seasonal depression—

TAMAR: Right, when the clocks change here. So —

MAIJA RUSSELL: Very common there, almost everyone I know has seasonal depression, but going to the extreme of taking your life. (Deep breath) I’m not saying that it’s not valid, but there’s a lot of different thoughts around it. So, it all led into a lot of questions. And I didn’t really find answers until I experienced my own depression when I was about 25 years old. So, I was at the height of my success at 25. Too young. It’s hard —

TAMAR:  You can’t say that though. Because you’re gonna—AppreciateU is going to be the highest of your success again.

MAIJA RUSSELL: …my success or my height of success at 25. I had a business, I was investing in real estate. Tamar, did you ever find a mentor that was like, “Follow everything I say to the tee and you will find success.”

TAMAR: Thankfully, thankfully, I have not.

MAIJA RUSSELL: Thank God you haven’t. Well, I did. I was like, “Oh, I can do that. I can follow rules.” Cool. I did that and I was making good money. I was on the outside had it together, I had my life together. And on the inside, I was suffering, I was crushed, I had completely lost sight of who I was as a person. As an individual, my creativity, my own thoughts and might, my own power was completely given up for something else that as artificial as money as quote, unquote, success to the outside world.

And on the inside, I couldn’t do anything. I was uncontrollably crying every single day, didn’t know why I have completely lost sight of who I really was. It was the darkness and the pressure on my chest. And in the middle of my forehead, it was so painful physical pain, I was going to the doctor all the time. I couldn’t figure it out. I thought many times about taking my own life. It was just, the darkest point of my life, when it should have been the height of my success and happiness. So, all of these questions come back: Why do we experience what we experienced? How do we interpret that when we think about suicide in classmates, when we think about schizophrenics and having this reality, how we perceive something, what was going on in my head at that moment when everything should have been great, but I was miserable to the point of wanting to end it all, and I started reading the power of the subconscious mind; I found videos of The Secret, thank goodness. And I very slowly started coming back into my own way of thinking and learning about myself and doing lots of soul searching. I traveled to Asia, I went around, spoke to monks. And everyone’s like, “Little prom girl asking what happiness means to me,” but it was very soul searching and eye opening. And I got back to who I really am. I think throughout that process —

TAMAR: That’s crazy. But you have to kind of make that soul searching experience. More of it has to be an integrative experience like you have because I actually read the book, The Secret, I read Think and Grow Rich twice. I never actually finished them both times, I got to like you know, the first half of it, like it’s really great. And you’re like, “Oh, I love it.” And then I guess, I don’t know, it gets nuanced. And I’ve never actually finished it. But you know, both of them are the same thing. It’s all about positive self- worth and whatever else. And then hopefully, it manifests in your dreams and your desires. But it’s weird, because I actually read Think and Grow Rich two times and I read The Secret both times. I loooved it! But I was also not realizing that I was depressed when I had this experience. And I was like “Oh my God, my life is gonna be so much better.” And then eventually, I just kind of gave up on it. And that’s why I say it’s so immersive and have something that you know, where you actually met with monks, you can’t just read the book and all of a sudden feel like, “That’s it, you have to do more.” You have to make it a continuous state of being and then you know, you’re depressed when you start to read it. As long as you maintain that kind of lifestyle, that mindset, then it can potentially bring you out. So, I just want to kind of throw that out there. I like that you were able to do more.

MAIJA RUSSELL: I love that you brought that up. Absolutely. I truly believe that words do not teach. Experiences teach. And that’s how we learn, through experience. So, we can read it all, we’re not actually experiencing if we’re not putting something into practice, if we’re not remembering what are our power, how we can shape our world. If we’re forgetting that daily, which I recently watched a  documentary on Netflix, and they’re saying how there’s something in our brain [that] actually causes us to forget these kind of universal laws. So, to remember that and make this a habit of our daily practice, which is that app will be about, creating a daily practice for us to remember this. Then you can actually shape your life because tomorrow I can’t tell you how many friends I have that are super into the law of attraction, super into you know, taking control. And then they also just forget, and half is “I’ve done that before I fall in and out of it several times.” But it’s very interesting how that works. It’s easy to get caught up in the swiftness of life without remembering who we are and getting still and reconnecting with us. And that’s what this whole process was about: coming out of this really deep dark depression, remembering who I am because I put so much of my work and listening to somebody else telling me what to do that I didn’t have a clue of who Maija Russel was as an individual, and remembering this and helping other people remember this and putting it into daily habit is something that I’m  so passionate about and I really want to give back in a positive way.

TAMAR: Yeah, I love it. You know, it’s interesting going back to the whole thing about reality. You know, in my quest for finding myself and kind of just finding value in human life, there’s an interesting, another book that I read that, hopefully everybody has known, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. I might have potentially talked about this in the podcast in the past, but I think it’s the thing that really resonates with me the most. And that’s the fact that when we, you, can see things that you know — the famous optical illusion, that if you look at it one way, you’ll see an old woman. But if you look at it another way, you’ll see a young woman. That’s like the fact about understanding that there is diversity in how people look at the world. And it’s about recognizing that we might be seeing one of those two things, but we have to kind of like, “Are we good to both, but we haven’t.” Recognizing that people have different perspectives, you need to be open minded about those perspectives. For me, that was kind of eye opening. Since COVID happened, I’ve kind of taken leadership of a WhatsApp group with 250 locals. And I didn’t realize that with a room with 250 people, you have like, 270 different opinions. And it has put me in a position where I have to really be empathetic, and really kind of getting in the shoes of other people. It’s also been very difficult. But I know it’s a little different than what we’re talking about here. But I think it was very valuable. Because people’s realities are extremely different. Some of them are completely different. And obviously, this people are not schizophrenic. But we have to realize that even in what we consider reality, there’s so much diversity. Just having an understanding and being empathetic, again, is probably a safe way forward.

MAIJA RUSSELL: Absolutely. I mean it seems so obviously right to think compassion and empathy is obviously the way forward. But that’s not how a lot of people see it. I think that goes back to what we were saying that it’s very much about the individual’s perspective. And it doesn’t really mean that as the leader of a WhatsApp group, or myself talking to peers, trying to make them see my way of being. That’s irrelevant, honestly. But what it is, is that it starts at the core. So, if each of us has gotten at our core, and remember who we are, I am a powerful being, I am so much more than what the world sees. I am a creative person. And I know what’s best for me, because I have intuition. And I listen to my intuition. If we start at that core, and then from there, we can branch out naturally. We can experience empathy and compromise and listening to each other and caring for one another. But much starts from the inside. And I think that’s part of the reason why we’re seeing so much adversity in the world. It’s not starting from a place with it. And it’s not starting with self-love. It’s not starting with self-respect; it’s starting with, you need to change this way about yourself to make me happy.

TAMAR: It’s very hard, it’s cyclic, but it’s extremely difficult. Because if you don’t believe in yourself, and you don’t have that faith in yourself, then it’s going to be extremely difficult to kind of take that and convey that to other people. And yet, you can be like, “You and I could be having this conversation. And my earlier version of myself could be listening to this conversation and all sounds well and good.” But until you start to internalize it and do it, it’s just gonna be like, “Oh, this sounds really nice.” But when it comes to anything, when it comes to recovery of like, you know, like deciding that you want to go on a   lifestyle change, to actually go to rehab, or to go on a lifestyle change of losing weight, you have to actually be ready to do it, you have to have an open mind and you have to be receptive to it versus “Oh, it all sounds good.” You know, that was sort of maybe my struggle, why Think and Grow Rich and The Secret were such wonderful things. I was potentially receptive, but I wasn’t really receptive. So, having been receptive will get you to where you need to be. When you get to where you need to be, then you’ll be able to get its compounding effect. But you have to let it in. And you have to do it slowly.

MAIJA RUSSELL: Compounding effect is beautifully put. I couldn’t agree more. And it doesn’t stop at reading the book. It doesn’t stop there. I mean, honestly, when I read Think and Grow Rich, I loved it. It was great. It started me on my path for realizing thoughts and everything like that. But it also led me into the path of working too hard. And someone telling me what to think. And me being like, “Well, whatever I feel is wrong. Whatever they say is, right.” That was my job with that book. So, it was destructive in my hands. But if you continue on that journey, so you read the book, The Secret, and then let’s say you want to do an audio series, or something else, if you continue that educational process and keep on looking within, then I think that’s what you were saying. I think that that’s the moneymaker. If you will, that’s how you achieve those results, you keep the unfolding.

TAMAR: The one thing that I would say is that, your struggle and what you went through were very suggestive to everything that kind of came in and you were receptive to everything that comes in, you do have to kind of filter out what works for you and what doesn’t work for you. But do show with a positive mindset.

MAIJA RUSSELL: What I would say don’t, I mean, listen to at all. Okay, can you maybe tell me who this quote is by: “I’m getting better at a lot lately.” I’m not going to do it like verbatim of course because I don’t even know but who was it that said, “Learn as much as you can, and then throw it out the window and use your intuition to make your decision.”

TAMAR: I haven’t actually heard that. But it’s really interesting. I don’t want to put religion into this book, like Judaism happens to be very similar to that. You make the observance of religion kind of work for you within your life, which people don’t realize, which is really interesting. But that really resonates with my lifestyle and what I was perceived as that. Yeah, I don’t know.

MAIJA RUSSELL: Most religions are all going towards the exact same thing, you know. But it gets so convoluted with power, control and judgment when it’s so much more supposed to be about love, acceptance and caring for each other.

TAMAR: Right. Yeah, it’s really about being resilient. And when you’re being accepting all these inputs, you need to obviously let those literally permeate; you have to believe in it, like when it comes to affirmations, in general, especially with your products. You need to like the beginning, when you start these things, and you start hearing about affirmations, positive self-talk, that’s all. So a lot of people “It feels very fake, I don’t identify with, I don’t believe in it.” And the problem is that you say that, and you think that and once you start thinking that those affirmations are just gonna fricking bounce off. So, you need to be resilient, you need to be prepared to accept it, and you need to be ready. And it’s not necessarily about what I’ve been saying, it’s all about the sucking things like a sponge. It’s about doing more than just reading and using the app; it’s about doing things and executing upon things. So for example, I coupled my desire for self-love with physical activity as well, and I was sedentary for a very long time. So for me personally, like, “I still can’t, I will never.” I don’t think I will ever be able to do a 5K, a sub 35 minute 5K,  maybe I’ll do some 35 minute 5K, very likely never do a sub 30 minute 5K, because I was sedentary and I had so many other things that you know, whatever it is the fact that I’m doing it, I’m so proud of myself that I was able to get myself out at about and it’s not about freakin finishing first. It’s about getting it done. And putting physical activity for myself and coupling it with this mindset and coupling it with the education and all these other things. They have to work in tandem, very, very, very important. And that, in my opinion, is how you bring yourself out of a freakin’ funk. That for me personally literally lasted more than a decade of my life.

MAIJA RUSSELL: Oh, my. Good. Congratulations! More looks so freakin’ incredible. I love it.

TAMAR:  Yes, yes. Cool. I kind of talked about my self-care routine. Tell me a little bit about yours.

MAIJA RUSSELL: First, before we do that, I wanted to go back to what you were talking about with, you know, you have to believe it and all this stuff. If we talk about it sounds a little dark, we talk about mind control. Alright, so we can be taught something. If something is repeated over and over and over again, we start to believe it. Right. And that goes for when we’re children, and we are euphoric. And we are just falling in love. And then little snide comments come here and there from let’s say, a family member or a school bully or something like that, that says, “We’re not that great, you’re not that great. You’re not that great.” It’s little by little just chips away at the mind. What if we replace that with a, “I am when I am working just a little bit here and there, just replacing that old negative belief that was learned, completely learned and replacing it with new ones.” That’s what this is about. You know, replacing those habits of negative self-talk with something that’s more positive that we can benefit from or that instead of this false belief before— or the education has it all?

TAMAR: Yeah, it’s extremely valuable. But the education has to start early. I have four children right now. And I realized I probably should be doing a little more of that reinforcement because I can’t imagine that everybody grows up into adults where they kind of doubt who they are. Yeah. So maybe thank you for that validation of like, I need to kind of teach my kids to do this right now. You got it. You kind of need to AppreciateU kids up.

MAIJA RUSSELL: Seriously, I love that. So, this should be accessible to all ages. Yeah, kind of entering towards Gen Z. But I feel like we’re growing up when we’re infants, you know, learning to walk like “You can do it. It’s okay. Oh, you follow? No big deal,” continuously talking to herself like that as an adult. And honestly, we, you know, you’re doing a great job of being a mother. But learning all of that, we have to unlearn that, whether it’s from your mother or from your teacher or whoever, we’re going to be getting that negative reinforcement as well. We will. That’s what lies ahead. But it’s our job to take responsibility for our own thoughts and how we feel about ourselves.

TAMAR: Yeah, 100%.

MAIJA RUSSELL: Because we can unlearn that behavior too.

TAMAR: Right. And that’s the thing. , I’m living proof of that, like we. Yeah.

MAIJA RUSSELL: Damn straight, you are? Sorry, maybe I shouldn’t have said that.

TAMAR: Yeah. It’s all good. I’m not. I don’t necessarily make it. Sometimes there are people who use verbs and phrases … it’s okay. My kids don’t listen to the podcast.

TAMAR and MAIJA RUSSELL: (laughter)

MAIJA RUSSELL: Yeah. So we’re talking about self care.

TAMAR: Yes. Tell me a little bit about what you do to kind of keep yourself sane.

MAIJA RUSSELL: So, when I started kind of edging out of that depression, through you know, just try and treat myself better trying to take care of my thoughts a bit more, calming myself down, that pressure was being relieved. I realized I needed a creative outlet. That was really important to me. So I was in theater growing up, and I love horror. I’m a huge horror fan. And we have this thing in Orlando, Florida called Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Studios. And I would go every single year, and I absolutely loved it. I had with me the season pass holder to go as many times as they wanted to go, and I was like, “I need to audition for this, this would be so much fun.” So, I auditioned and I got it. And it was like the best thing in my life. It totally changed my life around and I realized I needed a creative outlet. I needed to do something where I use my body. I’m a very physical person, I’ve always been very physical. I like exercising, all that sort of thing, but to be made up in just like crazy makeup and an insane costume from these amazing costume designers and makeup artists. And to try to scare guests was just such a big freedom and release of energy. It really changed my life around it sounds so weird. I’m very aware of that.

TAMAR: No, that’s it. You know what, whatever works for you, not everybody’s doing the most conventional things to take care of themselves. You know, I’m not expecting everybody to say, “Oh, I Run. Oh, I exercise.” You do say you’re physical, and I do those too.

MAIJA RUSSELL: But yeah, it was like having a creative outlet where like, I’m supposed to be this, you know, scary, a sane asylum kind of creature that gets loose and then just scared dead. At the park, it was a total freedom of somebody telling me like, “You need to do this, and this and this.” And this to be successful to someone putting me in insane makeup and be scary. I’m like, I got both, it was so much fun. It was at a level that I didn’t know that I needed at the time. But finding a creative outlet has been extremely important to self-care for me because I imagine “You too are quite analytical, young in the world, numbers and data and just tracking everything and checking on it.” And then trying it again, very right side of the brain, to just kind of letting it go. And I got it. I got represented at that time for modeling and acting. And I took up that and I’ve done a lot of other things. So, having that kind of creative outlet is really good.

TAMAR: Also look, let me share something. I’m going to make an admission here that I had never made before. But you know, I have shared this briefly, but I didn’t actually share it in the extent that I’m about to do. So, my discovery of scent made me start to like, kind of want to live again. But the first thing that I did really after that was I found Smule online, which if you’re not familiar is like basically karaoke. For a while I silenced myself on social media. I stopped tweeting for like about seven years. I barely posted on social media because I was just afraid of the scrutiny and people threatening me because they see me all of a sudden. It was stuff like that, that I just didn’t want to do. I engaged in conversation. I still kind of just do it this way because I prefer to engage, provide value to other people’s conversations and make it about me. I’m spending on the platform but the reason why I wasn’t able to speak is because I just didn’t feel like I had a voice. So, I started the thing that I did after since kind of changed my life. I started small and I got so excited I started singing harmonies on like Les Mis and you know, I spent on all the rock songs that I like to sing. And I remember at that time I didn’t need to see a psychiatrist anymore. I shared the video, I shared it. I shared one of the duets that I sing for confrontation on Les Mis. It’s one of my favorite, actually. And I shared a duet with it with my psychiatrist. And he listens to it. And he’s like, “Oh, the guy has a good voice.” It’s like you’re okay. Thanks for the reinforcement. But at that point, I was okay. Then I realized, it was a little hurt. And still two years later, and I’m still kind of thinking “Oh, my God, you know, my psychiatrist is insulting you.” Yeah. Boy

MAIJA RUSSELL: That’s not the point, though. You did it.

TAMAR:    And yeah.

MAIJA RUSSEL: And that comes from the heart. It’s freeing. It’s amazing.

TAMAR:  Yeah. So for a while, I was like, “That could be the turn. I’m not gonna do it anymore.” But I’m like, “You know what? I could care less. I know that. I’m not, you know, your opera-trained singer. But I also know, I know how to freakin’ sing.” So you know what, I don’t give two craps about that guy that I listened to. It’s sort of the same thing. I’m resilient. And I filtered through his negative talk. But like it wasn’t, you know, it wasn’t particularly positive. So just kind of bouncing back to what you said before it. Yeah, that’s something I don’t necessarily want to say.


MAIJA RUSSEL: I’m glad you did.

TAMAR: Yeah. So, I listened to myself. You know, I had an extremely high ego when it comes to singing because when I was younger, my music teacher gave me every solo like everything. She loved me so much. And obviously, that puts me on this pedestal, then I’m like, “I’m the best singer ever.” And then,   when you get this, and  the reality is that I’m not like I thought— Oh, it could be an American Idol. I want to get the feedback. No, but I’m glad I got it from this guy, because he’s sort of hardest to—

MAIJA RUSSEL: Still, that’s wonderful. And if it makes your heart happy, I think that’s great. You know, I want to and they haven’t, that’s life. You wake up every morning and you want to sing. You’re Muslim, you’re supposed to be a singer. I love that. It’s so sweet and great advice. You know, [follow??] whatever your heart really wants you to do.

TAMAR: Yeah, I don’t know if I’ll ever be a singer. But I’m glad that I was able to use that because leveraging my voice in this way made me more comfortable to share my voice elsewhere. It’s weird, because obviously, nobody necessarily is listening to this. And I’m okay with that. I’m completely okay with the fact that there is no audience, but it’s therapeutic. So, there are times where I retreat to my bedroom, and I’m singing on top of my lungs with this duet, that, you know, my whole family can only hear one, like, I have my headphones, my earbuds in my ears. So I’m like, “I’m singing.” And my husband’s like, “You don’t sound so good.” And I’m like, “But then you hear the output.” And I’m like, “because he doesn’t know that I’m singing harmony and he doesn’t hear the other side.” It’s not about that. He actually thinks okay, but you know the thing. The fact is that, you hear only the harmony side without anything else, but then it comes together. And I think it sounds pretty good. I’m not again, “I’m not going to be your classically trained opera singer, I’m going to be somebody who’s able to just feel like she’s able to use her voice and it feels cathartic.” And over time, it has given me the confidence to start speaking up. And I didn’t have that for such a long time. So it is a creative outlet for me, that kind of impetus to start living. It was to continue my trajectory of living again.

MAIJA RUSSELL: Girl, that’s amazing, that simple act of just starting to sing and how it transforms your life so that you can speak up more. You can almost like clearing of the throat chakra. So you can just use your voice for good. That’s beautiful. That is the perfect example of using your intuition to make you change your life for the better.

TAMAR: Yeah, I like the way you say “clearing your throat” because yeah, there’s clearly something there for a very long time.

MAIJA RUSSELL:  I have a similar problem. I was made fun of for trying out. Like [in a??] fourth grade talent show. I sing a song and like, everyone clearly hated it.

TAMAR: It was so awkward.

MAIJA RUSSELL: And ever since then, like I had a lead in the school play a couple times. or school musical a couple of times. I hated singing after it traumatized me. And to this day, I still don’t do karaoke. Like I won’t do it. I don’t enjoy it.

TAMAR: Yeah, we’ll try this because you never know if you know how to sing on key. You know, and here’s the thing, if you know how to sing on key, it’s better for you. And it’s literally like, when you go to school, and you try to find somebody who could potentially pair up with you. Most of these people don’t have a clue how to sing. Somebody will sing so off key I’m like helping them sing.  it’s actually cringe worthy.

MAIJA RUSSELL: But it’s such a great platform to express yourself that way. If your intuition is saying, hey, I want to sing, I want to do it, then you have a place to do that. And you have a community to help you do that. That is beautiful. That is the best use of creativity to put that out into the world, that product into the world. And I hope you feel that way about Appreciate U when it’s released.

TAMAR: I’m looking forward to it. I’m super excited about it. I love what you’re doing.

MAIJA RUSSELL: Thank you. I’m really, really excited about it. Great.

TAMAR: Yeah. So, tell me more. Is there anything else? I guess it’s the self-care story?

MAIJA RUSSELL: I mean, oh, gosh, I could talk about self-care all day, probably.

TAMAR: I don’t mean your product is self-care. Yeah.

MAIJA RUSSELL: I do daily morning routine. So, my morning routine is wake up, I do my very best to check for any social media. Before I get up, I drink coffee, I journal. I do at least one page. Bare minimum is one page of gratitude or appreciation. It’s just reaffirming what I love about my life, making sure that I’m still feeling okay, even though I feel or I could feel not, these days are very few and far between. But I feel horrible like, “The world is not great. I’m not great. I feel like a loser or something like that.” But if I can just put that down on a piece of paper to be like, “Oh, that’s right. I still do have really great friends. I still do have a beautiful place to live. My health is still good.” That’s good. My partner, he’s a lovely person and cares about me a lot. That sort of thing. I just put that out on one page, write it out, literally. Then I start my day in a much better place. Most of the time. I’m feeling great. I fly high. And then I can be moved to tears by how grateful I am for my life. Like those are the great days. Awesome.

That’s always every single morning, I’ll probably start my day with black coffee, journaling, gratitude, and then I go into meditation before breakfast.

TAMAR: That’s awesome. I love it. I read The Miracle Morning by Hal Elrod. And I decided that my miracle morning actually spends about 18 hours because when I start my day, like I actually [do??] my  daily regimen. I realize morning is not the best for me when I do journal, but I do it in an app, I do a gratitude journal as well. Also, I exercise only at night. All these things I just want everybody to realize that there is a whole element of more making this a morning thing. Don’t feel like you’re obligated. Some people do not want to wake up in the morning and start thinking about what makes them — I end up reflecting on what made me great, feel grateful over the last like you know, 12 hours, 16 hours of the day. But I totally hear you and I love that and most successful entrepreneurs, as they say usually have some sort of regimen just like that.

MAIJA RUSSELL: I don’t know about you. But I feel like if I start my morning without going into this, I I downslide fast. If I start my morning on social media, my entire vibe is drastically altered to a lower vibration or lower frequency. I am just much harsher on myself. I’m much harsher to others or I get agitated more easily. There is a huge night and day difference between starting my morning focusing on what’s positive in my life and then I can soar upwards from there. Versus starting on a very low level and then just kind of wavering and surviving.

TAMAR: Yeah, I hear you. I like to say like, the last thing I do before I go to bed is I usually do a language lesson like through Duolingo, like to wake up in the morning with still like kind of bringing that in with me. The only reason why I raise this is because if you’re not a morning person don’t feel like this is something that restricts your performance because you can still in the world without making it morning. But I love the fact that you really consolidate it to the morning.


TAMAR: Yeah, it could be starting in the morning or in the afternoon.

MAIJA RUSELLL:  I say morning at seven o’clock, then a really strong night person, I could step until 3am. No big deal. So when I say morning, I’m talking about like 10am. It’s 6am for me working until like 12:30

TAMAR: Yeah, fair enough. That is totally fair. And that you know, that’s the thing. You know, some people’s 6 AMs or 10 AMs. You’ll never know.

MAIJA RUSSELL: I don’t usually say and it makes me a little bit nervous, but it works for me. I’m just very night person.

TAMAR: Right, right.

MAIJA RUSSELL: Well, what are you studying in Duolingo?

TAMAR: Right now, Spanish.

MAIJA RUSSELL: Oh, I think we follow each other. I just forgot.

TAMAR: Yeah, yeah, right now Spanish. I did Hebrew, just because I had a foundation of Hebrew. Yeah, I have Hebrew foundation from, you know, great school and I did finish it. But now I’m trying to: ”Yo aprender English.”  Yeah, definitely I’m gonna have to like after I learned this. I would like to start like listening to it because I still have to think before I talk. Like you just heard. What are you doing? What language are you doing right now?

MAIJA RUSSELL: I’m trying to learn French.

TAMAR: All right, I figured as much it sounded pretty fun.

MAIJA RUSSELL: Yeah, I thoroughly enjoy. But that’s also my evening ritual, the glass of wine and lingo.

TAMAR:   Good for you. Awesome. . So I want to ask a wrap up question for you right now. It’s what I call the Common Scents question. If you can give an earlier version of Maija little bit of advice, what would you tell her?

MAIJA RUSSELL: Oh, girl, please be easier on yourself. The amount of pressure that you put on yourself is unhelpful and unnecessary. What you need more than anything is kindness and compassion, and to allow yourself to be because [there’s??] no more than you think.

TAMAR: I love it. I love it. I also love that you had an answer. Immediately. I asked this question for many, many different podcasts, not all of them. And I realized that I don’t know if I have an answer for you. But you had it.

MAIJA RUSSELL:  That my perfectionism is super strong and real. And it’s not cute. Nobody, nobody benefits from it. So — battle that daily for sure. We’re trying to just be more real and honest and not care so much about trying to be the perfect version of who I think I should be, though.

TAMAR: I love it. I think it’s really, really, really valuable. And I mean, embody your imperfections. That’s sort of the idea of my whole entire fragrance launch. I mean, I had a conversation, I’m not gonna name the person. She is maybe a multimillion dollar owner of a business right now. She kind of inherited it. But she also like, you know, obviously, she’s been the executer. And for that reason alone, I should, quote unquote, respect her a lot. And yes, certainly I respect her opinion. But she had said to me, I don’t like the names of your products. My, the names of my two fragrances are Quirky and Intense. Like, “What if I’m not quirky? I’m not gonna buy your product.”  I’m like, “But that’s not the objective of my products. Quirky is supposed to be about the fact that you know, we aren’t perfect. We do have our quirks. All of us do. I’m sorry to say, even though I don’t necessarily see yourself as quirky.” Yeah, absolutely.

MAIJA RUSSELL: We all have our brand of weird.

TAMAR: Yeah, yeah. And you know what, nobody’s perfect. But it’s about taking and accepting that and appreciating who you are to appreciate you. It is about taking that, putting it on. And coming to the perspective that I love myself, and bringing your hands to your wrist, to your nose throughout the day. And revisiting that mindset. So hey, maybe I’m not perfect, but hey, I can put this on and anchor myself in the present and love myself for who I am. And not be a victim of self-judging and other things that you’ve the perspective that other people have about you.

MAIJA RUSSELL: So yeah, yeah, love it. Cool.

TAMAR: Thank you, thank you. I want people to follow your product launch. I want people to follow you. Tell us where we can find you.

MAIJA RUSSELL: Please, thank you so much. Go to and sign up for the newsletter. Follow us appreciate u app or Appreciate_U_App, that’s what it is at Instagram. We’re posting regularly. I would love to have you a part of us following up. We’re going to send you compliments weekly, just little things to help you move forward and to continue your journey and hopefully help remind yourself that you’re awesome just the way you are. And you know, you don’t give yourself the credit that you deserve there. Let’s start there.

TAMAR: Cool, love it. Yes, absolutely. give yourself credit. You deserve it. And honestly the person the harshest critic, you are your harshest critic. So don’t criticize yourself. Seriously, nobody cares. Like they’re thinking about themselves or not thinking about you.

MAIJA RUSSELL: (Laughter). True, we’re all a bit narcissistic. Unfortunately.

TAMAR: Yep. And the last thing I would just end with is that seriously, like 5,10 years and maybe in 40 years, no one’s gonna know, like, no one’s gonna give to no one’s gonna care that like this, whatever. Hopefully it was left a legacy of, but they’re not gonna think, Oh, well, this person didn’t like slighted me, you know, it’s all it’s all going to be over it’s water under the bridge in time.

MAIJA RUSSELL: With my products like hours and 40 years The world is going to look very different anyway and a much more positive light.

TAMAR: Exactly, exactly. Yeah, yeah, but seriously, what you’re thinking about right now is seriously nothing to dwell upon. And that’s what you need to kind of focus your mind on.

MAIJA RUSSELL: There’s freedom in our own insignificance.

TAMAR: 100% 100%. Cool. Well, thank you. Thank you. Thank you so much for being here and sharing this. I really, really enjoyed this.

MAIJA RUSSELL: I hope you did as well. Oh, it’s such a pleasure. Thank you so much, Tamar.

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