Vicky Wang, Founder, A Modest Proposal

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Vicky Wang, Founder, A Modest Proposal

City: New York, NY

Passion: Cultivating Wonder

Website: www.amodestproposal.us

When I first spoke with Vicky, I was instantly awed by the clarity and conviction in her voice. She has such a knack for storytelling, it's not surprising she helps orchestrate proposals for a living. Yes, proposals: as in marriage proposals. She can't sleep the night before one she's planned because she's too excited. Meet Vicky Wang: she left the path of law, did some solo traveling then returned home to propose to her long-time boyfriend. Upon her return, she was given the opportunity to help a friend co-plan weddings. She's now found her calling as curator of fairy-tale romantic experiences through her company, A Modest Proposal. She finds inspiration everywhere, so you'll want to call her up for inspiration when you decide you've found the One.  

On Passion

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I live for those moments of wonder, and they can come from anywhere. It can be a meteor shower that illuminates a pitch-dark African sky, impromptu karaoke on a train in Europe, or a bar full of strangers in Iceland singing you Happy Birthday in their native tongue. Since wonder is so important to me, I am constantly on the lookout for it. I’ve discovered that marriage proposals are a great outlet for my passion, as I get to help people create their own moments of wonder.
Proposals are these luminous moments where one person says: you are the one I choose, and I’m putting it all on the line to ask if you will choose me in return. No matter how many proposals I help plan, I’m always in awe of that sentiment and commitment.
I decided to pursue proposal planning when I realized how excited it made me. I am an introvert by nature but when I plan proposals, all the shyness melts away and I become a completely different person because of the excitement.

On Mastery

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When I first started out, I had very little experience so I compensated for this by being overly prepared. Now that I’m more practiced, I’m still prepared but am also more comfortable with leaving room for spontaneity.
The most interesting part of proposal planning is the challenge of crafting a proposal that is unique to that couple. I’m always searching for ways to create new experiences. That’s where curiosity helps. If you’re curious, you’ll always be looking for the small yet meaningful ways to demonstrate a couple’s chemistry. I try to focus on those small insights and translate them into wonder-filled experiences. I enjoy my work so much that I can’t help but look at everything around me through the lens of a proposal planner: if I come across a neat idea or a cool location, I immediately make a mental note so that I can perhaps use it in a future proposal.

On Transition

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Like a lot of other history majors before me, I went to law school, thinking it would be an interesting and rewarding career path. It did not quite work out that way, as I slowly realized how unhappy legal work made me. But even with that unhappiness, the transition out of it was scary because I was leaving this very defined path for an alternative one that had no structure whatsoever. There were moments where I felt like I was in free fall. Something that I had to work on during the transition was not to be daunted by a fear of the unknown. It took time, but I learned that it’s important to be comfortable with being uncomfortable.

On Failure

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My biggest failure so far is my law school experience. It was frightening how much money was sunk into something I didn’t end up pursuing. After moving on from the law, I went through a phase where I felt paralyzed by my mistakes and constantly second guessed my decisions. It took a while to carve out a new path for myself.
I still worry about failure but now I also see the value of being a beginner. As adults, we don’t like to look silly or take risks that might result in failure, so that often hinders us from learning new things. When you look at kids, there’s no such fear — they are always looking at the world in wonder, learning, experimenting, and discovering. It sounds silly, but rekindling that inner kid again can help battle and shield you against your Goliath-sized demons.

On Fear

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I have a fear that what I do today is not as substantive as what I’ve thought I always wanted to do. Marriage proposals are very important for the individuals involved — they are the very definition of life-changing. That said, I’ve always had a strong desire to have broader societal impact; a conviction that came out of my childhood in South Africa during and after Apartheid. I saw injustice there firsthand and it stirred in me an inclination to rectify it. This is the reason I went to law school in the first place, and why I worked for the UN and other human rights organizations. However, after doing that work for a while, I realized I wasn’t ideally suited for it as a career and decided to do something more creative. Once the company is more settled, I still hope to do discrete projects for human rights organizations.

On Money

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I’m on a tighter budget now that I am focusing on my own company compared to when I worked in the corporate world, but I’m ok with that. I’ve learned to be more careful with my expenses and try to be resourceful enough to live a good life.

On Self-Love

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Starting your own business is a solitary endeavor. I’m still getting used to not being constantly surrounded by people but I’m learning to enjoy my own company. There’s a difference between solitude and loneliness and I embrace the time I have to myself and try to use it productively.
On days when I determine my own schedule, I walk everywhere instead of using the subway. Walking around the city helps me stay healthy but more importantly also helps to nurture my curiosity. I once took a two-hour walk, and on the way home I saw a man perform on a grand piano on the sidewalk, participated in an impromptu traffic light group dance, and came across a street with a row of houses that transport you to a picturesque village in Europe. Especially in a city like New York, with its endless possibilities and electric energy, staying open to the unexpected can lead you to new discoveries and hidden gems.

On Inspiration

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Staying curious is key to inspiration. Curiosity also extends to people and their stories: it’s learning the nuances in their relationships and their little idiosyncrasies that make them who they are. This is the basis for how I approach proposals. I had a client whose girlfriend loved spontaneity. So we decided to plan an anniversary around the idea of “choose your own adventure!” It begun with her meeting him at the airport and choosing between 2 envelopes that each contained a ticket to different destinations and at each stop, she was handed more envelopes that she could choose from. I loved that experience because it captured the personality of the couple but also embodied the sentiment that their relationship is an adventure – you choose your partner, make decisions along the way, and rely on each other’s strengths to make the best of situations, come what may.

On Support

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Looking back, I’m awed by the generosity of others. It’s almost serendipitous how I got my start in event planning. I was catching up with a friend and telling her about my new direction when she invited me to become a co-planner on weddings she was working on. Incidentally, she was a law student at the time and I had no idea that she planned weddings on the side. She took me under her wing and very generously shared with me everything she knew. She’s amazing. Had I not gotten experience with weddings, I might never have made the leap to proposal planning.
There have been numerous fairy godparents along the way. It’s important not to be afraid to reach out for support — it can come from the most unexpected places. I’ve been incredibly lucky and am looking for ways in which I can express my gratitude by passing this support forward.

Advice to the Community

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I used to believe that if you were cautious enough and drafted a perfect action plan, then you could not fail. However, this need for perfection is paralyzing and you never actually take that first step and end up failing by default. Don’t let the need for perfectionism and this idea of a perfect outline hold you back. Often times, a crappy first draft or attempt is the most important bridge between where you are now and where you want to end up.

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Garry Bowden, Storyteller

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Garry Bowden, Storyteller

 

City: San Francisco, California

Passions: Storytelling, Filmmaking and Photography

Websitewww.facebook.com/soulsofsanfrancisco

Twitter: @soulsofsf

 

Garry and I agreed to meet at Samovar, a tea lounge that promotes mindfulness (no phone), and serves teas with stories. As soon as my eyes crossed Garry's, I lost my breath. I did not understand why, except that I was in the presence of a very special soul. Garry's calming smile, and the oolong tea, got me to share my life story a few minutes after. Literally. And two weeks later, when Garry published my story on Souls of San Francisco, he remembered every single word I said. Garry has the unique talent of being able to instantly create a space for people to open up and tell their stories, and leave them feeling awesome. To discover his story, Celeste and I followed Garry on the streets of San Francisco to watch him connect with San Franciscans and capture their stories, then hosted him for a Lebanese breakfast. We found out that in addition to his movie-making ventures and his storytelling blog, Souls of San Francisco, Garry is launching his second book that is currently featured on Kickstarter

On Passion

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I found my passion watching movies when I was little. Being in the theater was such an immersive experience. I specifically remember the moment when I saw Glory, with Denzel Washington - I was too young to get it because I was still a little kid and it was about the Civil War, but I got the emotional aspect of it; watching someone die hit my emotional core and I started crying uncontrollably and I remember thinking ‘Wow, movies hit you at a very deep place and I want to be able to do that too.’ I was about 10. After that, I became really into movies, all different types. Fast-forward several years, I’m here in SF at a production film school learning how to make movies. Making movies is so much fun because you have to master so many art forms to make a film.
I learned as much as I could by watching movies, going to school, and observing people and life very intensely. The way I see the world is a direct result of the people I’ve encountered on my path and I’m interested in films because that’s the biggest way to spread your vision. It feels great to come into your own perspective. One you can really believe in, because you have experienced it personally and it’s not second hand info from someone else.
Passion is excitement for being alive and connected with life. You lose a sense of time when you’re in your passion because you’re so engrossed in what you’re doing. I remember when I got my first Mac computer, I sat there and played with it for like 18 hours. Learning iMovie and editing stuff.

On Mastery

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I made films throughout school and some after, but soon realized I needed more resources and help realizing my vision. That’s when I started taking pictures. It was something I could do on my own.
Souls of San Francisco started as a visual journal. I just took my camera everywhere I went and documented all my encounters. I really observed the world around me and learned the art of deep listening. When you listen, you get guidance to follow your passion and build energy through mastery of that passion. When you’re focusing your passion, you’re changing your energetic structure. Souls of San Francisco is a representation of my passion.
I keep my mind on it. Thoughts are energy too. Corporations know that, that’s why they try to fill your mind with thoughts of their products through advertising. What they are really doing is focusing your energy to be fixated on them. When I meditate, I create and reinforce the thoughts I want to be playing over and over in my head. Thoughts of love, harmony, dedication and faith. I think it’s really important to set aside time to program yourself to create the reality you want instead of passively accepting mainstream messaging.

On Transition

 

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I’m still figuring out how to make Souls of San Francisco a living. I’ve been doing Souls of San Francisco for 2 years and things are just now starting to fall into place so that I’m making a living through my art. A friend once told me that if you focus on the vision, the details will take care of themselves when they’re necessary. If you’re in a creative field, creativity and logic are opposites. Creativity is about trusting the abstract, logic is about what you already ‘know’ to be true.

On Failure

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I think you really fail when you stop trying. I haven’t stopped so I’ve never failed. Everything is a learning experience. The key is the shift of perspective to think of every experience as something you can learn from, and grow from.

On Fear

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I have a fear of not being able to support myself in a traditional way; I’ve been figuring out how to be an artist and make my living off of that. I try to keep my mind on positive things because whatever you focus on expands. Fortunately I’ve had a lot of help from my family and community while transitioning. In America, there’s this rugged individualism, you’re supposed to do everything yourself, but that’s not how we’re made. We’re interconnected beings and we need each other to grow. I think that if you need help, you should ask for help - there are more than enough resources here for everyone. Recognize that people like to give. Everyone doesn’t feel comfortable being an artist, but they do like to buy art and support artists because it’s their connection to the creative world.

On Money

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I have streamlined my life many times to better support my creativity. I don’t really drink anymore because it’s so expensive, and it was clogging my creative pipeline. Now I’m a total tea junkie and I much prefer the clarity I have now. I had to prioritize the things I spent money on and my wild drunken nights had to go.
To cope, I constantly try to cultivate positive views about money. I’m not denying myself things, but granting myself access to the things I really want. I saw my friend Eric Nielson, who’s a professional wizard, to help me create abundance mantras and positive perspectives. Things like the idea that there’s enough for everyone; what I have doesn’t affect what other people have. I recite those daily to maintain my perspective of abundance.

On Self-Love

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Self love is treating yourself like you would treat your best friend. I try to not bad talk myself and to be compassionate to myself when I’m going through things.
Meditation and tea ceremony are rituals I really like that help center me. I also journal to keep track of my mind and what I’m experiencing. You become really aware of your patterns when you write about them.
Some form of physicality definitely helps. I love yoga when I need something yin and capoeira or something like that when I need something more active.

On Inspiration

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All the people I meet inspire me, especially in San Francisco because there are so many people doing positive things. And they’re not doing these things simply to get recognition or be famous; they’re doing what they believe in because they want to make the world a better place. My friend Travis is a great example. He does cuddling workshops to help facilitate intimacy and get people comfortable with touch. Every time he greets or says goodbye to anyone, he hugs them. That alone is such a powerful act.

On Support

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I was a huge 2Pac fan growing up. It’s crazy to think about all the things he accomplished at his age. Thinking about it now as a 31 year old and realizing he was 25 when he died is crazy. Bob Marley, I really love him because he seems to be ego-less, all of his music is about uplifting people; it’s not about himself. John Lennon, for disconnecting from the commerciality of the world and speaking his truth.
There’s a great sense of interconnectedness here. I feel like everyone I know supports what I’m doing. There’s such a strong community of artists, progressive thinkers here - and I feel really grateful for them. There’s you guys, Freespace, SF Weekly, and pretty much everyone I know.

Advice to the Community

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Do one thing that challenges you every day. Really try hard to be a friend to yourself and practice self-love. Follow your bliss. Keep your attention on the things that make you come alive. Know that the universe will support that passion. After all, the world’s a better place when everyone is living their dream.

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