Today, I choose to get over myself

For a long time, I’d avoided sharing the origin story of this business OUT LOUD. In the telling, it was impossible not to relive the vulnerable, painful moments—many of them personal—that filled in the cracks between successes.

Toxic professional and personal relationships. Poor money management. Distraction and disarray. Then just as I crawled out of the bog of years of frustration and struggle, rinsed off the consequences of that “old life,” I lost my father, one of my best friends.

People kept telling me how GREAT I was doing—because I kept moving, quietly, because somehow the business kept growing. They had NO idea.

I didn’t want to bitch about it.

I didn’t want to share it on social-frigging-media.

I had to survive. I had no other choice. Mania was a given. I had to get to this point. 

Ambition is an ego booster and an ego killer in equal measure. The gut-punch thought that you’re still not where you should be kills the sense of achievement. Certainly, you don’t say that OUT LOUD no matter how many nights it wakes you up. (Some might call that masochism—I call it the cycle that gets me out of bed in the morning.)

Publicly as 816 New York, I wanted to project an image: sophisticated, seamless, the “Yeah, I ALWAYS had this.” But the origin story is a pretty big part of the business—and no one buys that you’ve ALWAYS had anything.

So I wrote it, and I found I didn’t have to be vulnerable, necessarily. I didn’t have to go dark or deep—I’d healed. And it was time to de-isolate, to get over myself. Because I was finally living the vision I’d created over a decade ago.

And I shared THAT on social-friggin-media.

Next up: photos

Avoided for the obvious reasons. Self Assurance with Crossed Arms in Studio on a chocolate background. Or Sparkly, Floral, and Cheery Outdoors. Cringe.

No, no, no. NO.

Fatigued by masturbatory, Me-A-Day-calendar social media over-posting, I had long gone rogue about posting selfies or portraits. But I am the LITERAL FACE of 816 New York—the thing we sell isn’t just Brand Services. It’s me. And it was time to show it.

My inner stoic said, “Well, if the photos aren’t great, it’s one afternoon and some money,” which alleviated the anxiety. But another voice needed to be acknowledged and reframed—the one that always hated when the LifeTouch people showed up or when Aunt Sue busted out her instant camera.

What if it were different this time?

What if I just ignored that this made me uncomfortable for, like, 4 hours? And wouldn’t it be the worst to look through a hundred photos and see “I hate this” smeared across my face in every one?

I Got Over Myself.

I give HUGE credit to Brooklyn photographer Matt Stokes, who is as lively as he is endearing. He had read (and understood) my story. He even offered to retouch elements of the photos to match the turquoise of our brand. It is indescribably comforting to work with a professional who chooses to be that engaged with his work. (Because it IS a choice.)

I offered him my concept—to be dropped in the middle of NYC’s gorgeous chaos and infinite variety. And we created it.

I imagined filthy industrial. Elevated planes with crazy architecture backdrops. I saw water and wrought iron. I envisioned wandering-in-the-shot, blissfully unaware, mostly unapologetic people. An organic feel with long exposure. And while I was meant to stand still, I had to beckon them to “Come, no really, it’s OK, get in the shot.” We want your tie-dyed T-shirt, tourist. We love your puffy jacket, angsty local.

We wandered Chelsea, up and down the High Line, seeking the right light and less wind, against dirty buildings and inside sketchy garage bays, ambling along uneven sidewalks in search of a white-black contrast in the Meatpacking District, then among the quintessential NYC brownstone stoops and on benches along the Chelsea Piers, finally against a fading sunset behind the Hudson River.

I’m usually the one watching people. People were watching me.

Hours of this. Hours.

And my own personal photographer.


I mean, what?

A gentleman stopped to ask us which designer we were shooting for. Shut UP. Ego. Boosted.

Now, rather than anxiously awaiting the preliminary batch of photos with trepidation, I am anxious with excitement to see my vision come to life.

So today, I invite you to join me on a journey that isn’t about ego as much as it is about Self. To get over yourself, write your story—your VISION and how you made it happen. What got you here? Isn’t that more interesting than “We sell X to solve Y problems”?

Your story matters. Tell it.

It’s liberating in a way you can’t imagine.

This is a featured series whose purpose is to unite and uplift all those out there trying to create and recreate a better world while balancing internal and external overwhelm. Follow us on Instagram to catch the latest.

Management consultant and brand strategist for small teams. Fan of dark tea, thick books, peace, and unity.

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Maria Hebda
6 years ago

Amazing, Sarah! Your whole article kept me wanting to read more – nice work!​ I REALLY liked your latest posts and how you’re exploding with your brand – great pic of you too! You’re VERY inspiring to me.