FEARLESSLY FLYING: Gelie Akhenblit, Owner of NetworkingPhoenix.com

Michelle Micalizzi, Artist
(All Rights Reserved)


10% of the proceeds from the sale of this work benefits
the Contemporary Forum a Support Organization of the Phoenix Art Museum


My muse this week is Gelie Akhenblit the owner of NetworkingPhoenix.com. NetworkingPhoenix.com is a platform for local networkers to connect online and in person through mixers, business events, and local educational partners.


Gelie is exactly the kind of successful business leader that I wanted to talk to when I dreamt up this project. She qualifies in every way.

Gelie is an authentic inspirational speaker and her story is truly unique and one-of-a-kind. I acknowledge that the few brief outtakes I have extracted for the purpose of this blog do not do her justice. I have done my best to extract a few big points from our interviews and her TedX talk, but it is my opinion that you have to both hear and see her tell her story, in her own words, to feel the full benefit of what Gelie’s story communicates. I really hope that you take the time to watch both Gelie’s Fearless Interview and her TedX talk, which are both linked below in this post. Both videos will inspire and educate!

Gelie and I met in late 2009 when I first moved to Arizona. I was one of the thousands of job seekers that were drawn to her site for obvious reasons. I was new to Arizona and in the process of selling a business back East. From the latter, I was in the process of selling the Red Clover Salon and the building, while trying to actively look for a J-O-B in Arizona as opposed to starting another business. I was ready to let someone else worry about the mortgage payment and payroll after the pressure of owning a building, a business and employing people back in Vermont. I first spent several months enjoying the freedom of being totally anonymous in a new city after I had been very active in the business community back East. I was one of two thousand other networkers who met Gelie at one of her Signature Events that was held at, I believe, the Talking Stick Resort. It is amazing given the volume of people we both met that night that not only did we remember one another; we also became instant networking comrades. I truly admired what she was doing so confidently at such a young age. I was a raving fan immediately. I support anyone who is making bold moves; and Gelie is most definitely a bold mover and shaker.

Personally, I love it when I meet another strong woman who embraces both her femininity and power. When strong women meet, we are a relief to one another. I tell you, being a strong woman is not for wimps! Many of us have experienced the “King of the Hill” (or Queen in this case) syndrome. When I was a child we played this game on a pile of rocks in our front yard. My hill included flowers that my mother planted around the rock. As we all know, the goal of the game is to get to the top and then for the “losers” to push the one who was able to reach the top first off the mount. We all silently agreed not to squish Mrs. Micalizzi’s marigolds on the way down when we all inevitably got knocked off. That is kind of like life, when you are on the top of the heap, especially if you are a “strong woman.” I discuss this phenomenon in this blog’s key take away, “Notoriety Has a Learning Curve.” As far as we have come with feminism, there is still a double standard between men and women when it comes to being strong. The term “Strong Woman” can actually be used as an insult. Being a strong woman means that you are a stuck up controlling steam rolling bitch to some less actualized people. I am not saying that this type of woman is not out there. For sure there are people who fit this criteria within both the female and the male camps.

The three biggest things that impress me the most about Gelie are:

  1. Her tenacious, no excuses, and get it done attitude.
  2. She has created a truly benevolent business model and, as such, is leaving a legacy that has helped tens of thousands of people to succeed in a very practical way.
  3. She is a strong woman who embraces her femininity and is not afraid to genuinely admit her own vulnerability.


Gelie took a few minutes out to answer the five Art of Fearlessly Doing Business Questions.



Gelie also did a TedX Talk in Fountain Hills in October of 2015; by far one of the best Ted Talks I have ever heard:




1. Put Yourself in the Path of Opportunity

One of my favorite quotes is by Dr. Lois Pasteur. If you do not know who he is, he developed the pasteurization of wine and milk, discovered the rabies vaccination, and led the medical community to accept the fact that germs existed. Needless to say, he was not an underachiever.

“Did you ever observe to whom accidents happen, in the fields of observation, fortune favors the prepared mind?”
~ Dr. Lois Pasteur.

In part, I think you do need to be prepared for opportunity. Gelie intrinsically knew as a young professional, who had educated herself, and as her parents’ daughter, that you can be the most capable person on the planet but if you are fishing in the wrong pond; living in a restricted environment; losing your soul in a job that makes you want to vomit; or otherwise barking up the wrong tree; opportunity will not find you because the right opportunities for you are not in those places with those people. She knew that she had to actively put herself in the path of opportunity.

I have heard it said that networking is like fishing. If you want to catch the best fish, you have to be sure you are using the right bait and are fishing in the most appropriate pond or ocean! Gelie so smartly states that entrepreneurism is a personality trait. A statement that I can validate in the character of all the entrepreneurs I know and have interviewed; putting yourself out there, amid the right people, is key.

2. Have Fly Girls

I will let you listen to Gelie’s TedX talk to hear her awesome Sink, Swim or Fly presentation. I can not say it any better than she did, that is for sure!

The key thing that struck me about the title of this story is where it came from. When Gelie was at that specific turning point in her life, she told her dear friend, “Well I guess it is sink or swim?” and her friend said, “Gelie you are going to fly.” This friend did not say, “Yup let’s see what happens?” or “What the hell were you thinking!!!” She said in five simple words, the following: “I truly know you. I know your value and have experienced it over and over myself. I have been your witness. I know you have been a diamond in the rough your whole life and all of us who know and love you know that there is no doubt that you were made for greatness and for you it is just a matter of time.” Hearing your fly girls declaring that you cut out playing small and believe that you are the real deal, dry your tears and get on with it is soul saving. These are the sentiments that every woman needs to hear when she is wondering what the hell is coming next or what the hell just happened.

I think that all successful people who take huge risks have a fly team. Speaking as a strong woman myself, I personally think that it is VERY important to have fly girls who truly know who you are, have been in the trenches with you on your journey for an extended period of time and with whom you can tell the whole truth and trust they will give you honest feedback and heartfelt loyal encouragement.

My best friends Peg and Misty are my biggest fly girls but I have an entourage of strong women (and actualized men) whom I call on for support, advice, encouragement and most importantly, comic relief. When you are sleep deprived and delirious, it is important to have a few people who understand your raving incomplete sentence ramblings so that when you are off the phone you are calm again. If you are lucky, somewhere during the rant, they have you laughing. Peg and Misty make me laugh at the lunacy of it all. Laughter is most definitely the best medicine. I do not think anyone truly great does not have a fly team. Gelie has a strong fly team just like I do. WHEW for her!

3. Notoriety has a Learning Curve

Being anonymous has its benefits. One of which is that you do not have to deal with the reality of having notoriety or high volumes of whack jobs making you nuts or stalking you. I admire Gelie’s candor and humility as well as her strength about the topic.

I participated in a training that taught the concept of empathy under stress. The exercise was comprised of reading a paper that was a simple three-paragraph story within a short period of time. The story was typed in very small font. The test was that at the end, you had to be able to answer questions about what you had just read. Easy right? Here was the catch. While you were reading your story, twenty people surrounded you in very close proximity screaming a different story out loud in your ear. Some were laughing hysterically, some were angry, some were excited, some were whispering. It was a very telling exercise and obliviously one I never forgot.

It is very hard to be in charge of any event where you are meeting and serving high volumes of people. Most such events encompass about three hours where you have to communicate with as many people as possible while dealing with all the details, issues, logistics and numerous personalities. Large event planning is not for everyone. Most people have never planned a big event for a large number of people, so they have no idea how difficult it can be to present your best face every single second. You are constantly scanning the situation and your mind is in eight places at one time, in any given moment. This is a challenge for anyone, never mind a twenty-seven year old woman planning events for people twice her age. There is a significant learning curve, and with each event there is always a new lesson.

4. Do What Scares the Crap Out of You

Gelie states in both our interview and her TedX talk, that it is not that she is fearless, but rather that she just finds a way to push through. She spent her childhood translating for her family in all kinds of circumstances that a child usually is not part of. The benefit of this kind of childhood is that it gets you really comfortable with being uncomfortable. Many of the entrepreneurs that I have interviewed have told me that fearlessness is really just about moving forward in spite of discomfort or dis-ease. I also believe that with each unknown, we conquer or fumble and add experience to our life’s belt.

Experience is the antidote for fear. Once you have fallen on your ass in public, it is less of a big deal to fall again. Experience teaches you that after such a moment, you need to take a deep breath (or two), have a good cry, and a few ranting sessions with your fly team, so that you can get back up on your feet and start again. Sometimes you hobble along for a bit, but in time you always end up flying yet again . We just try again every day. We push through.

5. Never Let Yourself Down

I LOVED the moment at the end of this interview where Gelie got a lump in her throat when she acknowledged the fact that she has never let herself down. My amazing father used to say to me, “Shell, every day I look in the mirror. I look myself square in the eye and I can live with myself because I know I have given it my all and my very, very best.” This is something that has stuck with me my whole life. So if you could have seen me on the other side of the camera, I had a huge knowing smile on my face and a tear in my eye.

Now, not letting yourself down does not mean that you always win. Sometimes you lose. Sometimes you get the shit kicked out of you quit frankly. Sometimes you make mistakes and are out and out wrong. Sometimes you really miss the mark. Instead, not letting yourself down is about, within your heart of hearts, totally knowing who you are, believing in yourself and your ability, and knowing that, without a question of a doubt, you did the very very best you could. You held nothing back. You did not make excuses for yourself. You showed up for your life with all you had. You did not cut corners. You tackled the world full on without safety nets. In short, you honored your promises to yourself.

When you meet Gelie, you quickly recognize her strength and you know without a doubt that every day she gives a 120% to herself, her gorgeous daughter, and to her life’s mission. When you approach life in this manner, you can genuinely find relief and peace in saying, “I never let myself down.”

Thank you so much Gelie for taking the time out to be one of the Fearless 13! I look forward to seeing you again at the Art of Fearlessly Doing Business Art opening on May 5th at DeskHub – Scottsdale from 6-9PM.

Note from the Artist


I knew there were fish that flew but I had forgotten about them. In my research for this illustration, when was reminded of them, I laughed. That laughter means I have the inspiration for the panel. When we think of flying, we naturally think of birds, however, I was thinking of birds or planes. The idea that a fish that swims can also fly is a symbol of an odd creature with multiple skills. Gelie has many talents. She can swim and fly. Also, I have always loved the metaphor about networking being like fishing. So the flying fish is the perfect representation for Gelie. I contemplated including more fish to symbolize networking, but then decided that I do not have to make a school of fish – we all know they are there, under the water waiting for Gelie when she re-enters that water to swim with them once more. One of the compelling traits of all innovators is the ability to stand-alone behind their ideas, which is why this piece is about one fish and not many. Gelie is also embracing flying on her own as a relatively newly single woman! 

Work opened on May 5, 2017 at Fearless Art Works.

#Fearless #AoFDB #Entrepreneurship #VisualJournalism #ContemporaryForum #PheonixArtMuseum #ContemporaryArt #Art #OneThing




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by Howard Schultz & Dori Jones Yang

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