At a crowded brunch at New York’s Pastis, Christina Vuleta (pictured) was serendipitously struck with an idea: a mentoring forum named 40:20 Vision, where women in their 40s can pass on their perspective and advice to women in their 20s. Two years later, and currently a blog and a frequent in-person meet-up, 40:20 has become responsible for bringing 20-somethings face-to-face and blog-to-blog with the very women that can help them. Covering such topics as friends and family, self and wellness, and finances, the blog is a multi-generational advisory panel where both parties can write in and ask questions, anonymously or not.
At a café, my 20-something self spoke with Christina’s 40-something self, which lead to the later opportunity of attending one of 40:20’s in-person meet-ups, known as 7×7 mentoring salons. At the salon—which was a unique 7×7 reunion event—I witnessed 40:20’s networking magic in action, as experienced 40-somethings and aspiring 20-somethings connected with each other on professional and personal levels, leaving with more than just a business card.
Here, founder and trend consultant Christina shares 40:20’s roadtrip-filled journey, 40-somethings’ thoughts on Girls, and the power of taking shortcuts.
Where were you in life when you came up with the idea for 40:20 Vision?
I was at a point where I loved my job, and things had finally really come together for me professionally. Personally, I had just been married for several years. It’s funny that I quit my job at a time when I actually was at the height of my career.
Tell me about that fateful brunch at Pastis.
I was with seven 40-something girlfriends at Pastis, and we were waiting in line for a table. We noticed these two 20-something women at the bar. They asked us for advice about living in NYC, our careers, how we navigated it all. When my friends and I finally got to our table, I said, “I wish we could just bottle this advice and give it to those girls, because they’re so amazing, but they don’t have any idea how amazing they are.” One of my friends said, “You have to live it to learn it, there’s no way around it.” And I responded, “Well, who says?” I looked around the table at the seven woman whom have all made such different decisions regarding dating, marriage, careers. We’re the first generation of women who have benefitted from making choices and actually doing the things we want to do. We have so many perspectives to share. And that’s when I realized I had hit upon something.
And did you run home and start brainstorming ideas?
Yes! That day I came up with the name “40:20 Vision” after we talked about 20:20 hindsight at the table, and I literally went home and began a business plan on making it into a book. I thought it would write itself, and that I could just email all my 40-something friends and compile the one advice they offer, but they didn’t answer my emails right away, and they didn’t think they had much to say. So I decided to research. I quit my job and roadtripped around the country for six months, interviewing a wide variety of women, building off of connections from friends and family and colleagues.
What quality did you find universal among all of these women?
That we’re always comparing the worst of ourselves with the best of others. We compare our inner insecurities with the outside picture other people show to the world. But everybody’s got their shit, which is why you have to care less about what other people think.
What’s something someone said in an interview that’s resonated with you ever since?
One woman in California said, “I’m past the period of my life where I’m filling my life. Now I’m at the point where I am fulfilling my life.” I thought that was so insightful. You fill your life with things, and to-do things, and the fear of missing out, and then you come to a point where you finally allow yourself to become selfish. You focus inward, which actually leads you to give more to others.
It’s strange how your 20s is considered an era of selfishness and “living for you,” when really it’s a time when you’re faced with so many choices and so much paralyzing judgment surrounding those choices.
Exactly. Lena Dunham made a great point in an interview. She said "20-something women have self-confidence, but they don’t have self-worth.” The 20-somethings are so seemingly self-confident today, doing lots of diverse things and are so smart, but it’s hard for them to respect themselves because they still haven’t truly been tested yet. This shows up in the way they allow others to treat them.
What do 40-somethings think of the show Girls?
Some really love it, some hate it. Some find it too whiney and self-absorbed. I asked 20-somethings, and they said it felt realistic, but not aspirational. With Sex and the City, they aspired to have that lifestyle, even though it was not realistic. But with Girls, no one aspires to be them. The 20-somethings I spoke to definitely did not relate to the way the Girls are supported by their parents, since most 20-somethings take pride in their career and supporting themselves.
Perhaps because the Sex and the City characters were in their 30s, not their 20s, so they have their lives together a bit more.
Perhaps. Which is why 20-somethings can relate to the Girls not knowing what they’re doing at all.
Tell me about your in-person 7×7 mentoring salons.
7×7 is the off-line version of 40:20 Vision. It brings together seven experienced 40-somethings and seven aspiring 20-somethings to meet and discuss topics like entrepreneurship, career change, and personal finance. Networking is great, but these salons fast-track it a bit. In one night, you can find the person who relates to what you’re doing, and can affect your career. Some of these women who’ve met have become very close friends.
So what do the 40-somethings get from their mentorship of 20-somethings?
Besides just feeling good about helping them, the 20-somethings have showed them how to work the system and cut through lines. The younger group is pretty scrappy and unafraid of cutting through the system, while the 40-somethings are used to a more formal approach, so they’re learning this from them.
How do you see 40:20 expanding? Into 40:60, a book, TV show?
All of the above. It’s an idea that can become so many things. I feel like I’m creating a movement that gives people shortcuts in their lives, whether in relationships or their careers. The feedback I’m getting from the blog and 7x7s is that one connection can make a huge impact. If 20-somethings knew their power, this world would be a crazy place.