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Melissa Bernstein      

Co-Founder and Chief Creative Officer of Melissa & Doug Toys and LifeLines

Melissa Bernstein is an entrepreneur, creative, and working mother of six. In 1988, Bernstein and her husband co-founded Melissa & Doug out of their parents’ garage, and in the years that followed, they built Bernstein & Doug into a wildly successful company. Bernstein has spent the last 30 years helping children discover themselves, their passions, and their purpose through open-ended play. She estimates that she has built more than 6,000 toys in the last three decades!

Despite the early and sustained success Bernstein experienced, she spent her life struggling with existential depression. In 2020, after her own personal journey of self-discovery and acceptance, Bernstein co-founded Lifelines. Through Lifelines, she is using her unparalleled creativity and imagination to reinvent well-being products and experiences that help adults strengthen their resilience, stay grounded, and unlock their full potential.

Speech Topics

The Balance of Work and Life for Supporting Female Leaders

In her decades-long career as a female leader and mother of six, Melissa has encountered countless challenges all too familiar to working women, including the myth of work-life balance, the curse of perfectionism, and a drive to focus on others at the expense of her own well-being. In this open and honest conversation, Melissa empowers working women to foster self-care, self-compassion, and joy as a conduit to well-being and success.

Fostering Innovation and Creativity

As Co-Founder of the tremendously successful toy company Melissa & Doug, Melissa has spent the last 30 years helping children discover themselves, their passions, and their purpose through open-ended play. She disrupted the toy industry through her unparalleled creativity, innovation, and willingness to follow her intuition and learn from failure. In this conversation, Melissa shares five lessons she learned on her entrepreneurial journey and supports participants in thinking about their own process as entrepreneurs.

Let Play Lead the Way

We often think of play as a pastime for children, but the benefits of play are profound and persist to adulthood. In this conversation, Melissa discusses the importance of play and its relationship to our well-being, connection, creativity, and joy. She explores beliefs and barriers that prevent us from playing as adults and ways to harness the power of play in all areas of our lives to become more vital, joyful, and creative.

Ground Through Your Senses

Grounding in the present moment gives our brains a chance to rest, reduces stress, and improves decision-making. In this conversation, Melissa explores how our senses allow us to access a state of mindfulness and experience the richness of our world. She guides participants in identifying the senses that are most grounding for them and in designing a practice to support them in strengthening equanimity and resilience in daily life.

Finding Equanimity

Our intense emotional reaction to triggers is our brain’s way of trying to protect us from experiencing something emotionally threatening. But our triggers limit our ability to connect with ourselves and others, harness our strengths, and act in accordance with our values. In this conversation, Melissa explores the science behind triggers and frames them as gifts that reveal opportunities for growth. She shares strategies that help participants respond rather than react to situations and adopt habits that help them strengthen their equanimity long-term.

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