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Lessons from the Edge

It important just to start.. I had breakfast with one of my favorite people, Amy, the other day and after patiently waiting for me to finish describing all the things I was doing BEFORE I started going after new clients, she smiled and said, “why not just start?” Isn’t it a girl issue to wait until everything is perfect before we go after what we want? We tweak, fluff, jooj, stress and pick. However, we actually don’t go after what it is we are fussing about.

It is a proven fact that this is a very common affliction for women in particular. Being right and perfect is nonsense and needs to be surgically removed from our heads – NOW!  This affects a lot of us, the anxiety of being exposed and “out there” can be palpable to all walks of life.

Mistakes will happen. It’s part of life. Double posting is something I end up doing often cause some setting is on when it should be off and spelling errors?!? .. god knows I have loads of those.

Get it out there.. do it now. Life is messy, humans are messier.

My favorite Dr Seuss quote : “Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.”

Bottom line:

Your audience is waiting for you. Get your message to them before they think you are not coming.

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Diagnosis:

10433075_10152527244942049_7538247378482333601_nIt was 1980. I was just turning 8 years old. I could not read, write or do any arithmetic. No, I was not an orphan or growing up in the developing world … It was the Upper West Side of NYC and my parents are creative entertainment professionals – we had a nice middle class life.

My Montessori school teachers, sweet as they were, missed all the cues and I was very creative in my answers. Fooling them was easy. I would even sit in the “Reading Area” for the free periods and mimic all the other kids reading. I was not reading. I was looking at the pictures and gleaning the stories from the adventurous illustrations of Dick and Jane. Lucky for me there weren’t any math quizzes.

Enter 3rd grade.

This meant a new school and books without pictures. I was screwed.

There was a test called the ERB which was the key to a shiny new school, but the test was opaque. There were no pictures, just a mess of black symbols and a pretty pink slip with lots of bubbles on it. We were instructed to fill in the bubbles with our new #2 pencils. The prompter read some of the questions aloud. “Ms. Chapman please stand up. How do you spell People?” I was stunned. Everyone was looking at me. My palms went clammy. What should I say? .. the truth.. “Miss, I don’t know enough people to be able to spell them for you” and I sat down quickly feeling proud of myself until I saw her frowning face. That was not the answer. She thought I was being obstreperous. What she did not know is, I genuinely did not understand her question, I thought she wanted me to explain people to her. It was such a fancy test after all.

The real truth is I could not have spelled out the letters P-E-O-P-L-E with a gun to my head. I had only just learned to spell “Friday” and was still pretty pumped about it. Why couldn’t she have asked me about that?

My new school was torture. I did not understand the other kids and they did not understand me. My classes were opaque, confusing and frustrating. I kept hearing about my potential, intelligence, verbal skills and precociousness .. but I was failing badly. The adults faces would always go grey and sour when talking about my school performance.. I knew something was wrong. I knew something was wrong with me.

What came next was a wash of testing. My memory of this is like a photo montage in a movie.. There were hearing tests, vision tests, physicals, neurological tests and IQ tests with blocks. My parents did not inform me what all the fuss was about, so I went through thinking that maybe all kids got to do this. You know what?  I am not “retarded” or as we would say in today’s terms “On the spectrum”

A brand new diagnosis had emerged in mainstream called Dyslexia.

Here is the official definition:

“Dyslexia is a specific learning disability that is neurobiological in origin. It is characterized by difficulties with accurate and/or fluent word recognition and by poor spelling and decoding abilities. These difficulties typically result from a deficit in the phonological component of language that is often unexpected in relation to other cognitive abilities and the provision of effective classroom instruction. Secondary consequences may include problems in reading comprehension and reduced reading experience that can impede growth of vocabulary and background knowledge.”

The short of it: trouble reading, writing and learning math. Other symptoms include having no sense of direction or time and trouble learning a foreign language. The upside? Creative out of the box thinking.

I often joke that English is not my first language, Dyslexia is, so learning a third like French, chemistry or math is really too much to ask.

Anyway, since it was so new, getting help was not easy or cheap. I was promptly asked to re-do third grade. A huge blow to my confidence and in my mind rendering anyone who ever commented on how smart I was as a liar and moron. What good was being smart? A cascade of tutors and therapists followed. I think at one time I had tutoring three times and therapy once a week. One of my tutors was in this really bad part of town (Chelsea in 1981 was not pretty) and her house smelled like cats.. Another would act books out with me using Smurfs, that if I completed my reading, I would get to keep. (Remind me to tell you the Othello story) I hated going to them, but without them and their infinite patience I would never had made it through school or found my way into Milan Kundera’s beautiful novels.

Eventually I got the hang of it and went on to Bennington College and The American University in Paris. Turns out doing school is building a series of habits, like everything else. Reading is still slow, math is for calculators and my fabulous book keeper.. writing requires drafts and thank god for Siri for everything else.

The biggest advantages Dyslexia gives you are profound coping mechanisms and solutions for everything in daily life. My son said to me the other day, “Mom, you are really good at this adult stuff.” I credit my Dyslexia, at least in part, for that and I am grateful.
#Dyslexia #DyslexiaAwarenessMonth #BenningtonCollege #Adulting #Education #LearningDisabled #Neurodiversity

#Networking – Where do I go?

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Find a group or organization that offers valuable information and potential connections.

This can be a challenge, especially if you are just starting out. We struggle even now finding ones that are the right fit. Here are a guide from a previous post:

On a scale of 1-10 how influential will the speakers and/or other guests be to my:

    1. Inspiration
    2. Education
    3. Connections

If it’s 4 or higher, start planning your outfit. Even if there is a 40% chance you might meet someone who says something that inspires you it’s worth giving it a try.

  • Is the host a friend/contact/work associate?

If yes.. You are going for sure.

  • Were you invited directly?

Not by a mass email promotion, but did someone say, “Hey Aryn, come to my event.”?

Always go where you are invited. It’s a good policy that will reap huge benefits.

  • Is it in a venue or neighborhood that interests you?

Being in the events business, I like to see and experience different venues and neighborhoods. I use the event as an excuse to scout.

A few places to start:

MeetUp offers a wide variety of groups, everything from professional book clubs to lawyer’s play racquetball. These tend to be free, but check your specific ones for details.

Another great out of the box option is Toastmasters. It sounds crazy, but dedicated professionals are always looking to better themselves, and this is one of the places those people go.

Professional organizations are usually formed around the idea of networking, it’s their mission to get you connected. Reach out to them directly or search their websites for information. Depending on the costs, it may or may not be worth joining. See if the events/education opportunities look interesting to you first.

In the events world, we joined a few: Meeting Professionals International (MPI), Professional Convention Management Association (PCMA) and the International Live Events Association (ILEA). These memberships are not cheap, so you will have to weigh the benefits for you. Then the key is to actually go to the events they offer.

Industry meetings and conferences can be a great place meet new connections and clients. Again these can be costly both in time and resources so choose wisely.

Here are some things to look for:

  • How big is the event? If you are comfortable standing out in a convention center filled with people, bigger is better. If you are someone, like us, who likes smaller, more intimate workshops and discussions that’s the one for you.
  • Is Networking built in? In either case above, look at the agenda. If it is wall to wall keynote speakers and lecture style breakouts, there won’t be a lot of time for meet and greet.
  • Are the speakers and subjects a fit for you and what you are looking for?

Some other ideas are; your local business district offices like ours – WHBID, Small business bureaus, your local Departments of Commerce and our favorite, start your own group on Facebook, LinkedIn or MeetUp and see who shows up.

Tip: Once you find an event, look and see who is speaking and/or attending. Look them up on LinkedIn or Twitter before the event (not in a stalkery way). Pull out some details and facts about their work to have conversation starters. Reaching out to them directly also can be great and arrange to have a drink/coffee together there.

Take a professional development class. This is a great way to meet peers, if not potential clients. There are many resources for this. Most universities have continuing education courses and most professional organizations either host classes or can point you in the right direction. Again, these can be costly, so make sure it is something you really want and /or need to do.

Our next networking post we will get you ready for your first event.

^Ax3 #Networking #Friendshelpfriends

Existential Morning

 

Finding your authentic self. That is the key to any happiness. Honoring it and being brave enough to live in that space is the ultimate goal. That could look like anything and if you are in that space then there is no comparison to celebrity or the Joneses that matters.

After the milestones and life’s to do list, what do you have left? The parties, birthdays, successful interviews, deaths, divorces, the 4441155157_3d7449b5c7_o-670x496whirlwind of updates and posts.. What are you left with? Trimmings don’t make the meal.

With infinite possibilities for direction and distraction comes infinite confusion, stress and anxiety. For the inner self the world was easier and a better place when it was small. People knew their futures and where they fit or not. Even if they chose to rebel against it, at least they had a boundary to push against.

This is the modern depression. This is the modern quest for self, true self, not a rented self.. The space that you find deep in your heart where you feel like you did before all the noise started pouring in. The “you have to be pretty”, “you have to be strong”, “you have to be rich”.. All those messages, not just from the world, but from your parents molding you in their own image. The self without labels.

Who am I? This existential quest is more acute now than ever. Couched as “your personal brand” can only come from really understanding who you are and why. Although the marketing lingo sounds trite and frivolous, the heart of it is important. If as a culture and species we are to thrive in this brave new noisy world, finding that inner compass is essential. Ownership of your identity and self is essential.

Every book on business development, marketing, and self help… any book written with an eye towards bettering the person reading it in the last ten years, has at least a chapter in this vein. It is clearly a need that is basic and pervasive. This is only going to increase as Millennials begin their searches after a lifetime of being lorded over by helicopter parenting.

I would have to say that since high school these have been the questions I have asked myself:

  • What am I good at?
  • What do I love to do?
  • What is important to me?

Lately I have started ask myself why.

  • Why is producing events so attractive to me?
  • Why do I love production so much?
  • Why is supporting advocacy and equality so important to me?

Unpacking the “Whats” is my current stage of self understanding. I have a pretty good idea of the things I am good at. Some of them are marketable, like my organizational skills, ability to listen and lead a team and some are not like cracking myself up or hanging out.

For a long time I just accepted what is and what was. Maybe it’s a result of being a child of a crazy household, having to just accept the state of things and go from there. It became habit not to look too closely or dig into why things were the way they were because ultimately it did not matter why.

Now, I want to understand how I got here and pull apart the details of why. It’s important to me as my son is getting ready to take flight and I get my life back to understand myself and how I can contribute to the world around me in a meaningful way. Building this new habit and “personal brand” will take some discipline and some courage.

“The authentic self is the soul made visible” Unknown

I am up for it.

 

Related questions that I ponder:

  • Will Millennials ever be able to find themselves having had their helicopter parents in their hair since birth?
  • What are the cultural ramifications of a generation that has no self ownership?
  • What role does religion and God play in the search for self and is the modern absents of those things contribute to the cultural existential crisis?

 

#PersonalBrand #SelfOwnership #Identity

Thinking About Networking

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It’s who you know and have built relationships with more than anything else that gets you where you are and where you want to be. Expanding that base in a meaningful way is not easy. No, it is not enough just to have 1000+ connections on LinkedIn. In comes the Networking Event.
I hate them, love them, hate them, love them… Some people excel at them. I do not. There have been times when I could muster being “on” and then they were fun. Most often it is a struggle just to convince myself to sign-up, muchless go.

Here are the four things I ask myself to gage if it’ll be worth the effort:

  • On a scale of 1-10 how influential will the other guests be to my:
    1. Inspiration
    2. Education
    3. Connections

If it’s 4 or higher, start planning your outfit. Even if there is a 40% chance you might meet someone who says something that inspires you it’s worth giving it a try.

  • Is the host a friend/contact/work associate?

If yes.. You are going for sure.

  • Were you invited directly?

Not by a mass email promotion, but did someone say, “Hey Aryn, come to my event.”?

Always go where you are invited. It’s a good policy that will reap huge benefits.

  • Is it in a venue or neighborhood that interests you?

Being in the events business, I like to see and experience different venues and neighborhoods. I use the event as an excuse to scout.

Meet-Ups, professional associations and schools all offer opportunities to connect with new people. They all require time, effort and sometimes money. Both time and effort are extremely valuable, they are your most precious asset. Choosing which event or gathering to go to can be as stressful as walking in that room of strangers. Take my list above and add your personal touch and use it as a guide. Sometimes a quick supportive nudge from your friend or partner helps too.

Bottom Line: Pick your networking wisely and try to have fun!

^Ax3 ^AC #Networking #Business #FriendsHelpFriends

The Boss

Lessons from the Edge

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Who is the boss?

In my business the client is the boss. The client does not however, always know what’s best, that’s why they hired you. While it’s not a good idea to pull out the creative integrity, or reputation argument too much or too soon. If the client is compromising your ability to do the job they hired you for by delaying the process to an extreme, sabotaging your relationships or other wise being truly naughty, then you have every right to stand up for your brand. Do it professionally and do it in writing. Once the situation is resolved amicably, seriously re-consider keeping them as a client in the future.

Bottom Line: Life is too short for bad business.

Blended

Lessons from the Edge

So, you’re the new guy to a seasoned team. Your young and ambitious and feeling like you want to make your mark. After all, the big bosses are watching.

Let me suggest not putting the project into the blender and hitting whip. Hang back, make yourself useful, keep asking what you can do to help and try it the tried and true way the team has established first. Keep notes and after the project is completed, in post-mortem, add your suggestions.

Bottom Line: Your new team will not only feel respected, you might learn a thing or two.