Solopreneur Seeks Mentor

Lessons from the Edge

I read the term Solopreneur for the first time this week. It really stuck me. I have been either freelance or an entrepreneur my whole life and it was only this week when another writer had elegantly described it – it is very lonely out here.

Not that I don’t have excellent collaborators and employees. I do. I think I have the best kept secrets around, but when it comes to making the big decisions and the hard decisions for the Company at large.. It’s me, my dog Edi in the club chair, pondering. This week it hit me like a ton of bricks. I need advisors and mentors. I need help.

Clearly I am not alone in this either. We women are at a serious disadvantage in this arena. Woman to woman mentoring is few and far between. Numerous studies show that there is a deep need for it but a equally as deep lack of it. Evidence is in a resurgence of women’s social clubs for professional women like Running In Heels and The Wing. Here you can network, find like minded business owners and share notes, or just get your hair done before an important meeting. There are also countless meetings, summitts and conferences. These are great for finding that someone, but there is a lot of noise to go through first and I need someone fast.

Looking through my own network I can see quite a few men who I both admire and trust with the experience I would like to draw on. I started looking for the women in my network. Now maybe it’s me and my issues, but I really only found one or two. Triple A Studios is a woman owned and operated business focusing increasingly on social issues. Not that a collective of men wouldn’t be valuable, for balance, a woman’s input will be crucial to help fortify our culture and pedagogy.

So, today as I head out to a lunch meeting with a perspective mentor (he doesn’t know I am going to ask him yet so, shh), I will have to keep thinking about who my female support will be.

Anyone looking for an ambitious mentee?

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Personality Conflict

Lessons from the Edge

1210793321_5087There are a couple of personality types that, even I, cannot seem to find a path to symbiosis. Mostly these are due to either cultural bias or prejudice, and not really the personality itself, just it’s affectations, but some  personalities just don’t mix. Believe me in these cases the feeling is very mutual.

In our business it is vital to get along with everyone you can. Event production, hospitality are all about the client, their guests and making them happy. So… what do you do?

The best solution I have found is to try and minimize direct contact with this person, use an intermediary if at all possible.  When you do have to communicate directly, keep it professional, simple, clear and precise. Plan out what you will say beforehand so you are not improvising and possibly make the situation worse. Remember to breath. This person is temporary in your life. At some point the job will end.

Do not bad mouth this person to your crew or express publicly your real feelings anywhere near the event. It’s unprofessional and it will not help you, infact it will only hurt you. Save the bitching and venting for your partner or BFF when you either finish the job or at least get back to your room.

In this instance it is good that we are project based businesses!

Paying our share

Lessons from the Edge

There is a lot of news out there about who paid what taxes. I would like to say that my personal position on this is definitely Alt-Left.. So if that is going to offend your fantasia of free markets, stop reading now.

I am a small business owner. By all rights the creator of jobs and builder of the middle class. We hire employees, put money into the economy both directly and by hiring people, pay taxes and contribute to the over fabric of our collective society and economy.

As a small business, we pay an awesome amount of taxes. The State and Feds almost punish us for existing. There are taxes for being an entity, for payroll, and of course income. God forbid you own property too, commercial real estate taxes are, well, obscene. This is of course on top of everything else being more expensive for a business; business accounts online, business banking, Insurances (there are usually a few kinds), legal support, and more complicated tax preparation. There is more I am sure I am forgetting.

On the whole I do not mind “paying my share”, as the pundits like to say. I actually feel privileged to be able to pay into my employee’s Social Security and Medicare. In fact we do our best to bring all our freelancers and vendors on as part-time employees so we can do this for them and our community.

Income and property taxes going towards public services, like education, is all good with me. I wish it were a better system, but more on that later. A well educated electorate means less crime, more prosperity and a better hiring base for small business and beyond.The_Ant_and_the_Grasshopper_-_Project_Gutenberg_etext_19994.jpg

So, forgive me when I say, f’ck the guy who doesn’t pay up. Not only because usually that means at some point the rest of us will have to compensate, but by not paying in, they are opting out of our entire democratic system. By cheating on our society, they are not investing in it’s future, it’s long term prosperity and security. Immediate gains are exchanged for the rainy day security of a stable economy and nation. Doesn’t anyone remember the Aesop tale if the Cricket and the Ant?

We as a country seem to have lost the long term vision of that shining city on the hill and are focused solely on creating Ebenezer Scrooge’s. I sincerely hope greed and selfishness become unfashionable soon, for all our sakes.

Not a Dys-Ability

I need to rant a little here today…3f4b7446e642eecc10735b7cf43fbae8

As you know I have been doing a lot of thinking, writing and reading on the subject of Dyslexia lately. A list has been made on twitter , News alerts on google, sites bookmarked and I am starting to think about getting re-diagnosed.

All this to say STOP thinking of Dyslexia as a disability. Just cut it out. It is no more a handicap than being left handed makes you the puppet of the devil or redheads turn into vampires when they die. In this culture where being sick is equal to being special, please stop counting Dyslexia among your lazy Susan of options to feel sorry. If I read one more “The Warning Signs” dun dun dun… headline I am going to scream!

Yes, we learn differently. News flash .. everyone learns differently from each other. We are not robots that can all easily fit into the industrialized education system we have made for ourselves. Not all of us fit so nicely in the warehouse model of “school”. It is not the job of “Education” to be a place to stash your kids while you go to work, make the lives of teachers and administrators easy, fit into silent rows of desks or for the love of Peter, expect good results on tests that measure NOTHING.

5009895781_6129f801b0_bCome on people, asking an 8 year of any stripe to sit quietly and still for 8 hours is the real issue here. Those that think this is a good idea are the disabled ones.. How stupid and out of touch with reality do you have to be? I mean really?

Why is it expected for us to conform to your system? We are 1 in 5.. And that is not including all the other learning styles out there.. When did the institution, School, become the god we have to all bow to? Where is the populist revolution I keep hearing about?

Across the street from my apartment is a Success Academy, I here the children chanting daily “Good Morning Miss …, A, B, C,..” and so on, in unison, all neatly lined up in a row against the wall in their uniforms. It makes my skin crawl.. It’s good to teach children to conform and submit to authority early right? Lesson learned at the Success Academy.

There is a huge and widening gap between school and education. Our society is suffering for it. The evidence is in our election choices and the rise of things like racism and isolationism.

Singling out the Dyslexics, spectrum, ADHD, behavioral issued and underserved as the excuse for a broken, ill conceived system is a losing proposition. It’s not the kids or the learning styles that’s the problem.

Further reading: The Dyslexic Advantage, Unlocking the Hidden Potential of the Dyslexic Brain. by Brock L. Eide M.D. M.A.  Fernette F. Eide M.D. (@drseide)

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To my true mind all of the sounds of the alphabet are arbitrarily assigned symbols that represent those sounds. It’s the arbitrary part that always caused me the most trouble. Someone, somewhere in the 1st millennium BCE – likely an old, mean monk – decided the sound “pah” should look like “P” combining at least three different alphabets. Everyone acquiesced and then POOF several thousand years later I am just supposed to agree? (I can hear an english teacher I had in the 8th grade shaking her head and say, ”dear, dear, Aryn, why do make it so hard?”…)

2015-03-05-04-54-34-pmIn a way Dyslexics are natural born linguistic philosophers. No part of letters or numbers is taken for granted. It is only through conscious repetition that sound and symbol eventually get married. Now, you are saying to yourself, isn’t that true for all kids? Yes, to a degree. The difference is that there is always a lingering skepticism. There is always some air between sound, meaning and symbol. This makes reading forever slow.

“The large brown cow grazes in the green meadow.” You skim, “Lg Brwn Cow Grazes Grn Meadow”. I read “The   large   brown   cow   grazes   in   the   green   meadow”. You will forget that sentence by breakfast tomorrow. I will forever have an impression of Ferdinand with a flower behind his ear grazing in the tall green grasses outside of Madrid not remembering where I read such a lovely sentence but glad nonetheless.

Teachers are the saviors for us Dyslexics. (They can also be our biggest hurdles.. I have heard some pretty terrible stories) Good, well trained, patient, loving teachers are what make the difference. I had three that I can remember clear as day. I’m even friends on Facebook with one of them – shout to you MM! There were others, like my Chemistry teacher in the 10th grade who seeing that I was smart, but totally ill equipped for science, and wanting me to at least learn something in his class, let me write a 20 page paper on the Armenian Genocide just to pass – Thank you Mr. A. (He is Armenian and was lobbying in his off hours to have the genocide recognized officially by the UN)

There were also the countless hours with parents and guardians hovering and helping. My step mother would take dictation and type my papers for me. Into the wee hours of the night my mother would all but write my papers for me. Uncle M. would help me with geometry and my poor dad would try and muster the patience to explain multiplication again for the tenth time – 7s still give me trouble. It always confounded him that I could grasp scale, but multiplying 9×7 was torture. All this and the tutors, it truly takes a village.

My stepmother tells this story, she challenged the then headmaster of The Calhoun School to stay true to her word, that they wanted children of all learning styles. It’s right there in the mission statement still, “At Calhoun, teaching and learning begin with the strengths, needs, questions and diverse life experiences of the individual student.” I can promise you telling my stepmom “no” is not easy. So, that is where I went for eight years. Thank goodness I did. Progressive education saved me.

Most class curriculums, including most progressive formats, are based on the concept that you build up on the lessons before it. This is done linearly. The essential assumption in that concept is that the students must commit the lessons to memory and be fluid with the information. Often we do not get fluid and some simply can’t memorize any more than they could turn themselves purple. Imagine trying to do Algebra when you are still counting on your fingers.

Things like Math and Science are taught with a heavy amount of rote memorization and “it’s true because it is so”. We have already established that, for me, that argument is fruitless. I have always wondered how much easier and fun it would be, not just for the Dyslexics in the room, but all the kids, if curriculums were turned upside down and inside out. Teach the concept, the reasons, the stories and then the facts and figures. Use the numbers and signatures to illustrate the content. This way you would have a population that at least understood the basic principles of physics, even if they cannot do the problems. It should be noted here that 1 in 5 Americans are Dyslexic. Progressive could take on a new gravitas and not just be code for small classes and hands on projects.

I have mentioned this over the years to a number of teacher friends and heard all the lazy reasons why it won’t work. I can tell you that A Brief History of Time and The Tao of Physics are among my favorite books. Smart is not the issue. Different is not lesser. Once culture truly absorbs that, then anything could be possible.

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#Dyslexia #DyslexiaAwarenessMonth #Adulting #Education #LearningDisabled #Neurodiversity

Building Castles

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Castle in the Clouds by KatieRuckerArtwork

 

  • Work Hard.
  • Do what you love.
  • Leave every place and person better than when you found them.
  • We are all in this life together, moving toward the same end.

These are my values. The four pillars that hold everything else up. I assume I get them in part from my parents although they were just among the few who raised me. Countless teamsters, carpenters, wardrobe supervisors, chorus girls, production assistants, Sandra, and Unca Mark make up some of the village that raised me. The patchwork of ethics, values and morals is very … colorful. I certainly learned that people and life are kaleidoscope early.

A friend of mine always jokes that she will never play poker with me, having been taught by a teamster in Boston, it’s probably wise. There was a wealth of perspectives, values and prejudices to choose from to be sure. The 12 step tenant “Take what you like and leave the rest” has definitely been something I used to full effect. Those pillars above are what the spinner of life seems to have left as the remaining absolute truths by which I guide all my actions and build all my castles.

Working hard is what I do. I work on myself, work on my business, work at my relationships and work to try and make this world a better place. I love working hard.. In fact one of my favorite projects was re-landscaping my father’s property and doing 90% of the labor on my own. That was extremely satisfying. My Grandfather blames our work ethic on being Irish. I’m not sure.. although we are Irish. When everything starts to fall apart, my go to self help mantra is “Get back to work”. It always seems to pull me out of whatever tailspin I was starting.

Seth Godin has a good posting about this : “When you find a trick, a shortcut, a hack that gets you from here to there without a lot of sweat or risk, it’s really quite rewarding. So much so that many successful people are hooked on the trick, always looking for the next one. … There’s a meta-trick that’s far more reliable. One that works over time and doesn’t depend on avoiding being out-tricked: Make great stuff. Satisfy needs. Do the hard work that leads to growth which leads to investment on its own merit. It turns out that the trick-free approach is the best trick of all.” @thisissethsblog (http://sethgodin.typepad.com/seths_blog/2016/09/looking-for-the-trick.html)

Lucky for me I have built a business doing what I love to do. My dad has often said, “Do what you love and hire others to do the same.” I’ve always liked that quote. Some people love book keeping. I Know right?!? But it’s true, so why take that position away from them? “Work” is not a chore for me. This is where some people get caught up.

Work does not need to be a chore, but work is work and sometimes it is not fun. If what you have is a J-O-B and you are not doing what you love or even like then get out. There are literally thousands of options of what to be and do.. So go find it. Working hard at something you love is a gift.

The other two are the intent by which I enter every interaction. I am a populist at heart and believe deeply we have an obligation to do better in every way than our parents and ancestors. My husband and I tease our son that as long as he is talking about different things than we did in therapy, we did our job right. Everyday building on what came before us and moving toward a better world and culture, with big and small actions, is ultimately why we are all here.

  • Work Hard.
  • Do what you love.
  • Leave every place and person better than when you found them.
  • We are all in this life together, moving toward the same end.

What are your pillars? How do they manifest in your life?

Hospitality

Lessons from the Edge

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Balancing emotional connections and measurable results in your events.

Something that is being lost in the top “whatever” lists, shortcut tips and the motivation to measure every outcome is that we as event professionals are HOSTS. Yes, I said it. We host events above manage, produce or coordinate. Our field of study is in the school of Hospitality after all.

The participants are our guests and it is our primary job to provide them with not only a measurable experience, but as Andrea Driessen (@nomoreboring) says, a meaningful and memorable experience.

The more the event environment is one of inclusiveness and comfort for guests the more they will be able to absorb the purpose and content of the meeting or conference. Your audience has taken time out of their busy lives, away from familiar comforts and family. This is especially true of those meetings that are required of them like sales meetings. Hotels and other venues are often labyrinth like and alien. Coworkers are not usually the preferred “hang-out buddy” and often there are large numbers of strangers. An uneasiness is natural. It has to be our priority to anticipate and have everything in place to help reduce or eliminate this.

Take a page out of the Ritz-Carlton’s Gold Standard as a place to start:

Three Steps Of Service

  1. A warm and sincere greeting.
    1. This is not only a greeter at the door, think bigger than that.
  2. Use the guest’s name. Anticipation and fulfillment of each guest’s needs.
    1. Personalized materials, noted room preferences, meal requirements etc. go a long way.
  3. Fond farewell. Give a warm good-bye and use the guest’s name.
    1. Again, go bigger than just a greeter at the exit.

“They (Ritz Carlton) understand that relationships precede financial results and rely on a robust data set that demonstrates the impact engaged employees and repeat customers have on the bottom line.” – Ryan Estis (@RyanEstis)

For more on the Ritz’s standards – http://www.ritzcarlton.com/en/about/gold-standards

Bottom Line:

Guests who leave a meeting feeling cared for, inspired and valued will return next year gladly and tell their friends. That’s something you can measure!