Archive for March, 2012|Monthly archive page
Wow, it’s three days into spring and I’m already wondering where the time has gone. We’re all familiar with the traditions of spring. It’s time to commence spring-cleaning, get outdoors and be active. In general, spring is a time for renewal.
With that said, I thought that today would be an appropriate time to revisit my New Year’s Resolutions. You didn’t forget already, did you? Only 84 days ago, most of us made individual goals. Whether we wanted to be more positive in 2012, to eat healthier, or to try new things, we all made promises towards self-improvement.
Looking back at my own resolutions, I’ve done pretty well. I’ve dedicated more time to the things I love and I’ve managed to live a healthier lifestyle. There are a few moments when I catch myself falling back on old habits. Occasionally, I worry too much about what others are thinking. But this is one of the many reasons why I’m thankful for spring. The time of renewal allows me to sit back and re-evaluate my plans. At this point, I’ve been working towards my goals long enough to determine if they’re truly opportunities for growth, or if I’m needlessly stressing myself out by not eating sweets. Today, I’m performing a spring-cleaning of sorts with my resolutions. Out with the negatives – but the positives will remain.
So, how have your resolutions been going?
Music has always been present in my life. I remember hearing Nat King Cole and Ella Fitzgerald’s lyrics float from my Grandmother’s room into the hallway. Often times, I’d play old vinyls on our record player in the family room. As a kid, I had no idea who The Sugar Hill Gang was, but I sure did turn the music up and dance until I exhausted myself. Little did I know that my Grandmother’s favorite Jazz musicians and The Sugar Hill Gang, while very different genres, shared a common root – the Blues.
True Blues is a transmedia effort towards the cultural preservation of Blues history. Daniel Patinkin (producer/director) and Corey Harris’s (Producer) project includes a feature-length documentary (currently in production); concert tour, including a stop at The Howard Theater in DC; and a CD. The documentary examines Blues’s influence on other genres such as, contemporary Jazz, Hip Hop and Rock as well as the works of current Blues musicians. True Blues‘s first concert will feature, Taj Mahal (Grammy Nominated; video below), Corey Harris (True Blues Producer and MacArthur Fellow), Guy Davis and Alvin Youngblood Hart. If you’re in the DC area on April 22, I encourage you to attend. You’ll get a chance to hear talented musicians and scope out the theater’s $29 million renovation.
Patinkin and Harris have started an IndieGoGo campaign. They’re hoping to raise $15,000 by Friday, March 30th. Check out their fundraising page! Contribute for the great perks, or even for the simple fact that, you want your children to understand what I did not, music’s profound cultural influence.
Donate to True Blues: IndieGoGo
Connect to True Blues: Facebook
All things in life seem to come full circle, now, Thankful For a Million has done the same. Monday, I was thankful to feature an interview with Scott Gerber on entrepreneurism. Wednesday, I was fortunate enough to share an interview with Dyllan McGee, the Executive Producer of MAKERS: The Women Who Make America. And, Today, I’m pleased to have an interview with author, speaker and blogger Courtney Martin. Martin isn’t only an entrepreneur, she’s also featured as one of MAKERS 100 women! Martin’s works are varied and insightful. She’s written, Do It Anyway The New Generation of Activists, given a speech on activism at the TEDWomen Conference in 2010, received the Eli Wiesel Prize in Ethics and has contributed to news publications from The New York Times to Glamour.
Recently, Martin wrote an article, “How I Became My Own Mentor in a Freelance Economy.” This was the first article of 2012 that resonated with me. She is hopeful in her discussion of being a freelancer. And, as someone who’s successfully been able to support herself writing books, op-eds, speaking and blogging, she has extremely valuable advice. Martin, 32, has shaped her career by pulling little bits of information from every experience. She continues to fearlessly pursue her passions despite being without a roadmap.
I was beyond thrilled when Martin agreed to do a Q&A. Below, she discusses being an entrepreneur, developing a personal statement and successfully coping with the inevitable instability of a freelance lifestyle.
In your article, “How I Became My Own Mentor in a Freelance Economy,” you said that the life of a freelancer suits you. What advice would you give to those who’ve found themselves having to become increasingly entrepreneurial, even though it isn’t in their nature?
My first advice would be that people look at the circumstances, which are forcing them to become more entrepreneurial even though it’s not in their nature. Are they trying to work in a field that doesn’t fit them? Are they trying to achieve someone else’s definition of success? We face real, worthwhile struggles in life and sometimes these struggles are critical for our growth. Other times, we continuously hit our heads against the wall because we haven’t taken the time to step back and look for the door. For those who determine that they want to become more entrepreneurial, even though it’s not in their nature, I would advise breaking down the big, intimidating concept of entrepreneurship into component parts and then tackling them one at a time. Maybe one week, you challenge yourself to do an environmental scan of your field. The next, you challenge yourself to make one key relationship with an influencer that you think can help further your work. The next, you ask someone who you deeply respect to mentor you.
At what point in your career did you realize that having a personal mission statement would give you a clearer sense of where you wanted to devote your energy? Have you ever had to commit to something that didn’t fit your plan?
I’ve never committed to something that I found morally repugnant, but I’ve certainly done plenty of work that didn’t make my heart sing. I think that part of developing a career and growing up requires humbling yourself, doing work that may not perfectly match what you think you want to do with your life, and letting it inform and influence your path. After all, it’s important to learn what you don’t want to do or who you don’t want to be. I had this sense at a fairly early point in my career, especially as I recognized that what I was doing didn’t look like anything my parents or other adults in my life had done. When I’m lost, I write, so it’s not really that surprising that I intuitively started articulating a personal mission statement.
As a freelancer, you often have to have many projects on the go. What do you do to maintain sanity when it feels as though some projects have stalled?
Compartmentalization is key to my sanity. Years of freelancing and collaborating have really taught me how to devote huge energy into planting seeds, but then be able to move on to the next project until all that early work ripens–whether because the time suddenly becomes right, the perfect partner comes along, or the organization finally “gets it.” There’s just no other way to operate in a life like mine.
Overall, do you think that the changing economy has allowed people to pursue more fulfilling careers in non-traditional areas?
I certainly do, but I might be considered myopic since that has been the case for me. I know hundreds of people, young especially, who are creating meaningful, flexible work lives. They tolerate more insecurity and less institutional support than ever before, but they also live deeply satisfying and exciting lives.
I am most happy when in a conscious state of gratitude, that’s for sure. I’m grateful for my family and friends, my various incredible collaborators and teachers, my mentors and mentees. I’m grateful for my gifts and the ways I’ve been able to use them to create understanding, inspire, be of service. I’m grateful to live in this wildly complex, incredible beautiful time. I’m especially grateful for my partner John, who supports me every single day in ways huge and tiny, and my parents, who taught me to trust my outrage, be kind to everyone, and curious about everything.
Last year, an elder told me to step into the darkness. They said that no matter what I wanted to do, to go forward despite my fears. I was assured that once I took a step, I’d realize it was much lighter than I’d imagined. Martin’s success and advice are reflective of just that.
Thank you, Courtney for serving as a positive example of what is possible if you take a chance, follow your passions, adapt and stay true to yourself.
Hopefully this provides a little inspiration as you head into the weekend. Because as we all know, an entrepreneur’s hustle doesn’t end because it’s a Friday!
Check out Courtney’s MAKERS profile:
Follow Courtney on Twitter: @courtwrites
Happy Thursday everyone! This is a short post to send out a personal thank you.
Yesterday, I received a really lovely message from a reader. She submitted the following, in response to my question, ”What are you thankful for?“
People like you, who make websites like this.
Thank you, Diana for contributing to the blog. I’m thankful that there is content that resonates with you.
I welcome more responses, as I hope that this can become a communal space. Sometimes it’s easy to forget the positive aspects of your life. You never know, someone may see what you’re thankful for and realize a treasure of their own.
Enjoy the day!
So what if International Women’s Day was last week? Filmmakers Dyllan McGee, Betsy West and Peter Kunhardt have created MAKERS, a digital platform that encourages us to celebrate contemporary influential women, every day.
MAKERS, a project developed by AOL & PBS, has only begun as a digital interface. The feature length documentary will air on PBS in early 2013. This film originated as a chronicle of Gloria Steinem‘s life. McGee, Kunhardt and West wanted to recount Steinem’s monumental role in the Women’s Rights Movement. Ultimately, it evolved into a profile of 100 inspiring women who’ve made America what it is, including: artist and activist, Faith Ringold;Vagina Monologues playwright, Eve Ensler; comedian, Ellen DeGeneres; and the first female Supreme Court Justice, Sandra Day O’Connor. Each woman details their long journey to personal and professional success.
Their stories are truly inspiring. I spent nearly an entire day going through videos that incited genuine moments of tears and laughter. And, while not all of the women profiled were interested in becoming figure heads in the Women’s Movement, their work has undoubtably blazed a trail for every woman who’s followed.
Dyllan McGee was kind enough to answer a few questions about the project and give a little advice to future documentary filmmakers.
How did you shift from the singular story about Gloria Steinem, to the much greater undertaking of profiling 100 influential women?
We chose to focus initially on Gloria – as for many years she was one of the most prominent faces of the women’s movement in the modern American Women’s movement. However when we spoke to her, she quickly stressed the multitude of women who have been involved in the movement and that inspired us to broaden our focus. Over time, AOL and PBS got involved and the concept grew and grew – to the point we are now – with hundreds of stories from these trailblazing women.
How did your partnership with PBS, AOL and Simple Skin Care develop?
We brought the idea to both AOL, a premier digital media company and PBS, the nations largest non-commercial media organization because of their unique audiences and reach. We then worked with them and developed the aim of creating the largest and most dynamic collection of women’s stories ever assembled. Making its debut in the US, Simple sought to celebrate women who make America great and were therefore a natural fit to present MAKERS.
Will this project continue beyond the initial 100 women?
Yes – this is only the beginning! There will be new content that’ll continuously roll out on the site and we plan to eventually open up the platform where fans will be able to vote on women in their everyday lives to be MAKERS. There are really infinite growth opportunities!
One piece of advice for documentary filmmakers?
Believe in your ideas, make sure you have a good story to tell (not just an idea), and think about the online component not only as an additional distribution platform, but an integral to means to telling the story.
A common thread in many of these women’s stories seems to be that, at one point, they felt they may not accomplish their goals. Was there any point where you felt similarly about this project? If so, how did you overcome this?
Absolutely! It took 8 years and a lot of perseverance. Gloria’s belief in it made me know it would work.
I am thankful for an incredible team behind MAKERS and for the trailblazing women who have opened and continue to open doors for women in this country and around the world.
MAKERS is an inspirational project, and you should check it out regardless of your gender. Because, even though the site focuses on the achievement of women, this is not just Women’s History, it is American History. And, the wonderful thing is that many of the women featured have only begun their journeys. They are living, breathing and active role models for young women and those pushing for change. As the MAKERS platform expands, I look forward to seeing what new leaders emerge.
Thank you for taking the time to share, and for being a part of such a positive, educational and inspirational initiative, Dyllan. Perhaps you and Betsy should prepare for your own, MAKERS profile!
Follow Makers on Twitter: @Makers
Makers on Facebook:
View the Digital Platform: www.makers.com (you can watch videos on your iPad!)
Since 2008, I’ve heard endless complaints about the lack of jobs. Friends were disappointed to enter a less than stellar job market. Some even had to move home to form what is now known as a shadow household, a home where adult children have reintegrated. Parents were frustrated to see their kids come home and struggle to find their footing. It’s not as if young adults and their parents weren’t aware of the shifting economy- it’s just that they didn’t know how to cope.
Enter, optimism. With all of this talk of doomsday, and 20-something college graduates forced to accept low paying, dead-end jobs, I stumbled upon a gem. This immediate source of hope and light was an article from TIME Business, “How Entrepreneurship Can Fix Young America,” by Scott Gerber. In it, Gerber states that there is a growing sense of optimism in America’s economy, especially where youth employment is concerned. He asserts that our greatest source of job growth will be new businesses. I just knew that I had to interview him. (Q&A Below)
As someone thrust into the tedious job search (I looked for months without success), I was thrilled to see someone with a positive perspective. He’d gone beyond identifying a problem, to suggest specific actions. Gerber has been a huge proponent of youth activation. At 28, he’s a “serial” entrepreneur, angel investor and co-founder of Gen Y Capital Partners, who has contributed to publications from CNN to the Wall Street Journal. Gen Y Capital Partners provides start-up funds ranging from $250,000- $500,000 for new companies headed by Millenials. In 2010, Gerber founded the Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC). YEC is a non-profit charged with the mission of remedying youth under and unemployment. The council is invite only, and the select few inducted, are given access to a number of business development resources. Current members include; Aaron Patzer, the Mint.com founder who sold his company for $170 million at the age of 30, Joe Gebbia, co-founder of Airbnb, Jennifer Fleiss, co-founder and president of Rent the Runway and Slava Rubin, founder and CEO of IndieGoGo. As if they weren’t doing enough, the YEC along with partners, Babson College, Junior Achievement, CodeAcademy and the Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE), is currently pushing an agenda to #FixYoungAmerica. Their hope is to make entrepreneurial resources available to every interested youth. Currently, they’re raising funds and awareness through an IndieGoGo campaign. (See Video Below)
With all of this success, it’s easy to think that Gerber reaped immediate rewards- but this isn’t the case. He left NYU and moved home to start his first business; it failed. Always persistent he tried again. Having learned lessons from his first failure, his second company Sizzle It! was a success. The company now works with Proctor & Gamble and The Gap.
Given Gerber’s optimistic take on the future of young America, I thought it prudent to ask him a few questions. Even if you never imagine venturing down the path of self-employment, his advice is helpful:
Some of my friends have found that they’ve fallen into entrepreneurship. They’ve struggled to cope with the instability, but had no other option when it came to finding employment.
What would you tell someone who doesn’t think their disposition fits an entrepreneurial lifestyle?
Learn fast and adapt as soon as possible as this is the reality of the new economy for today’s young people–and it isn’t going to change anytime soon. More and more, necessity and desperation are becoming entrepreneurial drivers. Young people need to adapt to the free agent economy, whether that means starting a small business or becoming a freelancer. You need to identify your weaknesses and work with those individuals that fill the gaps. If you can’t sell, maybe it’s time to find a great partner who is a great salesperson. Or perhaps you are a great salesperson and just need to find someone with a great service or product. Bottom line: entrepreneurs are made, not born. When your back is against the wall and the deck is stacked against you, you’d be surprised how fast you can find a way to make it happen.
It’s one thing to have an idea and quite another to turn that idea into a sustainable business. Are their any qualities inherent to a successful start-up?
Revenue!!! Ideas are a dime a dozen. You don’t need to try to create the next Facebook. Nor should you try! You need to start a business (and I always believe service-based businesses are the best for first-time entrepreneurs) that is capable of generating immediate revenue and growing organically. Especially in these poor economic times, young people can’t just work on any old idea and hope for the best. They need to earn a living that pays the bills, and over time, will support them, their families and their employees.
What advice would you give to those who don’t feel as though they have a strong enough support system to start their own business?
I started my first successful business without any type of business degree. No one in my family–or my friends for that matter–had ever been an entrepreneur. Yet, despite an incredibly difficult and long learning curve, I figured it out. And, eventually, went on to start the Young Entrepreneur Council for this very reason–because I wanted to assemble the group of like-minded peers I never had. Today, there are a lot of resources for young entrepreneurs, including the YEC. I always suggest working out of co-working spaces and entrepreneurial hotspots when you get started. Go to meetups in your local city. Put yourself out there, help others whenever possible without asking for anything in return and build your own network. That’s exactly what I did, and now I have close relationships with many of the top young entrepreneurs in the US.
In your article, “How Entrepreneurship Can Fix Young America,” you suggest a number of legislative and academic initiatives that will help promote youth entrepreneurship. What can individuals do in their communities to foster this shift in how youth conceptualizes employment?
It starts with educating parents. Our parents are a generation of “work hard, get good grades, go to school and get a ’real’ job” fanatics. It’s not their fault, they don’t know any better, and in most cases have never had to even think of being entrepreneurs–let alone think about their kids becoming entrepreneurs in lieu of traditional employment. Showing them examples of successful hyperlocal young entrepreneurs is a start. We need to show the people guiding our young people that in the new economy, entrepreneurship is a viable career path, not just some renegade’s choice. When parents get involved and vocal, schools get involved. And schools are in desperate need of reform when it comes to entrepreneurship education. The fact that the vast majority of young people enter college without a basic understanding of what entrepreneurship even is blows my mind. This isn’t exactly the best way to select a college. Lastly, communities need to start looking into support mechanisms such as entrepreneurship training and mentorship programs, incubators and accelerators spearheaded by business leaders and co-working spaces. Local banks and angel investors need to foster and support local young entrepreneurs to hold on to their future leaders and maintain their local talent. Overall, it is every community’s responsibility to create an eco-system that supports that community’s prosperity–and entrepreneurship is a vital part of that equation. This is one of the major components of YEC’s #FixYoungAmerica initiative.
First and foremost, I’m thankful for my wife and daughter. It certainly isn’t easy putting up with my schedule, but their belief in me gives me a reason to go out there and make it happen everyday. Secondly, my team at the YEC is simply incredible. Having people like Ryan Paugh (co-founder of Brazen Careerist) join your executive team is an incredible feeling. I’ve never had the privilege of leading such a team of doers. Lastly, the members of the YEC. These men and women are out there everyday building the next generation of revolutionary startups and businesses, and create tens or hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue and tens of thousands of jobs as a result. It’s an honor to have them believe in and fully support our YEC mission.
It’s refreshing to see someone helping to provide others with access to resources, that they themselves did not have. Gerber and the YEC’s mission proves one thing, that there is hope. Thankfully, the American Dream may still be alive; it just takes preparation, increased access to resources, elbow grease and maybe a touch of luck.
Thank you, Scott for your sage advice and thoughtfulness. Hopefully, this encourages anyone who’s eager to start his or her own business, or interested in mentoring, to do so. And, please don’t believe that this sense of hope only exists for America’s youth, because it exists for anyone who’s willing to take a chance. Just be prepared to throw away your fear of failure.
Please take a look at #FixYoungAmerica’s IndieGoGo page! They have 50 days left to reach their $30,000 goal!
Scott Gerber on Twitter: @askgerber
Scott Gerber’s Book: Never Get a ‘Real’ Job: Dump Your Boss, Build a Business & Never Go Broke!