In this brief column by Cameron Herold, putting ideas out into the universe is key to long term dream-making. What would you put out in the universe? Clearly, the universe hasn’t answered my “if I had millions of dollars” wishes, yet. But other than that, I’ve been too chickensh!t to put any of my real dreams out there. Because once they’re out there, then there’s work to be done and the fear of failure is far too great. So, gulp, I’m putting this out there:
Write (and publish!).
Speak publicly about whatever comes to mind that others would want to hear.
I’ve been sing-song-ing “analysis paralysis; something in my brain’s amiss” to the tune of the mean kid making fun of Cindy Brady (“Baby talk, baby talk; it’s a wonder you can walk”) all day long. It’s the only thing that pops in my head as I’ve been forcing myself to post a blog entry.
It’s been a week and a half since my last post. Not because I didn’t have anything to say, but because I was unsure of what I had to say was compelling or interesting or relevant to anyone else but me. I over-analyzed drafts of blog entries. I edited and re-edited every thought in my head so that I didn’t even write those thoughts into a draft. I read other blogs and tweets and online articles. I’ve been too busy busying myself to make myself sit down and write something. Anything. I’m looking for perfection and coming up with nothing. Fear of suckiness pushes me into inaction.
Writing advice books say to just write and eventually, with practice, the writing gets better. And yet, this is the blah that is coming out. Nothing new. Nothing compelling. No one ever said first steps were pretty. And lucky you, dear reader, you get to witness the stumbles, trips and baby walk.
I just may be the most well-connected, unknown person in Indianapolis.
I’ve worked for some of the most well-respected — or at least well-known — Indianapolis institutions. The Indianapolis Business Journal. Central Indiana Community Foundation. Pacers Foundation and Pacers Sports & Entertainment. United Way of Central Indiana. The Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University. I’m on a first name basis with some of the city’s respected elite — Mickey Maurer, Ellen Annala, Clay Robbins and Alecia DeCoudreaux. I’ve done informational interviews with Gerry Dick (whom I once almost worked for), Tamara Zahn (whom I once wanted to work for) and Deborah Paul and former Mayor Stephen Goldsmith. I know people. Yet, I’m not on a Forty Under 40 list nor have I held a position with a title higher than “manager.” I had personal recommendations from Mickey, Ellen and Alecia, and still didn’t get into a Stanley K. Lacy class. Maybe because I don’t have a fancy title. Maybe because I’m not an influencer.
I am, however, a connector. In Malcolm Gladwell’s pivotal book, The Tipping Point(which, incidentally, was recommended to me by Frank Walker of Walker Information), connectors are “people with a truly extraordinary knack of making friends and acquaintances.” I love making connections. Between me and another person. Between or among different people. Between a person and an organization. And to me, these people are more than acquaintances for the most part. They are mentors and colleagues and friends.
But are those relationships enough? To advance professionally, do I also need to be an influencer? An expert or maven (as Gladwell calls them)? Or is being a connector enough? Am I ok with just filling in the spaces between?
Nothing like getting laid off to spur me into a re-renewed blogging habit. Nearly a month ago, I was informed that my position at the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University is being eliminated as part of a cost-cutting measure to avoid extreme budget constraints in the next few fiscal years. More than 25 percent of our organization is being let go. I am an alumna of the Center’s master degree programs and a donor. A generous donor. And a good employee to boot. And my job is still being eliminated. I’ve been laid off, or in university terms, I am going through a “reduction in force.” I am grateful that I have three months to figure out what to do next with my professional life.
In his book What Should I Do With My Life?, Po Bronson profiles dozens of individuals who have asked this question, oftentimes during crossroads in their lives. Often making drastic changes. A lawyer becomes a baker. An undecided becomes a Buddhist monk. I read that book and felt uninspired. Of course these folks were able to look deep into their own selves and search their souls. They often had professional degrees or financially supportive families or nothing to lose.
Now here I am, faced with the same question, and late-to-be-realized by me, in a similar position as those profiled in Bronson’s book. I have advanced degrees. I have a spouse with a financially supportive job, and even better, a personally supportive attitude. I have nothing to lose. I can be discerning and demanding and pleasantly capable of not settling for less. I can choose what I want to do with my life.
The possibilities scare me because I might fail. Or I might succeed.