Anatomy of a breakthrough


I had an extraordinary experience last Thursday night, and enough time to process it since that I feel like it warrants some dissection here on the digital word slab (which may be my new pet name for communicatrix-dot-com) this morning.

The backstory of the event

A few weeks ago, via Facebook, my friend Brenda Varda invited me to read something at the 2.0, spoken-word gathering  of her project for writers and writing, w o r d s p a c e. (And yes, it's spelled out with the spaces, get it? Word space.)

The invitation asked for my best "extreme" 5 - 10 minutes of current material; there would be snacks and drinks, the public would be invited, and the list of other invitees was made public, so we could get a handle on the shape "extreme" might take, or at least what the rest of the lineup might be like. She later followed up with a request for a short bio and our putting the word (no pun intended) out to our own networks. Specifically, we were asked to bring one to three people: she wanted a full house, but Son of Semele's space (okay, this time I'm punning a little bit on purpose), the venue, was on the small side.

We were given the theme of "breaking the wordspace" to either write around or choose our material from; we were told that accompanying music was a possibility (among other things I am envious of her for, like her amazing hair and killer mid-Century modern house in the hills of Silver Lake, Brenda is an accomplished composer and musician).

Where I was coming from

One of my goals this year is "Do three Ignite-type presentations." That's my shorthand for:

  1. Planned (thought out, plotted carefully, well-rehearsed)
  2. Important (to me, personally, and in the scheme of things)
  3. Fun (because life is too fucking short)

Last fall's experience presenting at Ignite: Portland was huge for me. Not just because I presented to the biggest honkin' crowd I had yet, 600 fine and enthusiastic people, bless every last loudly appreciative one of 'em, but because for the first time since I started thinking about speaking as a means of sharing information, I was talking about something I deeply cared about. Don't get me wrong: I'm happy to share what I know about branding and marketing, and grateful for the opportunities it gives me to practice skills while relaying information that's useful to people. To say it's where my heart lies, though, would itself be a lie.

So I've been casting about for ways of moving closer toward my goal of being, essentially, a motivational speaker, if not an outright preacher without a church. There: I've said it. I've pantsed myself. It's out, it's done, I'm exposed, we can move on.

Okay, perhaps a little more on that stink-bomb I just dropped...

The formula for my future

If you've hung around at all, you know that I'm a big one for condensed shorthands, not as a means of skipping steps, but as a way of staying focused. I have problems with focus, or perhaps, I have a central challenge of remaining focused when I've been blessed with a interests like water contained in a brain like mesh. So I come up with formulas to help me stay on track: The Formula for articulating your brand in terms of your end user; the formula for Right Use of social media (which, as I always point out when deliver it in a talk, also works beautifully for marketing and life in general).

I still can't articulate what it is that I want to be when I grow up clearly and succinctly in childlike terms, but if I can't have the laser-like focus that "ballerina," "fireman," or even "C-Suite creative executive in a new media company" might give me, I can come closer with a direction and a formula:

  • Direction: I want to write and talk.
  • Formula: 70 - 90% writing, 30 - 10% talking.

Note that the direction doesn't specify the type of writing, and that I've used "talk" rather than "speak." That's intentional: I'm thinking of "talking" as incorporating more than just speaking, which (to me) means a stage, possibly a mic, and definitely a crowd. "Talking" may mean audio and video performance of some kind; it may even mean teaching of some kind, although it would have to be a very special set of circumstances for me to go that route, since (good) teaching requires a level of interaction that would send me and my poor little introverted self running for the hills where our cave of privacy is dug into.

What happened in and around w o r d s p a c e

The above provides both the context for my decision to participate and a jumping-off place for the nutty amount of sturm und drang, synapse-firing, syntheses and lessons that came out of the experience.

But in the grand tradition of jumping-off places, I'm going to hold the rest of it until later. Because the scale of my goals in certain areas this year requires that I learn to exercise some restraint in others. Tune in Wednesday for Part 2, and in the meantime, enjoy the clip, above...


Video shot by my good friend, former client and fellow Cornell alum, Larry Greenfield. Sorry for the overexposure; one of these days, I'll learn to find my light.