All posts tagged #midlife

FOMO: Orbiting, Exploring, or A Waste of Time?

The former Chief Guru of Hallmark, Gordon MacKenzie, author of Orbiting the Giant Hairball: A Corporate Fool’s Guide to Surviving with Grace, gave presentations with notcards, not power point.  A picture and a number adorned each card, which  was attached to a clothesline with an old-fashioned wooden clothes pin.  The audience controlled his talks on creativity and innovation by calling out a number and Gordon would pick the card off the line and tell the story behind it.

“You are in control,” Gordon started each lecture. “I’ll talk until all the cards are gone or someone shouts, ‘Stop.’  It’s up to you.” Of course, the lectures usually went the allotted time, not because no one wanted to be the one to stop Gordon’s stories, but because no one wanted to miss out on what might be the best example of how to be creative and innovative in their jobs and lives. The Fear of Missing (FOMO) out drove the young innovators to listen and learn.

I recently thought about the FOMO influence on my own life. How many of my choices have been driven by the need to see what’s happening behind door number 1, and 2, and 3? Answer: a lot. FOMO’s been identified as a quarter-century affliction but this mid-century modern woman has been afflicted for years. And I like it. Or at least I’m used to it.  More on this topic later, I need to check something out.

 

 

“Some day your mouth is going to get you in trouble,” my mother would say.  This wasn’t such a difficult prediction given the number of times I brought home a report card from elementary school with a check mark next to the words: “does not exercise self-control.” That was Catholic school code for “doesn’t know when to stop talking.”

The nuns were just agreeing with what a school psychologist had told my parents earlier. “Julie’s mouth and brain don’t operate at the same speed.” This led to talking without filtering, speed talking, and non-stop talking.  And to check marks and verbal gaffes. Gaffes that could have been avoided if I had just known my audience

Understanding whom you are talking to is the key to effective communication. Talking without understanding often leads to unintended consequences.

If I had known my manager at one of my first jobs, for example, I would not have confronted him after he reprimanded me like a drill sergeant in front of a row of administrative assistants.

I understood that he was upset. I understood that there was a check mark next to my name for “did not meet deadline.” But if I had understood his management style, I would have known that ignoring his outburst versus asking him to not talk to me like that was the key to keeping one’s job.

If I had understood the makeup of a typical comedy club audience I would have never entered the contest to find Jay Leno’s sidekick when he took over the Tonight Show in 1992.  I headed to my hometown, Dayton, Ohio to perform a two-minute stand up routine.  Mind you, I wasn’t a stand-up. I had studied and performed improvisation sketch comedy. I gave 20-minute talks as a business humorist. I was just a marketing consultant looking for a creative outlet.

I whittled down my material, donned my red power suit, and froze when I entered the club. I was not like this hometown audience. This audience did not work in corporate cubicles or talk corporate speak.

This audience laughed till they cried and ordered another beer throughout the stand-up routine before mine – which was filled with tales of working for the man, men behaving badly, and scatological asides.

This audience did not smile when I performed. Thankfully, they didn’t laugh me off the stage. Thankfully, I still had my day job.

Just two weeks ago I accompanied Husband to the Principality of Liechtenstein for official diplomatic business. Husband is the Honorary Consul of Liechtenstein to the Midwest, and I his unofficial chief of staff.  Our program included meeting the Hereditary Prince of Liechtenstein, which I was excited about, until it came to packing.  What do you wear when meeting a prince?

On the first day of our visit, a young diplomatic officer met our group at breakfast and accompanied us to the Prince’s castle for Liechtenstein’s National Day ceremonies. The young diplomat sat next to me on the bus and I asked him how to spell his first name.

“U-l-r-i-c-h,” he replied and then asked about my family and work back in the States.

“I’m a former advertising executive,” I said. “Currently I teach on the university level and I’m a freelance writer/blogger.”

“What do you write in your blog?”

“I write personal essays and cultural commentary for women of a certain age who are reinventing themselves. Going through transitions.”

“I imagine there is much to write.”

We talked easily about my writing, my teaching, and my impressions of Liechtenstein.

If I had known my audience I would never have told Ulrich that the title of my last blog post was:  What to Wear When Meeting a Prince”

‘Well, I can imagine that might be difficult to determine,” Ulrich, the diplomat said.

“It is. I’ve never met a prince before. I don’t know anyone who had met a prince before. I want to be appropriate”

I proceeded to give him a synopsis of the endless options listed in my blog:

Formal or semi-formal, long or short, pants or skirt, cocktail, business or business casual, and so on. I did not share my quandary about whether or not to wear pantyhose.

“Later this week I’ll be posting about what I wore when I meet the prince.”

“I will read your blog. Perhaps you will write and tell your friends that you have already met a prince,” Ulrich said, and smiled, and bowed with his head.

And I remembered that when he introduced himself at breakfast I thought he called himself Something Something Liechtenstein, but I thought that can’t be right and let it go and focused on the pronunciation of his first name. Ulrich.

“You. You’re a prince. Of course, you said Ulrich Liechtenstein. Are you a cousin? Oh, I am so embarrassed. Have I hurt Husband’s appointment?” I stammered along until I just had to ask: “Well – what do you think – how am I dressed to meet a prince?”

“Quite fine,” Ulrich, the Prince said.

“You’ll learn your lesson one day,” my mother would say. The best connections are made when you know your audience. Whether it is one person or a group. However, some of the best consequences happen serendipitously when you are just truly yourself.

Peering Out Through The BlogHer Blur

It was only a week ago but it’s a blur. A blogging blur. Last week I attended a conference for bloggers. For women bloggers to be precise, 4,500 women who put their thoughts, rants, advice, and analysis of all things worth and not worth being analyzed out into the indefinable, indescribable, is it really real, blogosphere, to be exact.

I attended this conference because the agent who requested, read, and responded to my book proposal said I needed a platform. A platform, in publishing speak, is proof that you can sell your book. That there is a ready made reader, a group of ready made readers, that will be predisposed to purchase your book. Today, one proof of a platform is your social media presence, backed up by analytics. So I went to BlogHer2012 at the Hilton New York for three days to learn how to build and measure a platform.

If I wanted to feel my story was unique or that my perspective was unvoiced, I should have stayed home. Women writing about transition–done. Humorous takes on everyday life–written. Second acts in the making–ditto. Tales from menopause and beyond–please, they are written during the wee hours of the morning when sleep is on a break.

At least I wasn’t a mother with an urge to write during naptime or school hours. There were more mommy bloggers than breakfast bagels. Healthy food mommies, home school mommies, mommy divas, wannabe mommies, and mommy entrepreneurs. Mommies with tales of adoption, multiple births, special need children, single parenting, lesbian mothering, and probably pet parenting.  Although, I didn’t personally meet a blogger with that focus.

Thank goodness I took lots of notes because I don’t remember much these days unless it’s written down. This is a common theme in blogs from women of a certain age, so I will remember to not write about whatever I just forgot.

I won’t forget the expo center full of brand experiences, freebies, and sponsor corporations vying for the attention of a blogger-advocate. There’s something delightful about a conference where you can get your picture taken with the Dr. Seuss’ Lorax character and fill your swag bag with Poise® light bladder leakage pads and vibrators from either Trojan® or EdensFantasys®.

I will remember the presence of the three keynote speakers starting with President Obama, who opened the conference via satellite feed. (Romney was asked and declined.) The President reminded us that he was raised by women and is surrounded by women he admires and supports. He proved that he knows the source and value of free advertising by sharing how his presidency has positively impacted the lives of women.

During an interview with Martha Stewart an audience member asked, “What aren’t you good at?”

After thinking for a bit, Martha responded, “I’m not good at what I haven’t tried yet.”

I wish I was that confident. I’m not very good at being a fan of Martha’s. I admit to being an early member of the “I am not in love with Martha Stewart Club” back in the 80s. I don’t care if she is the very model of a modern media mogul. I have never fallen under her spell.

Katie Couric engaged the audience over the last luncheon. Before I talk about her, I admit positive bias. I am a member of the “I love Katie and want to be like Katie Club.” One day Katie showed up on the Today Show wearing the same J. Crew sweater that hung in my closet. This made me happy. Clearly, a little bit too happy if I’m still talking about it now.

A blogger in the audience asked Katie, “How did you feel during your interview of Sarah Palin?”

I will paraphrase Katie’s answer, because at this point I was not taking notes. “As a person, I felt sorry for her. She was clearly having a difficult time forming an answer. As a reporter, I felt I did a good job of finding out things that I thought the American public would want to know about a person who would be a heartbeat from the president­–the oldest president ever elected.”

Katie has empathy. Katie does a good job. I still want to be like Katie.  I guess I want to be like Martha, too–good at everything I try. After this conference, I know I am like President Obama too. I appreciate the women in my life, past, present and future and hope to build a platform of interest and service to all.

My first ever podcast, produced by Broad Shoulders, is now up and streaming at www.storyclubchicago.com/podcast Broad Shoulders is a collaborative effort of the live reading and open mic nights in Chicago committed to bringing the Chicago live lit community to a broader audience. If you didn’t know, Chicago is the self-proclaimed live lit capital of the world. And I’m happy to be part of it, broad shoulders and all.

Thanks to Nico Lang of inourwords.com, Dana Norris of Story Club Chicago, and Keith Ecker of Essay Fiesta. I had a great time writing the piece, performing it at Story Club, and finally taping it. So much fun that I don’t even mind that I was introduced as Julie Davis in the opening segment. That really doesn’t bother me because I was later introduced as Julie Danis (just like Davis but with an N) and my name is spelled correctly on the website. Maybe I should have changed my name after all. That last sentence won’t make sense unless you listen to my story about getting to marriage in mid-life, all the way to the end.

Happy Listening.

www.storyclubchicago.com/podcast

Click on Podcast

Installment #3 – I hope you enjoy the whole podcast, but if you want to skip to my story I’ve included the time codes below.

2:47 Julie Davis mention

15:17 Julie Danis introduced

15: 50 Julie Danis tells a story

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