If the world were to end tomorrow, would you be ready?
My take on 12/21/12 is that the Mayans got it wrong and the world will continue to turn on its axis. NASA agrees. However, I’m of New Age mindset. To me, 12/21/12 marks the end of an old world and the start of a new one, ushering in an age when Earthly inhabitants undergo positive transformation. In other words, New Years Day. Time to make and break our resolutions with unfailing eagerness.
It was the most tiring, terrifying, and terrific year in memory.
It started with bright eyes and high hopes. I moved to a small but cozy Park Slope apartment to begin my New York saga symbolically on New Years. Forget that I wasn’t sure if I would make enough to pay monthly rent. Waking to the sight of the Chrysler building from my bedroom window was enough reason to get out of bed. Anything was possible.
I was first exposed to the realities of the city as a personal/editorial assistant for a wine business owner. My boss was wonderful but after the n-millionth time picking up office supplies and fetching coffee, I started to wonder if this was all a college degree was worth. On the weekends, I drank my share of wine. (Work-related research, of course!)
My second job landed me at a prestigious startup fellowship program that placed college graduates to work at startups in lower-cost cities. I was their first recruiter but was exposed to much more than recruiting. Event planning, social media, office politics – – with a small staff, there was a lot to get done and at times, my lack of corporate/organizational experience showed. I learned a few key things about organization, foremost being that I’m not organized. It’s why writing things down and having clear daily to-do lists have become new resolutions. The job took me to Providence over the summer for a phenomenal training camp which remains one of the best memories of the year, purely for the chance to meet 40 of the most inspiring and creative college graduates. I grew by leaps and bounds but after 5 months, I knew that this company wasn’t the right cultural fit.
Life since has been a mix of freelance writing, tech dabbling, user acquisition, and social media strategy. Highly stimulating work with little peace to be found. I networked, mingled, exchanged business cards, went social to the max. The freelance/startup life taught me the importance of being disciplined with time. If you’re good at it, go superwoman! Bad at it, never sleep. We’ll see if I give in to 9-5 soon.
So, was 2012 a success? Last year I wrote, “If I can make just one tiny decision that moves me closer to being my best self-whatever that may entail, wherever that may be- that’s success in my flighty mind.” 2012 was to be the year forward.
And? Am I ahead, off track, 2 steps forward 3 steps back? Well, I can say that I’m officially a New Yorker and now part of the craziness I used to only admire from afar. I’ve spent far too much, slept far too little. I could have been wiser. And yet at 23, I wouldn’t have it any other way.
I end 2012 exhausted, knowing that I tire because I’ve tried my hand at many things, failed, and therefore, moved forward.
2013 – Focus
Notifications blew up my phone in 2012. While this gave me bursts of serotonin, it also lead to unhealthy crashes and reduced productivity. It’s resulted in my decision to disconnect and retire. When I say retire, I mean retiring from perpetual social grooming and focusing instead on real work.
Last week I deactivated Facebook, and yesterday I followed through with Instagram. A friend messaged me saying that he was astonished and a little sad that I was leaving all these social networks. To him, I was the epitome of Generation 2.0: Miss Popular with tons of friends, always connected and blogging and snapping photos. Reading this only reinforced my need to retire. My public image was so well-crafted. So well-crafted that sooner or later, people would be let down. Achieving a self-involved image is no small feat, and I don’t have the energy or desire to maintain it anymore.
Aside from ‘connecting’, I’ve started to realize that all the other stuff that comes with being ‘social’ serves more as a disutility that detracts from my day. Because when you peel away all the layers of perfectly timed and witty statements, cute outfits, and adventurous getaways, what’s left is a pretty plain and boring person too tired to do much of anything other than appear. The thought of being that lame person used to sadden me. Now it just excites me because it means more time to sleep. 2013 will be the year of focus and commitment. Take me as I am, just a lazy being who wants to lie in bed, eat, and watch TV.
In 2013, I plan to focus on building non-social digital skills (CRM, Creative Suite, Mailchimp), cooking more, and solidifying pre-existing relationships. It’s quite boring, but really just a continuance of my 2012 resolution, because only by getting serious will I ever be able to move forward.
I’ve always lived with a sense of urgency, a conviction that time is running out. But with the world ending tomorrow, it’s time to be really honest and live out our truest lives, not just what sounds good or what makes an interesting story. Because what makes us happiest may not be all that interesting. And that’s okay.
If you’re reading this from a cubicle, you probably won’t be in 2 years. If you’re reading from a laptop, you likely won’t be doing that either. Space and the tools we use in the space will be drastically transformed in the coming years. I’m not a psychic; this is strictly based on data, trends, and yes, a little bit of New York bias.
Living in New York is a bit like living in a time lapse. At the risk of sounding like an elitist urbanite, the rest of the country (San Francisco and Boston notwithstanding) trails in comparison. This is not meant to be condescending; it is simply a basic truth about metropolitan cities in general. With the sheer number of people (a large proportion being investors, technophiles, and creatives) progress is bound to unfold at a much more rapid pace.
One of the best places to witness the future is at co-working spaces. A co-working space is a shared work space for anyone who needs a place to plop down, get connected, and work outside of the basic constructs of a “normal” office space. Initially, co-working space was used by mostly freelancers as a way to escape the humdrum of working from home. Now, people from a variety of backgrounds flock to co-working spaces (developers, artists, independent consultants, even accountants and lawyers).
Last year when I was completely new to the tech scene, I visited New Work City, largely known as one of the first co-working spaces in New York. I personally believe it should be every New York newbie’s crash course into the tech world. I was immediately enlivened by the quiet energy buzzing inside. It was much better than a coffee shop, mostly because a.) no one was hogging the outlet, b.) no one near you was in an intense gossip sesh as you attempt to do work, and c.) coffee was FREE. Outlets, productivity, and free caffeine yield generally good vibes. Who wouldn’t want that? As a freelancer, I would often go to coffee shops, not because I needed another 3 cups of coffee, but simply because I wanted a positive workflow that was conducive to getting things done. Most of all, I wanted an environment that reminded me I was not the only one. Connection. Something not unlike the college library buzzing with activity at 3 am during final exam week because you’re all in the same over-caffeinated, underprepared, cramming (aka screwed) state. Imagine that everyday, just with more chic chairs and desks, and more “sophisticated” problems to stress about. That’s a co-working space.
The number of co-working spaces in New York has doubled each year since 2006. In that same period of time, New York City has exploded as a tech hub. Vivek Wadhwa recently said, “In 2006, I wouldn’t have put New York anywhere on the map of leading tech hubs. Now it is literally number 2.” According to Tony Bacigalupo, founder of New Work City, there is a direct correlation between the growth of co-working and the explosion of New York City’s startup ecosystem. The reason? Co-working spaces facilitate transitions between jobs. In today’s ever-changing economy, a co-working space becomes quite necessary when you’re transitioning from a full-time gig to work at a startup or as an independent. This trend will only grow as industries continue to be disrupted. This is generation flux after all, and that’s not just a catchy phrase. The flux is real. Chaotic disruption is rampant, not just with the Facebook, Twitter, and Googles, but across industries. You see the writing on the wall in New York, as more and more people quit their corporate jobs and become their own boss by creating pockets within pockets among niche industries.
The future is about self-reliance, and this is another reason why New York paves the way. New Yorkers are famous (or infamous?) for being self-reliant. Tonight at a joint Mashable -BMW iVentures event, Albert Wenger of Union Square Ventures likened the age we’re living in now to the period of time when we shifted from an agrarian economy to the industrial age. The possibilities of where we could be post-digital are..who knows. Figuring out how to properly monetize workspace is one issue. Will it take on a sharing model similar to our homes (AirBNB) and cars (Zipcar)? What about the jobs crisis? The jobs of those whose industries are dismantled?
Looks like the future is already here.
*Many of the insights from this post originate from a talk given by Tony Bacigalupo, co-working evangelist, from a Brooklyn Venture Community meetup on November 14. You can download his presentation at nwc.co/bkv-preso. I also highly recommend his blog, Happy Monsters.
*Also, if you’re interested in finding a co-working space in New York, here is a super handy guide compiled by Charles Bonello, a member of the NY Tech community, that includes details on every co-working space in the city. He also shares some interesting stats: “There is currently about 600,000 square feet of co-working space available, which is equivalent to 400 Starbucks, the entire 11 story building that houses Lord & Taylor’s flagship store in NYC and the Port Authority/NYC’s lease at the World Trade Center.” Wow!
Tell me one last thing. Tell me why New York. You could be anywhere with what you’re trying to do – find your place – but why NYC? L.A., Atlanta, Boston, San Francisco, Chicago, these would all work just as well. So tell me what it is about New York that you love. Why it speaks to YOU. Don’t give me a watered down Woody Allen script either.
I decided to write you about New York, strategically, in its absence. I’m not there now; in fact, I’m situated smack in what you may call its antithesis along a windy path bordering the Smokeys, in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Here it seems like God is about to turn the seasonal switch, with time teetering gently between the late night shouts of children enjoying Summer’s last call and the swaying trees beckoning Fall’s cool breeze. It’s beautiful.
So, why New York?
Being somewhere else has forced me to recognize its intangible value. Let’s be real – nothing absolutely pertinent to my existence is strictly in New York. I can find anything I need in any other big metropolitan city (with the exception of a really good slice of pizza and the view from the Brooklyn Bridge) but even then, there are suitable (albeit sub-par) replacements.
So, the real question then becomes, why do I belong in New York? Because at the end of the day, all we really want in anything – a significant other, a friend, a career, a city – is a sense of belonging.
It boils down to a few things:
In NYC, I have two walking limbs – rusty and badly in need of a massage at the end of the day – but dependable. They’re just like the New York subway – slow, dirty, and always running late – but they get you where you need to be.
NYC is a city for walking simply because you can. If you really wanted, you could walk from the northern tip of Manhattan (Harlem) to the southern end (Wall Street) – all 16 miles – and be back in time for dinner. What a sight you’d see along the way! In New York, I have to place my feet on the pavement, feel the hard concrete beneath and the subway rumbling below. Jumping in a car is not an option, unless you’re rich and can afford a car or a hefty cab fare. In other cities, there’s the luxury of escape, A/C, silence. IN New York you walk because you have to, and it’s sometimes (actually, usually) really annoying because all you want is to sit and go for a drive and listen to your music in peace without all these barking wannabe comedians, pesky tourists, beggars, germs, not to mention the unmistakable smell of crap at the Chinatown subway stop…but you walk anyway.
In the griminess, you are forced to face an unfair world. There’s no easy drive to the gated community. Rich and poor, you see it all and with each pounding step, you hurt for the city. And so, you own it.
Better than the public transit system are the people you see on it. One night, near midnight, I was nodding off on the train when an odd-looking trio entered. They looked nothing short of the Circus Freaks from Big Fish: a morbidly obese woman, a dwarf, and a gangly man (who looked all the more gangly next to the dwarf) with a scruffy beard. Within minutes of stepping on the train, the man began to howl like a wolf (in fact, I wouldn’t have been surprised had he turned into one) while the woman sang like an opera singer and the dwarf awkwardly stood there. There were 2 other people on the train who didn’t even look up. I pinched myself to make sure it wasn’t a dream; the only other possibility was that I was going crazy. Eventually they got off, but it was one of the most bizarre things I ever witnessed.
I’m not saying that you should move to NYC to catch this midnight act. I’m sure there are similarly odd characters residing in other cities. But New York has a higher proportion of them. You’re bound to see an energizing and most interesting collision of cultures in the most densely packed American city.
Other memorable New York characters include the fashion-forward pink-haired women, the break dancers providing unsolicited stress relief on the N while crossing the Manhattan bridge, and the jovial Caribbean men spouting newspaper pickup lines. Seeing such off-the-wall characters means I cannot possibly be ashamed of my own weirdness because someone is sure to have already outdone me. Normalcy is relative; the city has seen it all. New York’s identity is neither classy Cambridge nor star-studded Hollywood; it’s all of the above, a hodgepodge of everything. I belong, simply by being me, a patch stitched next to the suited-up corporate executive overlaying the pink-haired fashionista sewn next to the Wolf Man. New York is a colorful quilt.
It’s what we crave. Brett Nelson sums it up best in 50 lessons he’s learned from living in New York.
Whatever shape the economy’s in, millions of people continue to pay an absurd premium to toil and escape in New York City. That’s because deep down—more than any specific satisfaction or vice—we all crave possibility. In that sense, NYC might be the world’s greatest brand: It makes you feel (goofy as it sounds) like anything can happen.
New York, Boston, L.A., Miami, Chicago – they are all stellar cities. Wherever you decide, you can’t go wrong, for your needs will be met. But my question to you – is life about meeting needs? Choose the city that makes you come alive. For me, it’s New York. I said it 2 years ago in this post, and I’ll say it again:
There has to be a reason I feel so happy every single time I come here. I feel alive. It’s not the same high I get when traveling; this feeling is more realistic, more sustainable. I still waver between feelings of sadness and exhilaration, exhaustion and caffeination, drunkenness and sobriety like a swinging pendulum. But I think the unpredictability is more manageable because my surroundings are….well, unpredictable. Walking through the streets, I skim through tongues, cuisines, and faces around the world; my stress dissipates in the bubble of anxious energy surrounding the city.
Now sitting in Chattanooga, things are calm and good. I can live here just fine. But this age does not call me to be just fine. When I’m back in New York I’ll fall in love all over again. That’s my NY.
I was at a networking event the other day, mostly for the tasty hors d’oeurves and the opportunity to imbibe free drinks, but figured I’d entertain some awkward conversation so my freeloading wouldn’t be so conspicuous. When someone approached me, I’d hurriedly finish my chewing (lest the silence be deafening) and begin talking mouth full with a load of quiche crumbs tumbling out. I’d chirpily extend my hand, “Hi my name is Lynne! Nice to meet you. What’s yours?!”
Nothing like an overly enthusiastic greeting that labels the “new girl on the block!” title square in the face.
So be it. I’m a Florida girl at heart and if my sunny disposition makes people squint, get some Ray Bans. Being from Florida in a cold city actually works to my advantage because it immediately creates an easy topic for conversation: weather. Inevitably, weather talk leads to the ultimate ‘elephant in the room’ question “What do you do?” which subsequently triggers an incessant chatter up in my prefrontal cortex on how to explain who I am, what I studied, and what on earth I think I’m doing here in the city. I panic, realizing I have no lucid way to introduce myself. So I usually start with, “Well, I drink a lot of wine…” (true story)
I’m not in any position to bestow wisdom on how to create your perfect elevator pitch and I’m not writing this post to pretend like I’m close to figuring it out. I probably won’t ever know how to describe myself in a witty one or two-liner and the day I can, my life will be officially pathetic. We are more complex (and interesting) than titles allow us to be.
That said, all this weather talk reminds me of another time not so long ago when I partook in a lot of chatty mingling, albeit in a less classy environment. Memories of a frenzied freshman year of college when I rushed to sign up for every organization offering community, value, and free food flood my guilty psyche. “You’ll find your best friends here!” “Make an impact!” Back then social situations were more beer pong and club meetings offering free pizza, less wine and cheese with keynote speakers from [insert reputable global organization].
I’m about 9 months out of the old stomping yard (college) and while it’s fair to say I’m no longer a college student, I still feel endowed with a somewhat privileged collegiate mindset. Perhaps even more than I did during my four lecture-sitting years.
I don’t roll out of bed and spring to class anymore, and I don’t bump into people I try to avoid every five minutes. Instead, I dress up, hopstop to work among suited up strangers, and carry a brown tote that looks slightly like an old man’s briefcase (it was the only one at the thrift store that could fit my dang laptop!). During my subway ride, I whip out my cranny nook and read up on design. Trust agents. The digital sphere. Or “how to get rid of that gut!”, which just conveniently happened to be on the latest cover of Shape.
After graduation, the learning doesn’t stop. My current line of work forces me to think digital, social media, and e-commerce while tasting new products and writing about them (which involves wine…what a bummer). It keeps me busy, but the knowledge appetite is still not satisfied. Curiosity widens like the mouth of a hungry child with a bottomless stomach. Now that I don’t have professors to direct my questions to (ironically whom, I barely spoke to when I was actually in college), I am more curious than ever.
As a newcomer to the city, I am still trying to determine the activities and people that are worth my limited time and energy. Of course, in order to play the game, you have to put up with some ‘small talk’. Slowly but surely, in this so very refined adult life, you whittle down the prospects to your truest, deepest interests, one glass – escargot – smooth talking schmooze-at a time.
Tomorrow I begin a wine tasting class called ‘Raise Your Wine IQ’. (Shameless plug- my boss is teaching and you can register here!) I’m also enrolled in a month-long online course called “How to launch your startup idea for less than $5000” which sounds gimmicky, but I’m getting information far more valuable than what I sat through in college without spending a penny. The class is being offered through the education startup Skillshare, a cool company that is trying to revolutionize education. I’m very interested to see how I can apply what I learn to a possible venture. Throw in my dance class and bible study, compounded with the professional life, and I have my own class schedule! I’ve never been more excited to learn in my life!
The Florida sunshine is probably blinding you but before you put on your blockers, keep this in mind:
“Your 20’s are your ‘selfish’ years. It’s a decade to immerse yourself in every single thing possible. Be selfish with your time, and all the aspects of you. Tinker with shit, travel, explore, love a lot, love a little, and never touch the ground.”
|Kyoko Escamilla (a.k.a Brain-Food)|
Even without a bell tower or quad, the collegiate mindset stays for however long you allow it. I am experimenting and exploring more now than the past four years. Do I regret not doing more of this when I was actually in college? Yes and no, but it’s never too late.
Not for me. On New Years Day, I officially moved to New York. So far, it’s been a dream too good to be true; part of me is just waiting to wake up. Fortunately the Chrysler building proceeds to stare back from the window every morning. For now, I’m still in a sweet sweet dream.
I came to the city last month for a job interview, though in reality I didn’t care much for the job . As fate would have it, they didn’t care much for me either. I was then able to continue with my real reason for coming up: to learn more about the NY tech startup scene.
The great thing about the tech industry is that it lives online. Everything is open, connected, and completely accessible. Startup offices don’t have front desks or secretaries. There is no barrier to entry. If you really want, you can waltz right in to startup headquarters with no appointment, no affiliation, not even a suit or tie. So that’s what I did.
I visited the offices of a few startups, including Grooveshark, Skillshare, and 33Across. I attended a Foursquare talk. I talked with fellow free-lancers at co-working spaces like the New Work Community. I’ve been able to meet talented and forward-thinking people like filmmaker Jason Silva who are willing and kind enough to dish out helpful advice to a tech newbie like me. Not coming from a tech background, I initially wasn’t sure what niche I could fill. My training has been in producing content, but all I have are a few bylines and reporting standups to my name, none of which are entirely relevant to a digital cutting-edge world. Anyway, the question remains: “How do I stand out?” The answer is still being drafted.
For the time being, I’ve found some part-time gigs to pay the bills and quench my entrepreneurial thirst. I’m working as a personal and editorial assistant for the owner of a vintage wine shop in Harlem. While it’s slightly comical that I, of all people, am charged with organizing someone else’s life (if you looked at my room right now, you’d laugh), I actually think I’m suited for the job. I flex my social media muscle, build online strategy, help write a wine column, and drink wine! All while learning about the serious business of owning a local business. It’s completely different from academia, but I’m intrigued. It has since spurred my interest in learning about strategy behind some of the most successful small businesses. Walk the streets of New York and there are so many examples of ingenious business brands. Since I am charged with the task of ramping up social advertising/PR efforts for the store, I am using the city as my textbook.
In the meantime, the flexible nature of my work allows me to continue dabbling in other fields I want to experiment in, mainly:
– Networked Knowledge
– Emerging Technology
Eventually, all of these will converge. Here’s to moving in, 2012.