When my first film, dating rubik’s cube, made with $150 [mostly tape-stock] and with me wearing the hats of videographer, producer, editor, distributor, sound engineer, and lighting-tech, won Best Short Documentary at a film festival months after I started my “Oh shit! I just got fired, what am I going to do?!?” company, the seeds of one of the smartest business decisions I’ve ever made were planted. Simplicity and Content is king. If you provide a good product, people will ignore /forgive oopsies; like a cat walking in and out of a shot or lighting that casts menacing shadows on your subjects. And you’ll be able to enjoy your project as you won’t have spiraled into debt or made impossible promises to realize your dream. The reasons my film was well-received were the topic [who doesn't love a good dating story?] and the cast with their hilarious, insightful, open-book reflections, and the reason I had so much fun with it was that I had nothing to lose and no one to answer to.
My Simplicity and Content realization came front and center on Sunday when I took Mom to the fabulous, you need to go to this next year! Listen To Your Mother (LTYM).
Tired of the traditional brunch, Botanic Garden stroll, A Midsummer Night’s Dream matinee, and wanting more than a card and flowers, when I first heard of LTYM, I immediately knew it was the perfect Mother’s Day gift. Even if it was a week early.
Seventeen women, let’s say average age of forty, from office manager for an electrical construction company to stay-at-home mom to owner of a boutique ad agency, of the city and the suburbs, of all shapes and hairstyles, of all volumes and patterned-dresses, oh so courageously took the stage one by one to share stories of motherhood. Cracked nipples to farting in Target. Hating the Perfect Mom to miscarriages. Screaming matches with your child to the death of your child. We, the audience, laughed and cried, and most wonderfully, collectively nodded knowingly. There was something for everyone. I’m not a mother, but I can certainly relate to ill-projected disdain for Size Two women and parents whom you love on Tuesday and want to strangle on Wednesday.
While I throughly enjoyed the plethora of entertainment of the afternoon, it was the entrepreneur, not the audience member, in me that was scribbling furiously on the program throughout the ninety-minutes. By the end of the show, as you will often find me, I was drunk on entrepreneurial kool-aid. Because LTYM reinforced and made cohesive the all-over the place musings I’ve had for years on event curation. And really, on life in general.
Reading the founder’s [Ann Imig] note pre-show got the wheels turning -
I created LTYM because I found myself searching for a bigger audience for my voice, and the voices of other mothers online. In 2010, I directed the first LTYM Show in Madison, Wisconsin. When I shared videos of that first performance online, I heard request after request from women wanting to produce LTYM in their own communities. The groundswell was undeniable, inspiring a national expansion–with performances in five cities in 2011, ten in 2012, to this season’s twenty-four city lineup.
She goes on to use words like humbled, movement, phenomenal stories, resound around the world, celebrate.
Those are the exact terms and sentiments I use when elevator-pitching Mac ‘n Cheese Productions (MnC). More importantly, that others use when elevator-pitching MnC. So much so that I had to create a Mac ‘n Cheese World Domination form to keep track of all the outside of Chicago inquires.
You know that feeling you get when someone articulates exactly what’s in your head/journal/heart/dreams? That feeling is what started pin-balling around my insides on Sunday. While I’ve achieved most of my professional goals over my eight years of self-employment, there are two not yet crossed off the list:
- Travel for work
- Be able to say Yes! to people in San Francisco, Boston, and Birmingham who ask, “Can you bring Mac ‘n Cheese here?!?”
LTYM uses the guaranteed to succeed formula for curating a sold-out, feel-good, scalable event. It’s a formula I’ve been using for years, without realizing it was a formula –
Fill A Hole
+ [Mass Quantities of] Everyday People
+ Universal Topics
+ No Bells ‘n Whistles
= Event Success
Fill A Hole
Imig wanted more exposure for herself and her mommy-blogger cohorts. I wanted fun, lasting, face to face, comfortable, economical, meaningful opportunities to meet potential friends, clients, and dates for myself and my “there has to be another option other than bar happy-hour” cohorts; I wanted the summer-camp environment, for adults. Not seeing the solution offered, Imig and I filled the holes in our lives ourselves.
Chances are if you want something that doesn’t exist, others want it too. If you can provide it for them, you catapult into cult-leader status.
[Mass Quantities of] Everyday People
One of the reasons we’re able to fill the 700+ seat Park West with each Fear Experiment [FE], one of my MnC offerings, is that the participants are NOT dancers, improvisers, singers or steppers. For most of them, this is their debut and encore performance. We all have those professional-creative friends who invite us to a show of theirs once a month if not more. There’s no urgency to go as you know there’ll be another chance next month. Not so with the FEers. One night and one night only. That’s how we’re not only able to sell out but to get out of towners from New York, Seattle, Arizona to come see those billed as “bad” performers. The audience is filled with friends and family. Of the 3200+ FE audience members over the years, I would guess that about 13 of them didn’t know someone in the show.
So it was at LTYM. The Everyday Woman from your street, your church, your book club butterflying into a storyteller. A kickass storyteller at that. Most will probably not stand before a packed theater again. Knowing this, their cheering sections of loved ones came out in droves and went wild when they took the stage.
Every FE has about forty non-performers. The LTYM I attended had seventeen non-storytellers. Selling out a theater doesn’t seem so insurmountable when each person just needs to sell seven, ten, sixteen tickets. As Obama learned in the 2008 campaign, a lot of people doing a little can take you far.
Fear Experiment fills voids we’ve all experienced -
- I am stuck in a rut and need a challenge
- I want to make more friends, friends who are positive, up for anything, from all walks of life, and open-minded
- I’m sitting on the sidelines and life is passing me by
- I’ve always wanted to _____ but never had the guts
When each LTYM woman walked onto the stage, the claps were friendly and supportive; when each woman walked off, the claps were deep, appreciative, thankful. This is because the storytellers not only bared their souls, they did it via situations that’ve touched us all.
There is nothing more powerful than a room full of strangers nodding knowingly, as each is transported back to their own memories yet is never more aware of morphing into a square in the community-quilt sewn together by shared-experience.
Get someone to laugh or cry, they’ll remember you. Get them to both laugh and cry, they become a member of the kool-aid drinking cult.
FE and LTYM audience members laugh and cry. Heart-breaks during a woman’s sharing that she joined FE as part of journey back from alcoholism turned into heart-leaps when the same woman belted out a solo in the Beatles’ Somebody to Love/Help. During a story about teenage abortion, the woman across the aisle from me who had just been cracking up at the recounting of a black lesbian trying to adopt, streamed such tears and had such a look of knowing-pain on her face, it was all I could do to not lean over and give her a squeeze.
Standing in front of 700+ radiating support your way or sitting before people being incredibly vulnerable is the most magical, heart-lifting atmosphere of goodness. Because the participants are not professionals and are doing something that admittedly scares them, the audience is rooting for them from before they even step on stage, and you can feel that reverberating throughout the theater.
No Bells ‘n Whistles
I subscribed to this way of thinking from the start not because I thought it was a fantastic idea but because I didn’t have any money for bells and whistles. Blessing in disguise.
There’s something refreshing about shows that don’t have smoke-machines, curtains-pulls, and strobe-lights.
Materials needed for LTYM
- Printed story for each participant
Materials needed for FE
- Folding chairs
No props, costumes,or set-changes [as FE has grown over the years, we've had some of these things but they're absolutely superflous; the shows would still kill without any of it]. Sometimes less is more. And wonderfully, usually less costs less.
In this day in age of having fourteen tabs open in your browser, popular quick-fire presentation formats like TED and Pecha Kucha, and needing to check your phone constantly, our ability to stay focused for any amount of time is quickly degrading. FE and LTYM address this societal stumble by producing tight, fast-paced shows that leave no room for checking texts.
FE is a 2.5-3 hour show! but no segment is longer than ten-minutes. Stepping, song, video, stepping, talking, song, and so the back and forth goes. Despite its length, audience members often comment on how fast the night is.
Brief intro of each LTYM speaker and a six-ish minute story, x 17. No curtain, no lights-out, no intermission. Quick quick quick.
He/she doesn’t need to actually love spreadsheets [though why wouldn't you?!], the curator just needs to be organized, a good communicator, and efficient. I don’t know Tracey Becker or Melisa Wells, the producers of Chicago’s LTYM, but gauging from the seamless transitions, the well-thought out order of speakers, the quality of the stories in terms of arc, detail, and timing, and the lack of any production downtime or tech-snafus, I would bet that Becker and Wells are organized, good communicators, and efficient.
I majored in English and Sociology. I have no formal business or theater training. Before the first Fear Experiment, in 2010, I had never produced show. When searching for a venue, I pretended I knew what ”proscenium” and “marley” meant. The fact that I produce two three-hour, forty+ participant shows a year for an audience of 700+ continually makes me stop and say, “What is my life and how did I get here?!” Well, via a lot of spreadsheets, google docs, and other tools that keep the life of a curator as sane as a curator can be. Besides the thanks from those in the show, the comments that mean the most to me are those from the audience and the venue regarding how professional and smooth FE is. I’m just a girl who likes boxed-wine and flip-flops! I keep thinking someone’s going to arrest me for fraud. But until then, I’ll keep wearing this disguise of Producer, behind the veil of spreadsheets.
If you’re not only professional but also a nice person to collaborate with, so much the better. Sponsors, vendors, and just general people who love you go a loooooong way. Whether it’s volunteer ticket-takers or videographers, or a venue that says thanks with comp’d tickets, reserved seats, and free drinks at a sold-out show, life is made a lot sweeter when folks are on your side. Divas need not apply!
And so that’s the formula for event success that became clear to me after all these years, sitting there watching these fabulous LTYM women –
Fill A Hole + [Mass Quantities of] Everyday People + Universal Topics + Emotions + No Bells ‘n Whistles + ADD-Friendly + Spreadsheet-Lover
A bonus addition to the formula - Mommy Bloggers! LTYM was sponsored by BlogHer and many of the storytellers were bloggers. The blogging community in general is tight; the mommy-blogger hemisphere? If there was ever a group that epitomized community… A thumbs-up from them is like an Oprah Book Club seal on the cover of your book. If you can get in the good graces of a large, active, and influential community like Mommy Bloggers, your event will have no problem garnering attention.
A bonus bonus addition to the formula – both LTYM and FE have Do Good components. LTYM donates of portion of ticket proceeds to a non-profit. FE incorporates an under-served community, from students at a low-income elementary school to adults affected by homelessness, into the three-month experience. Besides being awesome due to the helping one another’ness, Doing Good also often opens more doors as far as press, ticket-sales, and sponsorship opportunities.
Imig took LTYM to twenty-four cities three years after her baby’s birth. Let’s see where Mac ‘n Cheese and I will end up – LTYM has encouraged me to spread my wings! Sunday’s outing with Mom + the release of my TEDx talk Monday, which has garnered me lots of outside of Chicago attention = okay Universe, I hear you; I’ll stop making lists and start DOING.
**Plea to audience members of these types of shows
Chances are you’re coming to see one person in the show. After your loved one gets his/her time in the spotlight, please don’t leave! I was appalled at Ignite Chicago a month ago when someone’s entire cheering section left after their rockstar was done; the same thing happened on Sunday. People leaving is heartbreaking for the presenters that have yet to spotlight and heartbreaking for curators who’ve spent countless hours sending emails, promoting, pep-talking, editing, taking care of a bazillion little details. Stay for the entire show.
**Of note from the LYTM website
“Do I have to be a mother to participate? NO. Write about your mother, write about a grandparent or another person who raised you. Write about your desire or difficulties becoming a mother. Write about single-fatherhood. Whatever you write, as long as it’s your authentic story and a tribute to mothering, it should be appropriate for auditions.”
April 22nd - After ridiculous, “is this really happening?” success creating an almost 100% bartered-wedding, I decided to see what seven minutes on Twitter could do. We’re batting almost 1.000 with local folks we know, from friends to acquaintances, so I was curious to see what’d happen with corporate cold-call shout-outs so to speak.
Some didn’t respond at all. Most of the responses were similar to:
Very nice. But let’s be honest, not the free flight or 1st class upgrade I was hoping for. (I’ve never been in 1st class, is it as amazing as I dream it to be?!?! One of these days. Friendster stock will be taking off soon, right?)
And that’s how on April 26th I found myself on the phone with a friendly Canadian (is there any other type?) giving us free stuff.
I tried my hardest to make this a bartership, as opposed to a freebie, bullet-pointing all the awesomeness we could offer. Perhaps doing things just because and not for anything in return is Canadian-law. Well, arrest me, I’m going to at least publicly thank you! (I also tried finding a snail mail address to write a thank-you note but I guess internet-sleuth is not a title I can claim.)
Due to childcare and illness issues, earlier this week, three! of my five speakers on a panel I curated cancelled last minute. That and bad weather are an Event Planner’s worst nightmare. All of the planning, the promotion, the webpage creation, the logistical emails…oy. Ironically, I had created the event four months in advance so as to save any scrambling (patted myself on the back a few times for being such a long-term visionary) and it was a panel on balancing life as an entrepreneur, delving into time-management, efficiency, and organization. So much for any of those!
The continual stream of inquiries I get from strangers and friends alike, asking me some version of the questions “How do you stay so organized? How do you juggle everything? Can I pick your brain about _____?” combined with the speaker cancellations resulted in me jumping on my own panel at the eleventh hour; luckily, it was still a fab evening. I wasn’t stoned by the masses who had come to see not-me, folks enjoyed drink and food by Chocolate Shop Wine and The Cooking Chicks, and discussion, both informal during the un-networking and formal during the panel, was thought-provoking and collaborative.
Steered by Miki Johnson, Tricia Meyer of Meyer Law, Bryn McCoy of Citizen Made, and I of Mac ‘n Cheese Productions shared personal stories about being proverbial wearer of many hats female small business owners, and tips and tricks that’ve made our lives easier. Since there were so many ohhh’s and ahhh’s when I mentioned some of the simple ‘n free tools I use, thought I’d share them with you, dear blog-reader, in hopes that you may find some calm in any chaos you may have in your life. Even if the chaos is just an inbox with an overwhelming number of unread emails.
Some of the list inclusions have nothing to do with time-management or the like, but are entities that’ve enriched my life via personal development or saving a buck or two. If you have your own life-savers, do share!
Fifteen Life of Yes! Loves
- Rapportive - Rapportive shows you everything about your contacts right inside your inbox. Photo of them, their title, where they work, and links to their social media accounts, so you can link to them right there, without having to leave gmail.
- Boomerang - If you’re looking for a simple system to send off emails at a specified date, Boomerang does the trick wonderfully. It also tracks emails to remind you to follow up with someone, and reminds you if someone doesn’t get back to you.
- Buffer - Buffer makes your life easier with a smarter way to schedule the great content you find. Fill up your Buffer at one time in the day and Buffer automagically posts them for you through the day. Simply keep that Buffer topped up to have a consistent social media presence all day round, all week long.
- LastPass - This free password manager and form filler relieves the stress of trying to remember a slew of passwords. If you regularly move between multiple computers, devices and operating systems, LastPass securely stores and gives you access to any of your account credentials.
- Swizzle - Subscribed to tons of newsletters you no longer read but still get? Swizzle helps you easily unsubscribe from unwanted commercial email and rolls up the emails you do want into one simple daily digest.
- HelloSign - no more printing out a document, signing it, scanning it, and sending! Digitize your signature and do it all in Gmail.
- ToDoist - online ToDoList. I love always having access to my list! (And Fiancé and I are using WeDoist to plan our wedding)
- Doodle - If you’re trying to find a convenient time to meet several people. No more 23 emails back and forth trying to find a time that works for all!
- Canned Responses - If you’re sick of typing out the same reply every time someone emails you with a common question, now you can compose your reply once and save the message text with the “Canned responses” button. Later, you can open that same message and send it again and again.
- Airbnb - Our fave travel-lodging site! If you’d rather stay in a home than in a hotel, this is for you. We had a gorgeous condo for $37 a night in Asheville, NC, and just booked our Hawaii honeymoon with them.
- Prezi - stop using Powerpoint for presentations! Easy, fun way to make you look like a creative genius. Just don’t go overboard on the zooming.
- Lifehacker - my go to resource for all things random yet useful, from technology reviews to DIY projects to how to save money tips.
- Power2Switch - Power2Switch is the easiest way to switch your electricity supplier and save money on your electric bill. Since I switched in the Fall, have saved over $80, for doing nothing but saying no thanks, ComEd!
- Uber - request a cab ride anytime anywhere using this awesomely simple app! No cash is exchanged, even tip, it all goes on the credit card linked to your account. I usually get rides in five minutes.
- Dabble - Whether learning a new skill, dusting off a rusty one, or finding a new pastime, Dabble makes it easy to try something new. Or you can be a teacher instead of a student, and earn some extra income doing what you love!!! [I've had 20+ students at all my How to Design a Life of Yes! classes thus far; was going to take a break for awhile but so energized by awesome last class, added another!]
When then-Boyfriend first asked me about rings, my romantic response was “If you spend more than $100, I’ll be mad.” And I meant it. It wasn’t one of those “Don’t worry about getting me a gift Honey, your love is all I need” comments when you really DO want a gift and get mad at him when he doesn’t decipher your true meaning [I LOATHE those games and the lack of them in our relationship was one of the key ways I knew he was the one].
I’ve never been into labels or caring if an item is “real.” I’m much prouder of a pair of $35 Canolo Flahnik’s out of a dude’s trunk than a pair of $965 Manolo Blahnik’s out of a Lincoln Park boutique. When someone compliments something of mine, if I can add “And I got it on sale for ____!”, all the better.
When it comes to jewelry, I’m a Claire’s girl, not a Tiffany girl. So I didn’t think I’d care what others thought of my ring. But since getting engaged last May, starting immediately with reactions to my engagement Facebook post -
Holy shit! Congratulations and WOW!
CONGRATULATIONS!!!!! I just screamed at work. The order of seeing things was gorgeous ring, Batman, Saya!!! and [Fiance]!!!!!
OMG, that’s so awesome, congrats SAYA!!! AND wow, look at that rock, GORGEOUS!!!
Holy crapolie!! Congrats!!
Love everything about this post- the partnership, the photo, the RING!
Holy bat ring! I like your rock. Tell Mr Hillman he’s the man.
Sorry, did you post some text with this picture? i was in a trance with the beautiful shiny rock on your hand. congrats, guys!! awesome-sauce!!
Is that at least 3 carats total weight or a good camera angle? And what’s the cleavage angle on her?
Congrats and I have to agree with so many others- that ring is gorgeous!!!
Damn girl that ring is BIG!!!! Congrats!
That ring looks massive! Well done!!
Yay, Saya!!! So happy for you and , of course, the ring ain’t too shabby.
Oh My Gosh!!! Congratulations!!!!!!!! Nice rock!!!!!!!!!!
Whoa–there’s a rock! So happy for you!
That’s a rock alright! Congrats!!!
HOLY AMAZING — we could serve a meal on that ring! Congratulations!!!!
Congrats, Saya! And nice bling.
– and continuing on through today, when people take my hand in their hand and bring it uncomfortably close to their eyeballs, twisting and turning my appendage like a chicken on a rotisserie spit, making comments like “Fiance done good!”, feelings of discomfort surface. I was/am (naively?) surprised at all the comments on its size and implied cost.
I know nothing about rings but I assume that if mine was real, it’d be about a gazillion dollars. I became horrified that people thought my engagement ring was an expensive ring.
- I’m the girl who wore $3.50 Old Navy flip-flops to her Commencement Ball!
- I’m self-employed; frugality is my oxygen!
- I don’t wear make-up, heels, or nylons!
- I’d so much rather travel, technology, a class, fine-dining than jewelry!
When Fiance told me he had no clue what to look for and asked for direction, we smooshed our shared-love of efficiency and organization; I created Dropbox folders, one marked “No” and one marked “Yes,” with about twenty images in each of rings I didn’t like and rings I loved, as well as a document called Ring Thoughts, my very important opinions on all things sparkly [Dropbox is awesome! If you're not using it for online storage/backup/sharing, you should; it's free!]. Then I promptly forgot all about the topic. Until he turned me into a girly-girl on top of an Asheville, North Carolina mountain and gave me the most gorgeous thing in the world.
It was a little big as he had stolen one of my rings from my jewelry box for sizing purposes, unaware that I enjoy wearing my rings on my middle finger and thumb, which are bigger than the ring-finger. When we were chatting about this back in our sweet [and amazingly affordable] Asheville Airbnb.com condo; $37 a night!, and he said he’d get me a different size, I was expecting to wait a week or two or three for the exchange, not the thirty seconds it took him to give me a new ring.
Turns out, he wasn’t confident in his size choice. And the price being whatever it was made it easy to have a Plan B AND a Plan C. He told me what website he got the three rings from. I could go see how much he spent. But I feel like that number is much like the other number conversation couples have that does no one any good; what positive will surface knowing how many people he slept with before you? So it goes for what he spent on the ring. All I care about is that a) he didn’t spend a fortune and b) he wants to marry me. Little did I realize that my Claire’s-ness would result in a huge-ass cherry on top of the proposal-sundae.
“Since I didn’t spend a lot on your ring(s), want me to get you an engagement Mac Book Air?” [faint] Most romantic statement ever! Yes!
And so that’s how I ended up with three engagement rings and an engagement Mac Book Air.
Just like we’ve got our fat clothes for when we accientally gain five, ten, thirty-pounds and can no longer fit into our jeans, I’ve got fat rings; bring on the Poutine! AND I get a beautiful new machine of entrepreneurism?!?! I couldn’t imagine a better scenario. Except for if Apple heard our story and was so smitten that they decided we HAD to be America’s Apple Couple and asked us to be in their ads and test-drive their products, showering us with free iPhones and Mac Books. I am not above wearing an Apple logo on my wedding dress.
Proof you can have a successful business with a sucky logo (or two or five)
On this eighth anniversary of the birth of Mac ‘n Cheese Productions, I would like to give you a gift and thank:
1) My ex-boss who fired me in 2004
Didn’t know what I wanted to do, just knew I didn’t want “boss” to be in my vocabulary any more. Sat down on my couch and made this list of things I wished I could get paid to do no matter how ridiculous they sounded. Fast forward to 2012: every bullet point on that list is somehow incorporated into what I do for a living. And I pinch myself daily that my “job” is to meet, connect, and support amazing people from all walks of life. Even got a random guy in my kitchen turned best friend turned Fiancé out of self-employment.
2) My gut
Which told me to ignore the “experts” and just Nike the bejeezus out of life –
- Instead of spending time making a business plan, I decided to make a business
- Instead of waiting to launch until I had a good website or logo (I’m still waiting on both), I announced Mac ‘n Cheese Productions to the world and said I’d figure stuff out as things came up
- Instead of spending money I didn’t have on top-of-the-line equipment, business cards, and other “must-haves,” I bought the cheapest good-quality video camera I could find on a Best Buy payment plan that accrued no interest if paid off within a year, bartered my time and network for a copy of the $1000 editing software Final Cut Pro, and got free business cards via Vistaprint that left much to be desired design-wise but did what they were supposed to do which was tell clients how to reach me
- Instead of creating a strategic plan and reflecting on where I wanted to be in five years, I focused on where I wanted to be that day and perhaps the next day, living in and for the now
- Instead of continuing down the safe-path of doing what had been my financial bread ‘n butter (video production and teaching), because I had lost passion for both and found passion elsewhere (infecting others with the Life of Yes! disease), I took the scary leap of leaving consistent, guaranteed money for “who the hell knows how I’m going to pay rent next month, but who the hell cares cause I’m having so much fun and feeling like I’m doing good” money
- Instead of bemoaning my dislike of the traditional ways of finding people to date, people to friend, and people to client, e.g. bars, classes that end when the class ends, and networking events, I created alternatives which became business ventures because as it turns out, others were dissatisfied too and willing to pay for value-packed solutions
- Instead of bemoaning the lack of summer-camp’esque options for adults, where we unearthed our creativity, discovered ourselves, and forged deep relationships with people we had just met, an environment I missed greatly from my days at Boston College, I rented a bunch of cabins in Michigan and a fifteen-passenger van, and crossed my fingers that people would sign up for my Life of Yes! Retreat (they did)
- Instead of letting fear and doubts paralyze me when I read the bios of the other speakers at CUSP 2012 (a conference on the Design of Everything) – inventor of the touch screen, author of three books, gold-medalist, child prodigy, Oxford and Harvard, testified before Congress – I chose to act confident and embrace the opportunity. Resulted in a note from one of the conference’s curators, Without a doubt… your talk was my (and many others) most memorable and favorite. Priceless!, and tweets like –
- Instead of getting the wind taken out of my sails when I got rejection notices from Excelerate, Impact Engine, the Unreasonable Institute, TEDTalks, IDEO, and a bazillion other things that I’ve applied for, when fellowship and grant RFPs made me feel like I’m not providing an impactful service because I’m not ending world-hunger or putting shoes on South American children, when traditional angel investors/VCs/businessmen in fancy suits made me feel small, stupid, and like I don’t belong at the adults table, I realized I don’t want to try to fit in someone else’s box, that my box is AWESOME and that “businessmen” could use a bowl of Mac ‘n Cheese
I wouldn’t have lasted four months, let alone eight years, without your incredible support. Thank you for allowing me to continue to travel the self-employment path when my unemployment benefits ran out, when I kinda had no idea what I was doing (that feeling seems to never quite go away), when people were telling me I had to do it one way but that way didn’t sit well with me.
You coffee’d with me. You attended my events. You offered your services and skills. You sent encouraging emails. You referred me.
You made the ridiculous possible.
I haven’t spent a dime on marketing/advertising. You share Mac ‘n Cheese with your friend who just went through a nasty breakup and needs some goodness in her life, you share Mac ‘n Cheese with your nephew who just moved to Chicago and wants to meet others, you share Mac ‘n Cheese with your blog readers who are the type who want to Nike the bejeezus out of life. Your word of mouthy-ness is a gift I can’t even begin to attach a value to. Priceless.
You send me the most heartwarming thank-you notes with sentiments like “Fear Experiment was the most transformative experience of my life” and “The world is a better place because you’re in it,” when in fact it’s you being a gift to life by being open and vulnerable and supportive, often times with complete strangers.
As a small token of thanks, I wish I could give you a $100 bill and a carrot-cake cupcake. Or a can of Daisy Cutter if that’s more your thing. But I don’t have that cash and the logistics of mailing you a pastry/pint of beer aren’t favorable. What I do have is a large network which for some reason listens to my referrals and suggestions, and answers my calls for help.
So I’d like to offer you a shout-out. An event you want to promote, a job opening, a job wanted, a service you provide, a car for sale, a charity you want others to know about, a call for a keyboardist to join your band, a book of yours you want people to buy…. whatever you want to share with the Mac ‘n Cheese network, I would love to share for you!
How to Redeem Your Shout-Out
- Via the Mac n’ Cheese website, send me a blurb (a few sentences) for my newsletter and a tweet (140 characters or less)
- Make sure to include links and/or contact info so people can find out more details/get in touch
And Bonus, Pass It On!
NextDoor Chicago has initiated an awesome Do Good movement, where they do good for someone, in hopes that that someone will do good for someone, and the Pay It Forward model will ensue. If you redeem a Mac ‘n Cheese shout-out, consider joining the movement and
- Buy your receptionist/boss/coworker a latte
- Offer to wash the dishes for a week for your roommate
- Give flowers to the postal worker behind the counter
- Let someone who looks like they’re in a hurry go in front of you in the Jewel checkout line
Then share your Do Good on the NextDoor Facebook page and/or via Twitter using #NDdoGood @nextdoorchicago. And here in the comments section!
Here’s a Do Good from Fear Experiment participant Sara Collins, in thanks for getting pizza and a journal from NextDoor when she started her Fear Experiment journey: “While getting my car serviced today a man who was applying for a job there asked for my help filling out his application, since he had recently hurt his arm. I sat with him filling out some 10 pages of the application, spelling out his references’ names letter by letter…”
Deep deep thanks to ex-boss, gut, and you!! You make me happy.
**If you have your images turned off or are reading this in an RSS feed, you may want to head to the actual blog to see the pretty images**
UPDATE: I’ve gotten tons of inquiries about where the caricature of us below was made. Here you go!
While our ridiculous wedding wish has yet to find a Fairy Godmother, we a) are sans-stress, as neither Fiancé nor I feel the need to have to get married by a certain date so are plugging along with an optimistic, things have a way of working out attitude, and b) have been so surprised and incredibly humbled by the “I don’t have a mansion but I’d like to offer you ______” goodness from friends and strangers. Truly truly heartwarming.
Sample of Goodness Others have Offered
- Update – bride and groom teeth whitening
- Update – wedding photography
- Engagement photos photo session
- Custom-made beer labels for wedding favors
- Curate and host a fundraiser with proceeds going to the wedding fund
- Custom-made wedding invitations
- Downtown venue for a shower, bachelorette/engagement party, any smaller-type wedding affair
It’s also been heartwarming to see the reactions from people, like these from strangers who saw a Facebook post of a friend -
“I read this and love them even though I’ve never met them! I hope they get it!”
“(NAME), I don’t suppose you still maintain any ties to some really open-minded North Shore folks who think these people sound as fantastic as I think they sound, do you?”
And then this arrived in the mail, from a college friend of mine -
We couldn’t stop laughing and loving.
This whole uniting with your best friend thing is pretty nice. Even if we end up getting hitched in our living room or the Trader Joe’s parking lot (I do love Trader Joe’s), the amount of goodness that’s already been showered upon us is enough to make the simple act of putting our wish out in the ether completely worth it.
Thanks Nice People.