The Tops of SXSW for Me

After wanting to attend SXSW for the last few years and purchasing my badge in September, I cannot believe it is actually here. There will be plenty to do and see, but overall here is what I am most looking forward to in Austin. 

Will you be there? Let’s connect! @StephanieFlo; stephanie.d.florence@gmail.com 

Seeing great friends in person. 

After connecting through Twitter, Britten Wolf and I have had a standing weekly phone call for the last 3 years. We’ve talked through a lot of life together and were the go-to support network along the path to landing jobs in our dream cities. The unique part of our friendship? We’ve only seen in each other in person 3 times. Here’s hoping our serious 7 day hang turns out for the best for this friendship. 

I came to admire Stephanie Wonderlin through the stellar recommendations from those in our online circles, her episodes of Tweetheart TV and her fantastic ability to leverage the 140 characters of a tweet – turning Twitter into a dynamic conversation tool. I knew I had to have her on my team and fortunately she has been in my corner the last few years. Wherever we go we bring the #stephaniestyle and I have to remind myself we haven’t actually met in person. Here’s to changing that.

Being a “student always” for an entire week.

Keynotes and sessions and workshops – oh my. Yep, this is the stuff nerds live for. As a first time SXSWer, not knowing what to expect is intimidating, but also very exciting. I cannot wait for the information overload. 

TOMS Ticket to Give

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Growing up I was fortunate enough to never wonder where my next pair of shoes was coming from. The children TOMS helps are not as lucky. Their philosophy is One for One – with every pair you purchase, TOMS will give a pair to a child in need. The shoes keep children safe from infection and can complete school uniforms so they can attend school.

For the second year TOMS is sending its fans on a giving trip to distribute shoes. I could be one of those 50 fans. Have a minute to vote? You’re able to vote once and I would very much appreciate you sharing the link with your networks. If I am one of the privileged 50 you better believe I will be sharing everything

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Here’s how I think a TOMS Giving Trip would impact my life:  

By moving to New York City I jumped out of my comfort zone – awakening my sense of adventure. That leap taught me I have so much to do, to see, to unlock. But my major realization? This is only the beginning of my potential and I must seek opportunities to greet the world outside my comfort zone. A TOMS Giving Trip would allow me to share my enthusiasm for connecting with others while removing at least one worry from the children receiving shoes. Allowing them instead to focus on what it is they can unlock within themselves.

 

To My 40-Something Self

This post originally appeared on the 40:20 Vision

After enjoying dinner at a 30-something’s apartment I realized I have a lot to look forward to. Being more established professionally and financially could mean a well-connected network, a more spacious apartment and a heftier paycheck.

It also got me thinking how I want to remind myself when I reach that more established place in my life just where I started. 

To My 40-Something Self,

If you’re going through a rough time consider, what would I have done as a 20-something? Let’s be honest – it’s a more carefree time. From friendships to relationships and from serious to silly, I’m writing to remind you where you came from. 

1. Wherever you’re living, check in often and go home regularly to see family. Regardless of age, you will always be their little girl.

2. Stay humble. There were days when you could only afford veggies for dinner and months when you lived paycheck to paycheck. 

3. Take public transportation. It’s got to be the best invention next to sliced bread and bottomless mimosa brunches. 

4. Go grocery shopping on Saturday or Sunday mornings. Apparently that’s how firemen roll, and I’m sure you’ll always enjoy a little eye candy.

5. Keep up the workout routine. I’m putting in the work as a 20-something and expect you to hold up your end of the bargain. 

6. Focus on your girlfriends. They have been there to listen, advise and dance through everything. And they will continue to be there to dry your tears, make you laugh and remind you why your ex wasn’t the one for you or how lucky you are to have found your husband. 

7. Explore. Even if circumstances don’t allow you to travel far, be a tourist in your own city. There is always something new to discover. 

8. Don’t forget that kissing is better than breathing. Whatever relationship stage you find yourself in, expect the romance and do your part to contribute as well.

9. Keep writing. If it’s not in blog form, keep journaling and sending letters and postcards. Taking time to reflect will strengthen your memory. Sharing some written love with those close to you will be a welcome surprise. 

10. Take a 20-something out for dinner and drinks. She admires you and would love to hear how you got to where you are. 

Always learning,

Your 20-Something Self

 

Words to live by

Looking for a little motivation? PR pro and social media maven Sarah Evans has you covered. In her book, [RE]FRAME, Sarah offers pieces of advice with an accompanying story for each tip. She writes in an easy to digest and very shareable format. (Pick up your copy here.) 

In one of the opening stories Sarah includes her life mission statement. She wrote it 10 years ago and each topic resonates strongly enough with her that she has not had to make any changes.  

Reading Sarah’s statement inspired me to write my words to live by.

What are yours? 

Fear is only an option, not an ultimatum. 

If life is not playing out the way I imagined, I will choose differently. 

Telling stories is good for the memory, and even better for the soul.

I am happiest when making connections. 

I am a student always.

I go with the flo(w). 

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Choosing A Different Life Plan: Reflections on Year One in NYC

This post originally appeared on the 40:20 Vision

I was recently told “True New Yorkers are the ones who chose to come to New York. The ones who left their families and support networks to be in the city. They’re not just the ones who were born and raised here.”

When I started dreaming about moving to New York City that’s all I thought it would be – a dream. I had never lived away from my family and friends. I was even nervous to share this dream with people – because the more people I told, the more people there were to hold me accountable. 

As I landed a dream gig, found an apartment in my top area of Manhattan and packed up my belongings, I kept waiting for the catch. It shouldn’t be this easy. 

They say everyone has a “Welcome to New York” story. Mine came in the form of a stolen wallet and iPhone my first month here. Next the struggle to have enough money for bills and for fun became apparent quite quickly. I call that the “Are you sure to want to be in New York?” story. 

But even in the midst of stolen items or when money is tight I try not to complain. Because this is what I chose. And as a result, I’ve become a smarter person. A more determined person. A person who will be able to say I looked my biggest fear in the face and took it head on. A person with stories of tough times and sad days, but more importantly a person with unparalleled life lessons and rockstar nights. 

My brother got engaged this year. My sister got engaged this year. And I moved to a city where I knew one person. I don’t compare myself to them – I look at their current situations and think, “Here’s to different life plans.” 

Throughout my first year the hard times kept me grounded. They reminded of my choice. They also set me up to appreciate the good parts more than most would. Here’s to gaining more smarts, more determination and even more lessons in the year to come.

The 20:40 – What choices have defined you? If they’re not creating the life you imagined it may be time to start choosing differently. 

Stephanie Florence is a 20-something who can talk to a brick wall and dance to a kazoo. On every day that ends in “y” you can find Stephanie meeting people, telling exceedingly long stories and taking the approach of a student…always. Find her “Going with the Flo” at stephanieflo.com

The Art of a Great Surprise

1sur·prise  noun sə(r)-ˈprÄ«z 

Merriam-Webster defines a surprise as an attack made without warning. An attack sounds so violent. I choose to see a surprise as an art form. Here’s how my masterful plan unfolded. 

My friend Kate got engaged on New Year’s Eve. She told me the story that evening and I could feel the excitement through the phone. Little does my newly engaged friend know, but the moment we got off the phone I booked a flight to Greenville, SC to see her. Two friends were already planning a visit to South Carolina this weekend and there was no way I’d be missing out on the celebration. 

I guess I could have told my three amigas what I had in store, but where’s the fun in that? If you have a surprise in mind follow this foolproof plan. 

Find an accomplice. Enter Kate’s fiancé John. He lives in Greenville and after pulling off the greatest surprise of his life (ahem, the engagement) he was all in on surprise #2 for our girl Kate. This stud even picked me up from the airport. (Best not to get lost en route to the actual surprising – no time for that!)

Do your research. I got John to tell me as much of the plans as he knew. The last thing I wanted was to show up and they were off exploring for the entire day. I bought my ticket for the Biltmore Estate tour – even used the same discount code as the girls (the accomplice strikes again!). I followed these girls on Facebook like crazy. Of course they barely talked about the trip. Didn’t they want to help a sista out?  

Tell no one. (Let’s be practical; tell minimal people.) At first I only told my family. Then I started getting really excited so I shared the story more. However, I prefaced it with “IT’S A SURPRISE.” One Facebook post or tweet from someone about my travels and I could have been ruined. 

Plan ahead. I’ll be the first to admit that money is tight for me. I was able to make this trip happen thanks to airline points, an airport shuttle and spending a little less during the week. If you don’t collect points with an airline start NOW! Taking the cheaper, albeit less convenient, route can make a big difference. 

Keep the charade going. My email to the girls the Monday before the trip was titled “Weekend Skype Sesh + Living Vicariously Through You.” We planned for a Skype chat and I even sent a video greeting that they could watch together. After I recorded it I realized there was a bit of foreshadowing: “I can’t wait to celebrate with you soon…” 

What’s the best surprise you’ve pulled off? Let me know in the comments. Good luck to all my sneaky pals out there! 

Why People Move to NYC

Thought Catalog and New York City go together like champagne and OJ. I still get chills (and nervous and excited and happy) every time I read “You Should Stay in New York City.” And on the eve of my one year anniversary here, this gem popped up in my Facebook News Feed: “15 Reasons Why People Move to New York City.” 

I picked out a few to connect with why people move here – why I moved here. 

2. We weren’t content living our life somewhere else. We saw what it would’ve been like if we stayed put and we got scared, real scared. (If you grew up in NYC, you probably still live here because the city has made you unfit for anywhere else. It’s as if New York peed all over you when you were born and marked its territory. The little bitch!)

I came for the adventure. 

3. We heard that New York is the one place you don’t ever have to grow up. 80-year-olds walk the street at 2 a.m. looking for a coffee shop, parents still go out and maintain some semblance of a life. The people who live here operate on the pleasure principle. They do what feels good and are wary of having to deal with any sort of compromise.

I came to be carefree. 

8. We have aspirations of being the best in our field. We are hungry, hungry tigers with a serious work ethic. You don’t move to New York to do Nothing. It’s just too fucking expensive. Laying in bed for an entire day costs you like 60 dollars.

I came because it’s the best place for my industry. And why go anywhere, unless striving to be the best? 

10. We want to see faces that tell stories. We want to see passion on the streets, people screaming and crying, and pretend we’re annoyed by the noise but secretly love it, secretly feel like we’ve just been given a shot of adrenaline.

I came for the noise, for the diversity, for the excitement. 

11. We want to make the most of our youth. Treat it like it’s an orange and we’re sucking the pulp dry. Sticky fingers, messy hands, but damn it tasted good.

I came to get my hands dirty. 

14. We are the type of people whose anxieties propel us forward. Anxiety is what forced us to move here, anxiety is what landed us our great job. We’re always moving closer and closer to where we want to be, even if it doesn’t always feel that way.

I came for the challenge. 

Jumping In

Reverb is a 31 day writing exercise where daily prompts allow people to reflect on closing the year. (So, it was harder to stay on top of this than I anticipated. Here’s the Cliff’s Notes version!)

[1000 Words: There’s the old saying that a photo is worth 1,000 words.  Give us a photo with that impact that sums up some significant event of your 2012.]

2012 was filled with lots of jumping into the unknown

Jump

[Surprise:  The most surprising thing that happened this year was…]

how unafraid I was. As someone who would get homesick living two hours away from my parents’ house I thought moving to New York City would be one long cry after another. Fortunately for me (and my roommate), I’ve found my place in this city and without any doubts to hold me back, I know what it feels like to truly live in the moment. 

[Choice:  Being an adult means making your own choices. What choices were the hardest to make this year?]

What I’m realizing about becoming an adult (because I don’t believe I’m one quite yet), is how choices are made. Growing up I relied on friends’ input – almost to a fault. I made decisions based on collective input rather than my own thoughts. I feel like I’m currently a part of an in-between phase where others’ input matters less to me. Sure, I take advice and appreciate what family and friends have to say, but I’m more focused on making the choices for me. While this will mean the fault for bad decisions will be on me at least I’ll be able to learn from the experiences and choose more wisely in the future. 

[Look: Sometimes you are left standing on the outside looking in.  As you stood there, on the other side of the glass, were you thankful for the boundary?  Or do you wish you could’ve been on the action-side?]

One perfect example of this happened on Father’s Day. I was in New York and unable to attend Father’s Day brunch. I was bummed, but knew Skype would offer me a window into the family meal. They set up the laptop so that I was on the opposite end of the table from my dad. (It felt strange to not be in my usual seat, but I’d take anything just to tune in.) At first my family was asking me all the questions and I reminded them I was just there to be a part of Dad’s celebration. 

Being on the outside felt a bit like Tiny Tim… as my family enjoyed a beautiful brunch spread while I snacked on Special K. I could have done without the boundary and actually sat myself down at the table; however, Skyping into the meal was the next best thing.

[Song:  What has been your theme song this year?  Have there been several?  Make us a mix tape and tell us the meaning behind it.]

Good Feeling by Flo Rida has been the theme song of 2012 for me. It became popular around the time of my move to New York and it continued to pop up at the best times, like when I arrived at my new apartment for the first time and it was blaring over the lobby speakers. I had a good feeling about 2012 from the start and this song was a constant reminder for me.

[All grown up: What did you want to be when you grew up?  Are you that thing?  If not, are you working to become it, or have you chosen a completely different path?]

In kindergarten I wanted to be a waitress. In 5th grade I wanted to be the first female president. 

While I have not held either of those positions (yet) I can see the connections to my current job. Public relations is a service industry and just as a waitress caters to her customers we must recognize what our clients need and how to best fulfill their requests. The world of politics relies on the people who make up their teams and how their messages are expressed. PR helps politicians connect with their constituents and maintain an overall positive image when it comes to making decisions while in office and running for it. 

I’m not sure that I still see myself as the president, but I do see myself working for her one day. 

[Clean Slate: Tomorrow begins a new year.  What will you do with your new beginning?]

In 2013 I’m going to be more careful with how I give my time and my trust. I trusted a lot this year – in friendships, in relationships, in exploring a new city – and I saw how the effort I put forth wasn’t always the best use of my time. 

I’m an eternal optimist believing people will match me when it comes to time and trust. Unfortunately that’s not the case. To look on the positive side of this I’m grateful it took me until 26 to realize this. I’ve been lucky up until this point to have surrounded myself with terrific people who were my matches. In the coming year I will strive to focus on the matches in my life and understand it’s the quality of matches, not the quantity, that matter. 

[Undone: Bucket lists, To Do Lists, Always crossing things off.  2012 is almost over — what is still left standing?]

On January 13, 2012 I wrote down three goals for the year. 1. Say Yes. 2. Grow as a professional. 3. Improve my personal brand. I succeeded in saying yes to new opportunities and growing within my career, but still have a long way to go when it comes to the personal brand. I’ll be adding that one to the 2013 list.  

Friendship

Reverb is a 31 day writing exercise where daily prompts allow people to reflect on closing the year. 

[Friendship:  What was it like for you to be a friend to others this year?  Did you rekindle an old friendship?  Strengthen a current friendship?  Make friends with someone you didn’t think was “your type?”]

As I considered these questions all I could think about were the thank yous. I’ve experienced a lot of change over the last year and the friendships in my life have been my rock.  

To the friends I’ve made in New York City: Thank you for helping me to create a second home – where I’m still trying to find myself, but I know you’re along for the ride. I will take away from my first year here the dance parties, struts, brunches and all the laughter.  

To the friends back home: Thank you for filling me in while I’m away and for picking up things like I never left while I’m home. I can remember my first trip home and getting ready to meet you – I had to remind myself I no longer lived in Chicago, because it felt so natural. Each visit has followed suit.  

To the friends I’ve met through social media: Thank you for the daily reminder we are never alone. Regardless of location, job or any sort of status we connect through our passion for meeting people. We don’t check in every day, but the network is there – open for conversation, advice and collective motivation. 

To the family I consider my best friends: Thank you for letting me take this leap and supporting me the entire way down. Maybe because we spend less time together, but I find myself paying attention to the little things – each joke, each hug and each smile that seems to last just a bit longer.

Which friends are you thanking today? 

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Anchors & Intention

Reverb is a 31 day writing exercise where daily prompts allow people to reflect on closing the year and planning the one to come. 

[Place: What places anchored you this year? Or were you in search of new places and spaces to call your own and call home? Describe the place you love and why it means so much to you.]

A recent post from the3six5 summed up how I currently feel anchored. The author explained, Whatever it is, the thought of being lost among the unfamiliar is the most comforting thing in life.” I read this post the day I returned to NYC after being home in Chicago for Thanksgiving. As my cab crossed the bridge into Manhattan and I looked at the skyline I couldn’t help but smile with excitement. Excitement over being back in this city where I still got lost, where I have only scraped the surface of and where adventures I can’t even imagine yet await me

I’m approaching one year in NYC and I don’t think I’ve hit the point where I call myself a New Yorker. People say something will happen and you’ll just know. I felt a shift in energy coming back and it wasn’t until I read this post that I fully understood where the feeling originated. The challenge and unknown of NYC keeps me anchored. 

[Intention: What were some of your mantras from 2012 and how did you come by them?]

Every day is a good day. 

I’m always asked how it is living in New York. In most cases I answer with, “Every day is a good day.” 

I love my job. I love my neighborhood and apartment. I love all the people I’m meeting. I feel so fortunate that I’ve had it pretty good up to this point. 

There have been some down points as well. But in the same week my wallet and phone were stolen I also high fived my company’s CEO. I realized how you handle bad situations is all in your perspective. The missing SuperPhone and wallet were a setback, but did teach me to be more aware of my belongings and my surroundings. 

The high five could not have been better timed. During my first month at my new job, I learned my new gig will be as great as I make it. I also realized that people will make time for you – all you have to do is ask (or go in for the high five).

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