What are you born to do?

Bday_6

As I celebrated my birthday at the Blue Note Jazz Club earlier this month I came to a realization – everyone is put on this planet to do something. Jessica Latshaw is someone who is born to perform. I first heard about Jessica through my non-profit She’s the First when she played our rock concert and I was excited for another opportunity to see her live.

With a front row seat to her Blue Note set I could see that every ounce of Jessica’s being is there to perform. From her fingertips to her toes she literally oozes goodness and keeps her audience on the edge of their seats. 

I’m still defining my purpose, but overall I believe I’m here to connect. To connect people with brands in my profesh life and to connect people and their stories in my day to day. 

Sing – dance – lead – collaborate – high five? What are you born to do? 

 

 

What will you see?

During your morning commute how often do you take time to enjoy your surroundings? Between being late, tired or scared of the yelling person next to you – I bet not too often. 

Ruddy Harootian brings the everyday of people’s lives into the forefront by leading tours of art in the NYC Subway. Check out the film from directors Tim Sessler and Brandon Bloch below.

Take time to really see what’s going on around you during your next ride. Come back to let me know what you discover.  

 

From a 20-Something

To the 40-something, fashion designer, entrepreneur, mom and wife in NYC,

Thank you for sharing your personal independence story with the 40:20 Vision. I like to think I’ve shared a subway ride with you or passed you on the street. I likely smiled at you as we Midwesterners are prone to do.

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Although I’ve been brave enough to take the leap and move away from home, the fear of failure does not become any less strong. I will carry these words with me, especially the closing line – any sentence that contains self-confidence, fail, successful and happy – is definitely one worth remembering. 

Thanks to your current perspective on personal independence, I can say “hey risks, let’s dance.” 

6 months in… 6 lessons learned

I’ve been laying low on the blog front, but doing the exact opposite in my every day. I’ve taken the last few weeks to reflect on my writing to date, to imagine where it will go in the future and to truly experience the present. I realized I was going into situations thinking to myself, how can I write about this later? As a “student always” I will maintain that curiosity, but focus instead on being fully present in the moments.

I find it hard to believe, but I’ve been in this place they call the Big Apple for 6 months. Since moving I regularly say that ‘every day is a good day,’ but I would be lying if I didn’t acknowledge the lows along with the highs. In reflecting on the past 6 months, 6 key lessons have emerged. 

I lost a lot. People say you can start a conversation with anyone in New York by asking how they got here. Inevitably it’s a story filled with struggles that test our abilities to keep pushing forward. 

In my first few months I lost my Auntie Stephanie and pup Tequila to heaven’s pearly gates. My iPhone and wallet were stolen and I literally lost my way (gets tricky in a new city without a superphone, aka smartphone). It was difficult dealing with the passings and setbacks in a new city, but I knew I could only allow myself a certain amount of time to be sad. Lesson 1: Dwelling on the negative only keeps you from enjoying the positive. 

I was trusted as a professional. On the side hustle front, entrepreneur friends have turned to me for counsel and some even want to pay me! In my day job I take an active role in my clients’ programs and I’m called on to support projects outside my regular accounts. I’m serving as the Operations Manager for an internal initiative that strives to equal the male-female ration in leadership positions and provides support for employees on their way up. (This program is also the catalyst for my high five with the company’s CEO/President! Side lesson: It pays to speak up in the elevator about your enthusiasm for a program.) Lesson 2: Go after the work that excites you, challenges you and most importantly, scares you. Push yourself to do the things you think you cannot do. 

I had to ask for money. It’s hard to admit this, but definitely a part of my New York makeup. I realized how quickly money goes here and when you factor in the unexpected – like replacing a laptop – the challenge becomes greater. From babysitting to bartending (can you see me serving up cocktails?) to reinventing my first biz of start to finish party services, I’m planning ahead so I don’t find myself in a similar situation. Lesson 3: Get smart with the dollars and remain grateful for your support system. 

I met a guy. For the first time in a while, I really liked someone. We didn’t have a lot of time to spend together before he headed off on an adventure so we packed everything in over the course of one month. Lesson 4: The length of time you know a person means nothing when it comes to making a true connection. I expected this notion from my social media connections (it’s easy to make fast friends with shared interests via Twitter, for example), but not from a person I wanted to date and one I initially met in real life. I grew up thinking I had to follow this drawn out path to find that connection, when really; two people just need to be open at the same time. Who knows what’s to come, but I look at the situation knowing I’ve come away a better person just by being a part of it. 

I made new friends, but kept the old. (As the Girl Scouts’ song goes…) I joined a non-profit. I attended networking events. I took yoga classes. I picked up girls at parties. I put myself out there. The people I’ve met have been the main reason I’ve experienced a seamless transition. 

On the other hand, I Skyped for hours. I mailed postcards. I sent 1,300 texts in a month (yes, it is somehow possible on a stupidphone). I hosted 8 visitors (with more on the way!) I made time for phone calls and avoided multitasking during them so I could truly listen and be a part of each conversation. I’m still working at how to perfect the keeping in touch. Lesson 5: Moving to a new city tests your ability for meeting people while it challenges your creativity for staying in touch with those back home. Both remind me the most important parts of your life are defined by the people you choose to have in it. 

I left my comfort zone. For 25 years I lived in the same state and never more than two hours away from the house where I was raised. Some people make big moves for college while others take the leap following graduation. I needed a little more time to fully commit to a big transition. I struggled in the past with change, and I’m still learning how to handle it, but I’m comfortable with it being a work in progress. Lesson 6: When a change is the right one for you, you won’t have any doubts about making that leap.

Here’s to the lessons to come

Regardless of location, do you have any “coming to New York” stories or lessons to share? I’d love to hear from you in the comments.  

Dscn2368Stay_nyc1MemorialStatue_of_liberty_cropped

 

You Should Stay In New York City

** I find more meaning in this letter every time I read it. It deserved its own post.

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Dear You,
   
So you told me that you thought about leaving New York. Which, I suppose, plenty of transplants think of doing. It’s not the first time and probably won’t be the last.

But these waves of thoughts were different than before. It was triggered when your sister had her baby, her first child and your first nephew, and you weren’t there. Instead, you spent that Friday checking mousetraps. You met your nephew via Skype. It has also been officially a year since you’ve been here and you’ve reevaluated the facts.

Living in Bed-Stuy is precisely what one could have assumed living in Bed-Stuy to be like, just with more cat-calls from tough guys in groups wondering why you’re so rude for not welcoming their advances. Never has being around so many made you feel so alone. You thought you would have found your Miranda and Charlotte by now, not watching them on DVD wondering how a show could get so much right and wrong in the same season. 
   

Every day it becomes clearer that New York is the greatest place to be when you matter but it’s the worst place to be when you don’t. Around every corner is a better apartment, or a better happy hour, or all the makings of a wonderful life you wish you had.

But I don’t think you should leave New York.

At least, not yet.

In your heart, you know you were not meant for an ordinary life. You flourish in a life surrounded by innovators and passionate people. You found that here.

There’s a life for you back home. It was pre-wrapped for you from birth. It’s comfortable, featuring your friends, your family, your car. It all sits waiting for you like a lottery ticket with the winning numbers unscratched. It’s tempting, no doubt.

There’s nothing magical about New York City. It is an amazing place just as there are amazing places everywhere, each with its own strengths and opportunities and disadvantages. You could have discovered and followed your passions in dozens of cities or towns. But for you, you knew in your heart that place was New York. And so you came.

Your nephew won’t ever remember you weren’t there for his birth. But one day you might find he’ll remember the time he visited his favorite aunt up north. The one who left home to make her name is the greatest place to make a name.

I hope you find solidarity knowing you are like so many others. You’re a special kind of person, the kind who decided to choose what their destiny would be, not have it laid out for them. Their New York might be in Los Angeles. Or Nashville. Or a sustainable farm in South America. That isn’t the point. The point is you didn’t commit to change because this city would make you the woman you wanted to be. You knew the woman you were. You know the woman you demanded yourself to become, and she belonged in New York.

Remember that CD you bought from those subway musicians at Lorimer? You paid ten dollars for only 5 songs. I told you that was a rip-off. You disagreed. You liked their music and wanted to support them in a simple way. You decided if those guys make their name outside of the subway system, you said you’d be glad to have been there when they had only the backs of people waiting for the next G train. 
    

It is very possible that the financial, emotional, and physical toll this move to New York took on you will not be worth it. It is very possible that you will go home and resume being yourself as you would have otherwise been, understanding the life you had imagined isn’t a fairy tale. But when it comes to your success, I’d put ten dollars on you.

And I’d put ten dollars on your success happening here.

– Robert (via Thought Catalog)

I could be on a billboard in NYC

Every day I ask myself if New York can get any better. After my wallet and phone were stolen three weeks into the big move it was obvious things could only take a turn for the positive, but I had no idea everything would be this good – from work to my neighborhood to the fantastic people I’m meeting. Add this weekend’s photo shoot to the list of why a NY move was a stellar decision:

The Badoo Project
is a quest to help New Yorkers say a very personal ‘Hello’ to their city. It kicked off with a 3 day photoshootathon, where 4 hot photographers undertook the ambitious task of capturing 1000 portraits of New Yorkers.

Based on personality, energy and individuality, a final 24 will then get the chance to say ‘hello’ to the city. Every billboard, banner and media across New York will star one of their faces.

Shameless plug… why not “go with the flo” and like my photo here?

Giving Thanks

I’ve been trying out this activity they call yoga. My friend, Jenny “I-Can-Do-Everything-Got-A-Problem?” Blake, teaches Geek Yoga to a room full of professionals looking for a way to de-stress from the week and take time for themselves.

Until a few weeks ago, I had never understood the popularity of yoga and even questioned attending – I’m not flexible, if I’m going to a class I would prefer dance where I understand its purpose and what’s with the crazy terms and chants? I’ve realized this activity comes with many misconceptions (you don’t have to be flexible, there is a purpose and the terms do have meanings, which I will learn, eventually).

Tonight was especially enlightening.

Before the class halfway point (I’m guessing here because I have no sense of time during class – it’s spectacular!) Jenny instructed the group to let go of anything we were holding onto. For the first time – in a long time – my mind raced from work to friendships to relationships, anything that typically causes stress. From one area to the next, I felt frantic because I couldn’t find anything that I needed to let go of. That is a powerful feeling.

As the class came to a close, and we bowed our heads in gratitude, Jenny posed the question, “What are you thankful for?” This time I had plenty to consider. My mind filled with good thoughts of moving to New York, thriving in this city, making new friends while maintaining great contact with the ones in Chicago.

It felt like I was bursting with countless reasons for which to be thankful and the one that felt strongest was being in that studio. I was joined by a group of people I’ve only just met, but the energy among them is so great. It’s the kind of group where you may not yet know each member well (and the members constantly rotate), but you look forward to being a part of the experience that brings them all together. 

After class the yoga crew headed out together (detox, then retox) while I just needed some time alone to put these thoughts into perspective. (And I think we’ve found yet another definition for Geek Yoga – instead of hanging out with people I felt inspired to go home and write about them.)

So I ask you: why are you giving thanks this week?

[Hustle & Flo] – Stand out

Welcome to Hustle & Flo – an ongoing series where I share insights into the job search. I hope to not only explain how I got where I am today, but provide actionable items to add to your To Do List. First item on the list – stand out.

When I began the out-of-state job hunt I knew I needed to do something to set me apart. I had the idea to create a video introduction and the fantastic Stephanie Wonderlin took my idea to a whole new level.

With her company 44Doors as host, my video was uploaded to a private microsite accessible via the QR code on my resume.

My competition could interview on their lunch break so I needed to make an introduction that would make me more than words on a resume. Throughout the interview process, many people commented on seeing very few, if any, QR codes as a resume addition.

Create your own at this site. Questions about the content? I provided my background, including associations to my all-girl high school and alma mater, because I’ve found education resonates during introductions. I told the viewer about my past experience and what I wanted to do: join him/her in New York. I admit the video is not flawless, but it definitely provides a sense of my personality.

Scan the code here:

Stephanieflo-med

A Day in Brooklyn

Since my phone was stolen and my digital camera charger has been MIA since the move I have limited options in documenting my life in New York. This is why I chose video during a day in Brooklyn. A visit to the public library, a walk in Prospect Walk, my first taste of ostrich and overall observations of the day. Enjoy!

A Rite of Passage

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Well friends, it was bound to happen. Roughly four minutes in and I knew something was up. Four minutes later and the news was confirmed. I was quasi-lost on the subway. I give myself the benefit of the doubt at this point because I had no idea how deep I would get myself.

An estimated 16 minute ride turned into a two hour (not-so-scenic view) of the New York subway system. I did get some fresh air in Greenwich Village as I searched for my first slice of New York pizza. I stumbled upon Joe’s Pizza. Turns out this place is an institution in Greenwich Village with celebrity photos adorning the wall. If this slice was good enough for John Stamos, it was certainly good enough for me. Important Question: Forget convenience, do you think NY-ers fold their pizza because they simply want it to be Chicago deep dish? Mull that one over.

But back to the subway… even once I realized I was lost I didn’t panic. I accepted the situation as a right of passage.

I kept checking the map thinking I was getting back in the right direction. I did what any smart Chicago girl would do – I pretended I knew what I was doing. Because when you look confused / out of place in Chicago that’s when someone’s going to start chatting with you.

Last night was a great example of technology being helpful, but being a waste until common sense kicks in. Sure the super savvy iPhone will tell you the correct train is arriving, but it takes the genius holding the phone to realize she needs to start all over and reverse directions. Downtown (woo!) vs. uptown (waa waa) = a BIG difference.

Note taken and onto the next adventure!