RSS Feed

Tag Archives: inspirational people

You’re never too old for mentors

One of my tasks today is to make a list of five or so people in the Austin area who I really look up to and want to ask for help. I used to think that having mentors was a privilege that only young people can have, but now I understand it’s for everybody. When I look back on my life in Portland, my mentors were the ones who made all the difference. There were Brett and Amy, two genius filmmakers whose humor and tenacity taught me so much about running a business. And Jenn, my boss at the NELA Center. And about half of my classmates at the Northwest Institute for Social Change, even though they’re my age. And my big brother Marius, proof that gods can walk around on this planet in human form. And a whole host of other people who have easily and gracefully inspired me with their ability to live creatively and help other people in the process.

I’m missing that element in Austin, so I’m going to do some digging today. On my short list is a woman named Linda, who works here; and the awesome people who started Center 61. And even though he lives in Portland, I really, reeeeeeeeally want to talk to Stephen Marc Beaudoin, who started the best nonprofit ever and appears to be friends (of the Facebook variety) with about half of my friends.

If I can snag interviews with people like this, I’ll post them on my blog so you can read the words of people who have actually started stuff, and aren’t just attempting to. I’ll report back soon!


Sunday Morning Coffee: Thunderstorm Aftermath Edition

Blog Post Roundup

This week’s edition of Sunday Morning Coffee is brought to you by the utter lack of sleep I get every time there’s a thunderstorm in Texas. For reasons that are beyond me, at the first hint of thunder or lightning my dog mysteriously leaves his body and becomes a panting, shivering, whimpering mess. He usually defecates on the carpet at least twice. It’s a strange phenomenon that is equal parts sad and frustrating.

Now that we’re working under the caveat that this will be less coherent than usual, let’s get down to it!

  • Did you know we celebrated International Women’s Day last week? I did, but that’s because I went to an all-women’s college, so my lovely classmates were more likely than most to post about it on my Facebook newsfeed. I may be cheating by posting to a collection of articles rather than a single one, but Small Business Trends curated a pretty great collection of stories about female entrepreneurs. Rock on, sisters.
  • On a related note, here’s an interesting article discussing Columbia’s reaction to its sister school, Barnard College, landing President Obama as their commencement speaker. In sum: there’s still a bizarre undercurrent of misogyny about all-women’s colleges and their relative “ease.” Going to Smith left me with some complicated feelings about same-sex education–on a personal level, I’d probably never do it again–but it still hurts to hear the stereotypes about the worth of these schools as compared to their co-ed counterparts. My former classmates pretty much kick a bunch of ass.
  • Hey! It’s South by Southwest Interactive here in Austin! I haven’t been able to go to any of the Interactive stuff, because my budget lines up better with the free music that will be beginning next week. But I’ve been interested in reading up on all the emergent technology that folks have brought to the table. For example, here’s an app that will allow you to identify information about any potential connections you may have with total strangers. Creepy? Absolutely. Cool? I think so. As with most technology, I meet this with a combination of fear and total awe.
  • Speaking of mixed feelings, my hometown brings us a bizarre article about a couple suing a hospital for neglecting to discover that their unborn child had Down Syndrome. Prenatal testing is a weird issue and I can’t really craft a cogent response to it at the moment. I do understand how many parents would not feel ready or willing to raise a disabled child; but on a gut level, reading about this particularly extreme reaction was disappointing. My oversimplified response: stuff happens, and we’re often unprepared for it. Then we learn and grow and become better people. And sometimes we start nonprofits.
  • On marketing: H&R Block’s popularity with the young adult  crowd has jumped impressively since their support of a tongue-in-cheek political initiative called The ‘Stach Act. What does this teach us about marketing? Well, my entire generation is really weird, that’s what. Our obsessions include, but are not limited to: cats, anything from the 90’s, cats interacting with dogs, bacon, cats wearing clothing, George Takei, mustaches, and cats. Harness the power of any of that, and you’ve pretty much struck marketing gold. But I’d like everybody to know that my dear hipster friend Weston and I loved H&R Block before it was cool. That’s Weston and me at the bottom, featured in “The Pilot Episode.”

The Best Thing About Running a Startup? The Small Victories.

Donation thank-you

What I found when I was searching for "DIY greeting cards." Horrifying.

This morning, I:

  • Dragged myself out of bed while still trying to remember the fabulous dream I had about helping my family pick out a pet tiger from the Tiger Humane Society (usual)
  • Turned on the coffee pot before I had actually put coffee into it and consequently made a delicious pot of hot water (usual)
  • Checked my email; deleted the latest Groupon offer. Told myself, as I do every morning, that I should unsubscribe from Groupon but then did nothing about it (usual)
  • Opened a notification from Paypal that said…what? The Great Exchange received its first donation from a complete stranger? Unusual!

With any luck, in a few years this feeling won’t be unusual. But today, an attorney in Albany, New York gave the Great Exchange a small vote of confidence…and I haven’t felt this good since I found out I was going to Finland for free (another story for another time).

Do you remember how wonderful the world was when you were a child? Well, the Great Exchange is currently in its “child” phase, and nearly everything–from a bump in traffic on this blog to the smallest of donations–feels big and weird and awe-inspiring. Sure, in a few years The Great Exchange will be as old and wizened as a retired police cop (“I’ve seen it all in my day, kids”), but today, I am making a homemade greeting card for a man I don’t know who believes in disability rights and inclusion.

And then I’m redoubling my efforts to get fiscal sponsorship, and I’ll probably look into opening a Great Exchange bank account, and I need to create an on-the-fly donor management system.This donation is a great reminder of all the things I have left to do.

“Your Job is Not to Be Perfect. Your Job is to Be Human.”

Juggling multiple things (sorry, did I say “things?” I meant “chainsaws”) can be paralyzing. I just became so overwhelmed that I ate an entire jar of martini olives and stared at the wall for 30 minutes. Then I tried to snap myself out of the dead-zone by watching TED Talks. I found a great one by Jacqueline Novogratz, the founder of Acumen Fund.

I might be flattering myself here, but I think she looks a little bit like she could be a long lost relative of mine:

Jacqueline Novogratz is a Great Exchange hero



Anyway, her TED Talk about inspiring a life of immersion, while a little all-over-the-place, does a great job of detailing the cost of not trying. It was enough to snap me out of my olive-induced coma, because I’m proud to be trying. And now I need to go find some water, because I’m pretty sure I just consumed three days’ worth of sodium.