The Missing Piece: Why the Dream Takes So Long to Manifest

When I work with children, I’m amazed at how much energy they put into any activity that they take on.

One day, I saw a child putting together a puzzle. She had a surly look on her face. She was frustrated because one piece just wouldn’t fit in the space she had created.

I looked over her shoulder. It seemed that two puzzles had been mixed together. The piece she was using belonged in another puzzle.

And so it is with the evolution of our lives.

When you begin to grow up,

your life = your job + your family + your car + your apartment + your friends + other stuff

The Missing Piece

The Missing Piece

…and they fit together, one being the natural offshoot of the other. They are part of who you understand yourself to be.

As you move toward the fulfillment of your dreams, your identity shifts.  The picture of who you are changes, and so the puzzle you are putting together has different pieces. We still try to fit them together the same way, or we try to use the same pieces to create a different picture.

That’s why as you grow:

  • you can’t drive the same car and be satisfied
  • your relationship with your family changes
  • you adjust how you spend your time at home
  • your friends grow with you or fall away
  • you are no longer satisfied with the same type of work

This is why things take longer than you expect. Your environment has to change to make a space for your success. If you cling to the things that no longer serve you, the space can’t be made.

The friend that thinks all rich people are thieves can’t make the journey with you to a prosperous life. The woman who thinks all men are dogs won’t understand it when you want to spend more time with your boo.

Let them grow or let it go. Don’t try to fit yourself into the wrong puzzle.

Chasing planes: Why Your Dream Hasn’t Gotten Off the Ground

I pass an airport on a regular basis.

I love watching the planes take off. My mother traveled constantly when I was growing up (many times taking me with her), and there was always a sense of adventure and possibility when we went to the airport.

I got my first passport at 5, and when I was 6, I got my Pan Am wings because I flew by myself for the first time.

Junior Clipper Wings

Junior Clipper Wings

In my mind, I was pretty much a superstar. I love flying.

That was until recently.

A few years ago, my mother had the opportunity to learn the ins and the outs of aerodynamics. She loves flying too, and told me about the power that is necessary to get a plane off the ground.

“Did you know that it weighs 100 tons, EMPTY??” she said, even more enamored with the miracle of modern transportation.

Wow, I thought, Cool!!

Then I got older.

Life does something funny to you as you experience more things.

You lose your sense of wonder and awe. You know how things are done, and the miracle of how things work together is sometimes lost. I didn’t realize that until I got on a plane recently.

I had a panic attack.

I’ve been flying since I was in my mother’s arms. What the…?

It happened again and again. I am a pretty reasonable person with a strong belief system, and that’s what got me through it.

Finally, after some deep reflection, I realized the fear wrapped around knowing just how much weight was coming off the ground. And just how much could go horribly wrong. That’s the stuff that stops us.

Yes, things can go horribly wrong when you throw everything into what you’re passionate about. Things go horribly wrong when you live a mediocre life too.

The most dangerous times during a flight are take-off and landing. That’s when the plane is the least aerodynamic. And so the pilot stores the wheels as soon as they clear the runway.

We take a step forward and we keep our wheels down, waiting for the right reason to hit the ground again.

That’s the real reason you haven’t gotten off the ground. You’ve got to give up your wheels for your wings.

It will be bumpy when you start off. Get over it, and get off the ground.

Give up your wheels for your wings. The world is waiting for you.

Credit: HD Wallpaper

Credit: HD Wallpaper

5 tips to get your cause into print media (and why you’d want to)

They say getting into the media in a positive way is difficult. “If it bleeds, it leads.” Without a PR agent, I’ve been able to get at least one major feature for my events in print media every year consistently since 2005. (I took a break last year to produce a Broadway show for a local elementary school.)

Print media is still a very important media outlet, because more established sponsors and partners recognize it as unbiased media. Also, older patrons who are committed donors still look to newspapers for local news. Since advertising revenue determines paper space, a newspaper feature is a hot commodity. At the end of the day, no matter what other priorities exist for a newspaper, the newspaper is a storytelling outlet.

Knowing this, I always create “reporter bait”, which are press releases that fit what a newspaper needs. If I create the press release and it’s distributed as I recommend, the event will get press.

If you’ve got a worthy cause, you may not yet have the resources to pay someone like me. And as urgent as your work is to our community, the newspaper doesn’t need your story…unless you tell a story they need to write.

Here are some tips to get your very worthy cause some well-deserved press.

1. Know your newspaper.

It’s your local paper. Do you read it? Who is your favorite reporter? If you don’t know who is writing the stories, you won’t know who would be interested in your cause and your event. I was a featured story on WLRN’s ArtStreet because the producer and I communicated about their work. I mentioned the work I was doing with arts advocacy and it fit one of her upcoming shows. She worked with the newspaper– but also had a connection with a TV outlet.

Get to know the paper and its staff—and definitely honor their time tables.

2. Your press release should be a story, not just facts and names.

Yes, you know  the fundraiser will help needy kids. The community will look better because of that beautiful mural. But a title, event description and a location isn’t enough to warrant space in print. You can find that out on Google.  Tell them why did you get involved. I should know that you’re fundraising for the homeless shelter because of the little girl who walked into her own bedroom for the first time. Reporters and editors are storytellers too, and the best stories are the ones that remind us about the hope in the community.

You’re it—so tell the story we can’t wait to hear. This event and our cause struck home with the reporter, who had a personal affinity to the organization we were supporting.

Teach-a-Thon - My first foray into a public school classroom

Teach-a-Thon – My first foray into a public school classroom

3. Have high-quality photos.

Deadlines for news media are fast. They have to research the story quickly, and many times, run with the story within a day or two. Pictures are 90% more likely to catch a viewer’s attention than text alone. They can’t always come out to take pictures. Make their job easier. Provide pictures with at least 300 DPI—and forward it to your media contact in a separate email from the press release. The reporter thanked me for having photos ready for him for this spread.

Re:Vision (Art and Collaboration for the World)

Re:Vision (Art and Collaboration for the World)

4. Connect your event to a current event or a current issue.

What’s important in your community? Who are the major players or the major influences in your part of the world? Prior to the event featured in this article, there had been a lot of press about employment, career transition, and the need for companies in South Florida to retain their best talent.  My perspective was that our best talent needed to take ownership of their careers, and build their own creative businesses.

The Artist in Business - the first of a rising tide of new entrepreneurs

The Artist in Business – the first of a rising tide of new entrepreneurs

What a refreshing angle to take on a hot topic. What new angle does your cause bring to light? Make sure it’s in your media.

5. To keep the media coming back, have a quality event.

So, yeah, you can tell a great story and get press.  Eventually, the media will come out to see what you’ve got. I had spoken to the reporter for a few weeks prior to the event featured here, and she wouldn’t say whether or not they would cover the story. She came, introduced herself at the event, and she wasn’t disappointed. When I saw the spread, I celebrated with my collaborators.

Sharing the Word - Poetry in Spirit

Sharing the Word – Poetry in Spirit

Have a quality event that really serves the greater good. If you don’t deliver on what you promised in your press release, just burn your media contact list. In fact, don’t mention I gave you any advice either.

Try any one of these tips, and get yourself in the news. Feel free to let me know how it goes!

P.S. I hope I don’t need to say this. For the love of Pete, spell-check and grammar-verify your press release. Thanks!

Mentorship 101

What if the mistakes you made yesterday are the inspiration for someone today?

We have a tendency to minimize our ability to influence people if we haven’t achieved something gloriously huge. But if you’re honest, it’s the folks plodding along right next to you who inspire you the most. Because you know their struggle and their story, it’s easy to see yourself in their shoes.

When it comes to being a mentor, the same principle applies. Young people are most influenced by people who seem just like them. If you wonder why musicians have as much influence as they do, it’s because a) many of them dress and act like teenagers, and b) they seem open and honest about their lives (even if it’s a front).

That’s really all people need. Be honest about what’s going on for you. You lead simply because you boldly speak your truth; everyone else still puts up the facade.

I work with youth on a constant basis, and striving to make a difference, I take on projects that are sometimes too big for what I can handle.

When I drop the ball for them, I feel like I suck. But I fess up quickly.

“You’re so real!” one of them tells me.

“Real” in kidspeak is a powerful thing. It’s that Velveteen moment where you stop being a caricature and become something that matters to them.

The worst part of celebrity is how it makes ordinary people with some talent into overblown figures. Even kids know in their hearts it’s fake but when you’re starving to see someone who looks like you do something of value, you’ll settle for anything.

That’s why real mentors, people just like you, are important.

Because today, they asked me what to do if someone tries to rob them. The caricatures say to fight violence with violence. I said, “Be gentle to yourself and others.”

“But what if my stuff costs a lot of money?”

“If someone will rob you, they will do worse. Give them the stuff and get away. Stuff can be replaced; there is only one You.”

There was silence.

In that silence, young people realized they were more valuable than stuff. That is the beginning of possibility for them.

As a board member for the Urban League Young Professionals Network, I put on a seminar called Mentorship 101. Our goal was simple: to remind you that you can be the difference. Take a look.

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The next generation needs to hear from real people like you. (Heck, OUR generation needs to hear more real people.)

Are you out there? Let me know and I’ll connect you with an organization in your town.