Wednesday, February 08, 2017

Read || Opportunity + Other Lessson from Alt

On a recent trip with my brother he talked about getting himself out of trouble and onto a good path in his life. He told me, "I can say one thing for sure, I have taken every opportunity that has ever come my way." That has stuck with me and became a bit of a mantra lately. Take every opportunity that comes my way. 

Last week, as many of you know, I went to Alt Summit. Alt is a conference for bloggers, designers, and entrepreneurs in the creative space. This is the 4th year I've gone to Alt and I love it, in a very nerdy sort of way. I am the Hermonie Granger of Alt Summit--I go to every class, on time, sit in the front, take copious notes and talk to the teacher afterward for clarification. I freaking love it. 

I have always looked at Alt Summit as one big opportunity but this time, with my brother's advice ringing in my ears, I really took it to heart. Take every opportunity that comes my way. 

Here are a few things I took away from Alt this year. Some of it is from the speakers and some from my own experience. The great thing about good advice is that it is usually universal and can be applied to nearly every situation. Blogging, design, life, whatever... good advice is good advice.
Get Uncomfortable
"Only when you get uncomfortable does change happen." That's a little quote from my favorite trainer Jillian Michaels, but again this is LIFE.

A few days before Alt there was an email sent around to everyone that one of the sponsors was hosting a live pitch session at Alt. Which means that bloggers and content creators would have a chance to pitch their ideas of working with this company live in front of an audience. (I talked about this on my IG stories the other day). I felt way too busy already, packing for Alt and whatnot, and very intimidated about the prospect of actually doings this live pitch, but again take every opportunity that comes your way came into my mind and I decided to put my hat in the ring anyway. Lo and behold, I was one of 8 presenters chosen.

I had one day to put a (short, but still intimidating) presentation together. I did it. And it went really well. I ended up being chosen with along with a handful of other presenters for a kick-a prize and hopefully the opportunity for a long term partnership. All of which is very exciting and all of which I almost talked myself out of.

Everything from sending the initial email to the actual pitch made me very uncomfortable. But I did it and it paid off.

Another opportunity came when a photographer asked if people would be interested in modeling for her while in Palm Springs. She was bringing a bunch of vintage dresses--because Palm Springs--and asked if anyone was interested. Why not? I thought. Once again there was quite a lot about this that felt totally out of my comfort zone--I had to do my own hair and make up and meet her at 7:30 in the morning on the last day when I really, really wanted to sleep in--but I did it. And it was a blast. I have no idea what I'll ever do with these photos, but when will I ever have the chance to do a Mad Men-esque photo shoot at the Saguaro in Palm Springs? Probably never! Opportunity. 
This photo below was one the photographer shot with my iphone...can't wait to get her prints back and to credit her with the actual work! She didn't have a website or IG that she wanted me linking to at the moment.

Real Authenticity
One of the sessions I went to this time was a modeling workshop led by De'Ana Fierce of The Modeling Standard. I am not a fashion blogger, but I do get in front of the camera from time and time and thought I could use some tips. During the Q&A session women kept saying things like "I practice in front of the mirror, but then I always pull this weird face." or " As soon as the camera is in front of me I get super awkward."

De'Ana had some good advice, but then I raised my hand and said "I don't know if this is what everyone else is trying to say, but I too get super awkward in front of the camera and I think it's more of a mental thing. I don't want people to think that I think I'm so cool or that I think I'm a model or something when I'm taking pictures and so to counterbalance that I sort of down play what I'm doing and try to be funny instead, but it just ends up super awkward."

"Ah," she said. "I see."

She went on to talk about authenticity and how we needed to stop worrying about what other people think. The sentence that got me: "No one is going to be offended if you take an awesome photo." To be honest, this is a new side of authenticity that is only recently coming into focus for me. Being "authentic" does not mean showing us pictures of your house being messy, or "keeping it real" by talking about how you yelled at your kids. Being truly authentic and vulnerable means giving of your talents, of yourself, and being honest with the world by saying, "Yes I am good at this and this is what I offer to you." Telling the world what we're bad at is much easier and less authentic than sharing with the world what we're good at. Food for thought guys, food for thought. 
You Do YOU
We all know and love Alison of The Alison Show. And if you know Alison at all, you know that she makes a living by doing "whatever she feels like doing." If that sounds easy, it's not. Alison works her butt off (literally, at least half of her income involves dancing). She is very serious about goals and making you feel awesome. She shared her story as a creative entrepreneur and said at one point she thought she'd become a craft blogger like so many other people in her space were doing because it was the natural trajectory. But then she decided to branch out and do other things like hosting her famous all-female dance parties in Utah and becoming a speaker.

What she does now is significantly different than what she thought it would look like, and significantly different than what anyone else is doing. It can mess with your head a little bit when there is no precedent for your particular work, but you have to do YOU. She said that she is not the mom that likes to have other people's kids over and she doesn't even do laundry. But she doesn't focus on the things she doesn't do.... she focuses on her unique strengths and the things she does do really well--which is making other women feel awesome. Alison is a great example to me of a woman who forges her own path and really tries to lift other women up with her along the way. You do you felt like a really revolutionary idea and one I hope to explore more this next year.
photo by Justin Hackworth courtesy of Alt
Jumping In 
Hands down my favorite talk was given by Ellen Marie Bennett of Hedley and Bennett aprons. Really, I'm not going to do her story justice but here's a quick recap: Ellen was a line cook who had an idea to start an apron company. One day her boss (a chef) said he needed to order more aprons. And in that moment Ellen just yelled out, "Chef, I have an apron company! I'll get you your aprons!" She did not know how to sew, she did not own a sewing machine, but in that one moment she set out to start an apron company. In just 4 short years she has gone from that first order of 40 aprons to outfitting every cafe that Martha Stewart owns, Elon Musk's SpaceEx program as well as celebrity chefs like Mario Battali. Aprons you guys, aprons. To echo an earlier message, Ellen says that she is where is today because she "Constantly puts herself in uncomfortable situations."

When the opportunity arises, DANCE.
photo by Justin Hackworth courtesy of Alt

This is probably the advice I have followed the closest throughout my life and it has always served me well. Alt was no different. There is something about being 40 but feeling like a teenager again. It's not that I was my most authentic self at 17, but around that age there is a sense of feeling carefree that is hard to reclaim and relate to the older and more responsible we get. I love being a mom and wife. I would even say that I enjoy being a responsible adult, but I truly believe that its very important to do things on a semi-frequent basis that make you feel alive. Dancing has always made me feel alive. And since I now take every opportunity that comes my way, I danced.

Any other Alt-ers out there want to share any nuggets of wisdom? Any other conference goers who find these kind of things inspiring? Listen it doesn't have to be Alt, whatever your jam is in life, if you can find a like-minded group of people to connect to, only good things can come of it. Maybe a writing group, a running group, a knitting group, whatever... but the connection alone is worth taking part. Thanks for reading!
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2 comments:

  1. Such a heartfelt post. I really like your writing style Amy. I totally agree. I think it is really important to risk. It is hard to step away from life and you definitely cannot do this without a supportive family, but it can be life changing.

    AltSummit was so much better than I ever imagined. As an artist I felt like Alt was a bit outside my world but to my surprise, I felt such kinship with so many people whom I met. At heart, we were all creative thinkers.

    My take away from my first AltSummit has been no less than an amazing. It is a bold, colorful set of training wheels for starting a creative business or pitching a creative idea. For every idea that I have had about my work, there was someone at AltSummit who had done it, blogged about it, and made a book about it. I went wide and sponged it all up. I definitely made sure to take notes and write down the ideas that came to me during sessions or throughout the days. Now to put all of that in motion!

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  2. I love all your posts, the thought-provoking and the lighthearted ones, but for now I just have to tell you that you got me totally hooked on "Gilmore Girls" (I never watched it, I guess it was not that big here in Germany when it first aired) and I am Team Jess all the way ...

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