danyaneering

curious. creative. chutzpah.

3 Reasons Not to Blog

In prep for knocking out my first blog post in eons, I just read a great piece on how to deliver killer blog content that asked me to raise my right hand and swear swear swear that I would never ever write an “I’m sorry for not posting on my blog forever” post. So, instead of writing the self-indulgent post I originally had in mind (“I’m soooo busy!” “I haven’t come up with any brilliant ideas lately.”), I’m spitting out 3 reasons why I’m going to stop blogging altogether…and you should, too.

1. Stop Talking. Do.

Danyaneering is NOT about sitting back and an passively watching opportunities go by. Get out and learn things, then act on your new knowledge and use it to improve your companies, your neighborhoods, whole industries. Don’t just talk about what you believe in or are passionate about. I did it all wrong when I wrote an absurdly long post about what the world would be like if women ran it. I’m incredibly determined about women, in particular, bucking the status quo and taking the reigns, and one piece of advice I gave in the post was for women to collaborate more; I should have taken action and brought together powerful, female mentors and ambitious, eager women like myself. I did the right thing when I wrote about how to tell your story and then actually taught a class on the topic (to over 25 students now!). That particular combo – topic teaser + class – was inspired by Mike K’s incredibly rich post (and subsequent class) on how to launch your startup idea for less than $5K.

2. People and Gnats Have Similar Attention Spans.

Maybe attention spans are a myth altogether, but I agree with the sentiment that “[they] used to be robust; now they are stunted.” I come across, valuable, fascinating, witty content every single day on Twitter, Facebook, and Tumblr, whether I’m queuing up tweets for Skillshare or I’m taking a break from work and am trying to learn something new and different from the many, many insightful people on the Interwebs. There’s something perfectly satisfying about the instant gratification that comes from bite-sized nuggets of wisdom and intrigue. We’ve all got tons to share, though not everything fits neatly on a blog. I want to tweet out photos of outfits I’m wearing and like, and I’m going to use Facebook to post on the wall for the the locals’ group I started for friends in my Brooklyn neighborhood. No need to bog down people with more text than they need (or want) to see!

3. Stop Being Self-Indulgent.

Stop hiding behind your computer screen and actually engage. First, be humble. I do believe – deeply – that we’ve each got something of value to share with each other, whether knowledge or a skill or a funny tidbit, but why not stop and think for once before putting out content? I’m not advocating waiting for the “perfect” idea, since that’ll never come, but it might actually be worth stewing on a topic before putting it out there and hoping that people will trudge through a 500+ word essay.

Second, we do enough gchatting with the people sitting right next to us at work; instead of staying seated in your ergonomically correct rolly chair and writing another post and hoping others will get value from it, go to a meetup or a class to connect with people on a topic that you’re curious about or even an expert in.  If you must remain virtual, retweet interesting links and comment intelligently and emotionally on sites or posts that inspire/anger/educate you.

So, I’m going to stop blogging and start writing. I’m going to spend most of my time interacting with others and learning by doing, so that when I DO write, I’ll hopefully deliver something substantive and valuable. I plan to up my engagement and contributions via Twitter and Facebook, in particular, by sharing stuff I like. And I’m going to start adding my two cents to articles I read if I’ve got questions or extra insight that doesn’t necessarily require an entire blog post of my own. Sure, my tweets might get lost amidst the zillions that go out every day and it might take another season change for me to come up with a disruptive, unique, brief blog post, but I’ve got a plan. I’m aiming to post every 4-6 weeks at most, which’ll force me to be more creative, focused, and timeless. Calendar invites are going out to me, myself, and I to ensure I actually put pen to paper in a meaningful way once and a while. In the meantime, I’m actually going to try to reach people on a regular basis – online and IRL – with accessible, actionable, digestible info.

If The Donald were The Dana: what the world might be like if women ran it

I read a Harvard Business Review article a few months ago about “the future CEO,” whom the magazine hypothesized would embody many qualities typically associated with women, such as good listening skills, multitasking, and empathy.  Somehow, I’ve managed to grow up in a personal world where women do run the show, despite the completely unrepresentative nature of my experience out in the “real world.”  My mom not only runs her consulting company, but she also founded it; I worked at Teach For America, a truly transformational organization, which was founded by Wendy Kopp (who has four kids, by the way!); and I’m positive that one of my best girl friends will be the US Ambassador to India someday.

So, when I read that that the brains at Haaaaaahvahd thought that the people running our country now and moving forward, whether male or female, should take a note from we ladies, and I then stumbled upon Sheryl Sandberg’s (Facebook COO) charge to graduating Barnard women to “run the world,” I started to imagine what the world might actually look like if we had more Dana Trumps around than The Donalds.  This post is a rough collection of my imaginings and the musings and predictions of women whom I know and whose opinions I greatly value (I’ll use “LG,” in particular, to credit my friend, Lindsey Grossman, who leads teams at a major communications consultancy, where she provided some word-for-word gems!).

More Collaboration

I brought up this concept to a successful female friend who graduated from business school with straight As and is now on the founding team of a startup, and she told me that her boss (a woman) had actually said in passing that she hated other women CEOs, since they were bitchy and unsupportive.  To be totally frank, the first thing that came to mind: ugh, if most CEOs and startup founders and government leaders were women, we’d just be one big PMS-y, bitchy, catty, backstabbing world and we’d just screw it up.  Nope, I’m not kidding.  After I got rid of the pit in my stomach from guilt about thinking that, I tore apart that thinking and sought out evidence to the contrary.

When the environmental conditions are right, i.e., heavily female networks, women can be amazingly supportive of each other and promote each other in really positive ways.  If more women ran things, I bet there would also be more organizations, informal networks, and mentors focused on ensuring women in middle management or early in their careers have the skills and confidence to enter the highest levels of leadership: C-suite, the Senate, board rooms, pitch rooms (LG).  Just look at Sharp Skirts, a knowledge network focused on helping women build smart businesses.  Carla, its founder, generously responded to me with excitement when I pinged her to share my idea for this blog, and I love her attitude about this topic, as evidenced in the Sharp Skirts mantra: “No Pink. No Platitudes. Just Success for Smart Women.”

Less GroupThink

I’m talking about true diversity of opinion and more ideas.  Think about what happens to a team any time someone brings in a new, creative point of view to the brainstorming session.  We’ve all seen it. New perspectives allow businesses and governments to re-think the old ways and things that keep us up at night (LG). With mostly men at the table, although there may be many differences among them, there’s one, grand, shared privilege: being  part of the majority when it comes to leadership, and that informs men’s decision-making and confidence.

More ideas would be explored, tested, and implemented if women had more of a leadership presence. Statistics show that women often lack the same levels of confidence that men have to go out and make something happen, but with more women in visible leadership roles, other women with an idea, with something to say, will pour all their passion into a dream, take a risk, and diversify the pool (LG).

When you see the word, “expert,” whom do you picture?  When you go to a conference or watch a panel discussion on TV, who are the thought leaders?  Right now, I imagine many of you are thinking of lots of white dudes – I’ve got no problem with interesting, innovative, smart men, but when women can’t relate to the people our society reveres as experts and leaders, that’s a situation that needs solving. With fewer role models to aspire to emulate than young men, I feel like there’s a potential ceiling on how far I can go OR like it’ll just be really damn hard to become the leader I want to be because it hasn’t been done enough before.

Men, Check Your Ego at the Door (sorry, Freud!)

Women tend to run smaller business, which allows them to better negotiate their personal lives and generating income.  These companies are very different than the types typically dominated by male leadership. Women also tend to receive a lot of financing from smaller sources (i.e., friends and family, bank loans) than they do from larger scale investment opportunities (i.e., venture capital). When it comes to investing their own money, women typically like to help grow businesses, whereas men like to go after more explosive portfolios.  For instance, a man might be more likely to invest in a portfolio of 10 companies in which 9 could fail and 1 might (might!) be the next Facebook.  Women might tend to invest in a portfolio where no single company will get an insane ROI, but in which each will be moderately successful and profitable.

While there’s certainly an argument here for being risky and going with your gut, it’s clear to me, at least, that there’s a lot more ego involved in men’s investment decisions and leadership styles. Women tend to have really different goals in business than men, which promotes some of the stereotypes out there that are perceived as negative, but I think there’s so much value in humility and balance, since they allow us to recognize our faults…and not be afraid to ask for help and to improve.

Research shows that women feel they need to be 100% prepared to do something, i.e., starting a company, while men only need to be about 20% sure to dive right in.  A friend who works with female entrepreneurs told me that there’s a lot of timidity in the process for women, BUT, when they find networks of other people (especially women) who are doing similar things and can provide advice (such as, “no, you’re not crazy!”), they fight the desire to be overprepared and just DO it.  This tells me that women’s lack of ego protects us from making reckless decisions, but we can still rock it when we feel confident.

What needs to happen now:

While women can sometimes be each other’s worst enemies (I mean, who do you think invented the term “frenemy”?) and there are studies about negative behaviors that women currently exhibit in a heavily male workplace, this behavior is all a choice.  Whether you’ve gotta call on your best friend or you have an actual board of directors who exists to ensure you’re holding yourself accountable to your principles, women, just keep doing what any good leader would do: work hard and work TOGETHER.  We need to continue being thoughtful, but also take what feel like great risks and leaps in a world where we have few CEO role models – let’s go with our gut, which tells us that we, too, can be up there in the C-Suite.

The OpEd Project revealed the fact that when a group of men and women is asked “what are you an expert in?,” men raise their hands with examples significantly more than women, but when the same group is asked, “what are you a resource in?,” everyone has something to share.  I want to grow up (yes, I’m still doing that!) in a world where women leaders make a conscious effort to share their insights, the lessons of their journeys, their skills and resources.  And I’m not even talking about limiting this knowledge-sharing to women.  A friend and I have begun to envision and dream and drool over a professional women’s network that will become the professional development hub for EVERY person who aspires to be successful.  From Hillary Clinton to the CEO of Xerox to the founder of Flickr to the COO of Facebook (all fabulously intelligent, forward-thinking, successful women!), we can ALL learn a thing or two.

I think we’re on the right track, I do.  I have so many strong female role models in my life, and I’m not alone.  But will women simply strive to level the playing field, or will we bring a revolution to the way business and governments are run because of the unique skills and teamwork we offer?  Will we support each other in the process or tear each other apart?  I don’t pretend to have the solution, but I’m saying “screw it, I’m giving it a shot” and seeing what happens…and that’s what all women need to do, because I want my daughters to laugh when they read this outdated, unbelievable blog post from an antiquated time.

What do YOU think the world would look like if women ran it?  What will YOU do to empower yourself or the women in your life (men, I’m talking to you, too!)?

Special thanks to Lindsey Grossman and Lauren Abele, who put precious time and mental energy into sharing their insights with me.

So, Tell Me About Yourself: how to craft and share your story

You know when you sit down for a job interview and the dreaded, inevitable conversation starter – a deceivingly simple and friendly one, at that – is, “So, tell me about yourself”?  And you know how you blurt out a response that’s part job history, part personal hobbies, mostly ramble?  Or, what about when you finally decide/resign yourself/get up the courage to create an online dating profile, and then you stare at your screen in total intimidation and fear for a few minutes because you can’t possibly perfect an online representation of yourself in a few pithy paragraphs and untrue-to-life photos?

I know it’s not easy for most people to talk themselves up – it feels like bragging, it’s too personal, it feels like it should be easier than it is…but it just isn’t.  Honestly, I feel pretty damn comfortable talking about my professional trajectory, my personal interests, and pretty much have no filter, in general, but I’m also an admittedly stereotypical oldest child with a blog called “Danyaneering.”  Even still, I’ve spent my fair share of time obsessing over how to succinctly summarize the most humbly impressive and logical narrative I can for a job or grad school interview or how to find the right balance between hot/cute, smart/fun, mature/spontaneous (and the list goes on) for an online dating profile (such an over-analysis trap!).

My story is still unfolding, but as a high-performing Danyaneer-er, former Teach For America recruiter, one-time business school applicant, and forever evolving and curious individual, I’ve come to some pretty solid conclusions about how to craft a narrative that’s appealing and productive.

NEXT STEPS FOR NEW YORKERS: For those of you in NYC, sign up to attend to my Skillshare class, “So, Tell Me About Yourself: how to craft and share your story,” on Sun., May 15, at 4 PM.  I’d love to see you there!

This is a class that’s great for high school students applying to college, professionals figuring out how to make sense of a career switch, friends who’ve been saying they want to try online dating (and have been saying so for months but just don’t seem to be getting around to starting…), or a grandparent who’s interested in writing a life history for posterity’s sake but doesn’t know where to begin.

NEXT STEPS FOR NON-NEW YORKERS: For non-New Yorkers, I’ll be sure to share notes post-class!  Would be much appreciated if you’d share the link to the class with your friends in the area, though 🙂

ALL: If you’ve got a great spiel down OR you have a tricky life history that you’d like help brainstorming about, please share!  If you’d like, I’ll even use your example in my class!

Woohoo! KeepRecipes for Recovery has launched (and I helped!)!

A few months ago, after saying to myself, “Hmm, what’s a startup?  Working for one would be fun!,” I found my way to the smart & forward-thinking Phil Michaelson of KartMe.com via the fabulous & sharp Arlyn Davich of PayPerks.com.  Phil gave me the unique opportunity to help him with the launch of his new site, KeepRecipes.com.  After a couple months of being the chief member and community manager, which entails strategic brainstorming, blogging, tweeting, interviewing food bloggers, and cooking & eating delectable goodies made from recipes on the site, I’m excited that today has finally arrived!

KeepRecipes for Recovery, a 21-recipe digital cookbook of Japan-inspired dishes created by the phenomenal chefs below (see pic), is up for sale – donate a minimum of $10 (we’ve already gotten a donation of $500, though…no pressure!) and you get these recipes for yourself.  Check out the full story via Mashable (article just posted today!).

Here’s a little more info about what it means to donate to Japan by buying the KeepRecipes for Recovery cookbook:

Your gift will go to the American Red Cross in support of disaster relief efforts to help those affected by the earthquake in Japan and tsunami throughout the Pacific.

Your support will enable the Red Cross to provide shelter, food, emotional support, and other assistance to victims of the disaster. On those rare occasions when donations exceed American Red Cross expenses for a specific disaster, contributions are used to prepare for and serve victims of other disasters.

With more than 530,000 citizens relocated, 73,000 homes destroyed, and a death toll that now tops 11,000, the estimate for reconstruction is expected to top $300 billion and take over five years. 

Do some good and get full by donating to KeepRecipes for Recovery today!  Follow @KeepRecipes on Twitter to stay up-to-date on informative and fun updates, too!

Forget the Quarter-Life Crisis, This Is the 26 Year Hump

I Googled “26 years old” and one of the very first links returned was an Onion article entitled, “26-Year-Old To See Every Asshole He Ever Went to High School With On Night Before Thanksgiving.”  The very next result: “26-Year-Old Unmarried Cosmo Girl Worries About Becoming a Cougar.”  Well, phewf.  The worst that can happen to me after I turn 26 this May is that I have a whole lot of unwanted social interactions and feel insecure and lonely, right?

I’m so over the quarter-life crisis (sorry, John Mayer) and right smack in the middle of the 26-year hump.  25 was totally anti-climactic for me.  I had already been living by myself in the LES for a year, had just gotten promoted to a manager-level position, and despite having just gotten braces for the second time a few weeks before my 25th birthday, I looked hot in my mini American Apparel black spandex dress due to the fact that I hadn’t eaten for days because of my sore teeth.  I was feeling pretty damn good all around, to be honest.  For me and many of my friends, 25 meant changing age brackets on surveys, balancing hard work and play (but still living out both), promotions and raises, and the passionate beginnings of true love (or relationships lasting more than 2 months). 26, in contrast, is giving me pause.  It means not hiding behind the “I’m too young to know better” excuse, but also not having it all figured out either.  Awk.

Hustle

By this point, lots of us have enough experience and skill to do more than simply execute and are no longer limited by the dreaded “3-4 years of experience” prereq for many of the jobs we feel entitled to.  There’s also the breed of 26-yr-old that has spent a few years committed to TFA, Peace Corps, or some other intense effort that accelerates maturity and personal responsibility.  For some, hefty bonuses, emails from corporate recruiters,  grad school opportunities, or independent ventures are the reality now.  To others, though, it seems like everyone else is doing better – making more money, managing more people, having more of a say.

Once upon a time, I was going to go into editing & publishing for a travel mag or work in the music industry.  Then I joined staff at TFA and was only going to do that for a year before moving on to PR.  When I fell in love with my job and colleagues, I stayed at TFA for 4 years.  Last year around this time, I was sure I’d be in business school next year, and now I’m helping to launch a startup (www.keeprecipes.com) and am convinced that the NY tech and innovation community is the one for me.  Many of my “By the Time I’m 25” promises have come and gone, for better or for worse, but I can tell you that I’m wholeheartedly embracing the uncertainty, the shift in priorities, the steep learning curve, and the potential I know I have to do more and better.

Lurve

If I read “I love to go out, but I also enjoy a night in” on one more dating profile, I might scream.  And yet…I get it.  At 22, I was working damn hard but also going to Freestyle Mondays in the LES every Monday night at Midnight and considered Thurs. the start of my 3-day weekend.  Since I know my family members and the college student interns whom I manage read this, I won’t get too detailed, but I was also pretty open to “meeting” new people.  Now, though, I relish sunny Sat. mornings when I can get up whenever I want (or, more honestly, at 10 or 10:30 AM when my 26-year-old body wakes me up, no matter how much I’d love to sleep off my hangover from just a few glasses of wine), read the New Yorker or HBR that I didn’t have time to skim over the week, and cook up some shakshouka.  Alone!

I actually enjoy staying home and catching up on my Netflix or Hulu queues every few Friday nights and I’m readily willing to admit that I sometimes need alone time, but I’m also starting to get a little impatient for my NYC male counterparts to turn 29 (didn”t you know? that’s the earliest they’ll put a relationship ahead of 90-hr work weeks and 3 or 4 roommates).  To me, 26 means being mature enough to value commitment, but not yet ready to leave behind my to-the-bone work ethic, 4 AM Sat. night dance parties, and the occasional one-night stand.

Some 26-year-olds are married and already thinking about babies.  Others are single and loving it (and also probably secretly wishing they had someone to share their knowledge, financial success, and time with).  Now is the time when we’ll start seeing differences between ourselves and our peers, and we’ll just have to figure out what’s right.

And Everything Else

So, if we know enough to start profitable companies, teach others, and wait at least a few dates before going home together, but we still feel like we have lots to prove and aren’t all (*ahem* boys) ready to close the door on playing the field, personally and professionally, then what’s next?

I say:

  • Do something good. Take your money (because I know there are lots of us out there who are making decent green) and do something productive with it.  Be a philanthropist now.  Especially since you probably don’t have time to volunteer on a regular basis (or aren’t ready to prioritize doing so).
  • Take smart risks. If you’ve got an idea, there’s truly no time better than now to grab its hand and sprint off into the sunset together.  You’ve got lots of smart friends with know-how, funds, and bottomless work ethics.  You also probably don’t have a spouse and/or kids to take care of just yet, so you can take big risks without much consequence to anyone other than you…and you’ve got plenty of time to pick yourself back up from “failure” (whatever that is).
  • Hold your horses. Don’t freak out about the title you should have or the responsibilities you deserve.  While you’ve probably got a lot of what it takes to run a (if not the) show, 26 is still damn young, and there’s serious value in patience – work your hardest, don’t be greedy, and you will absolutely be rewarded with personal and professional growth.

Oh, and the fourth result that came up when I Googled “26 years old” was an article about a 26-year-old becoming the Managing Editor of The New Yorker.  Natch.

Tunes

Music is me – couldn’t live without it.

I could say “Ladysmith Black Mambazo” before I could put a sentence together, grew up thinking that every kid knew how to change a record and that everyone’s parents had bookshelves filled with more records than books (ok, just one particular bookshelf…), took every music culture class in college and thought about creating an Ethnomusicology major (Wash U only had it for grad students) until I realized I didn’t want to sit around all day transcribing, interned at and still volunteer for Afropop Worldwide (www.afropop.org), and always prefer listening to music rather than the news as I get ready for work in the morning.

As a whole bunch of you know, I send out semi-regular music updates.  I’m thinking that it’s still worthwhile to send the email blasts, since I love getting year-in-review film recommendation lists and other such gifts from friends in my inbox and I selfishly love the feedback and recommendations I often get in response to my blasts…BUT, I also want these recommendations to live on and be accessible beyond the quick messages I send, so I’m going to add them to the “tunes” page on my blog, too.  Check out the page for an archive of past blasts…

Would love to know what you think – email blast AND blog?  Just one or the other?  Couldn’t care less either way and just want to boogie down?  All comments encouraged.

“If at first you don’t fricassee, fry, fry a hen!”

Mmhmm, I know how you feel, girl.  Despite the fact that her hair is absolutely killer, this adorable girl is pretty miffed right now.  She did NOT get what she wanted…just guessing.  Like her, we’ve all been told “no” more times than we can remember.  My mom said “no” to hockey so that I could keep my teeth (or, more likely, so that she could avoid 5 AM wake-ups), Conde Nast Traveler said “are you kidding, lowly intern girl?” to my quarter-page world music feature pitch, and Tuck and SOM said “sorry, you didn’t make the cut.”  But, it’s truly alright.  Because not getting what you want can actually be the best thing that ever happened to you.

What if we did always get what we wanted? You’d be a cocky asshole, I’d be an entitled snob, and they would be total princesses.  When you get knocked down, let your humility, not your ego, build.  It’s typically a HUGE mistake to say “they don’t know what they’re missing” and to move full speed ahead with total disregard for self-reflection.  I don’t care what your GPA was, how many times you’ve been promoted in five years, or how truly charming you are; if you got rejected or turned down, you’ve got room for improvement.  If we always got what we wanted, we’d either be infallible (impossible) or doing something illegal (not smart).

Getting rejected sucks.  Instead of slamming my door (office, bedroom, or otherwise) and crying in a corner, what should I do? Pouting really is a waste of time.  I am by no means advocating that you deny your emotions; in fact, I HATE those Johnny Walker ads in the subway that say “I would rather streak across a packed stadium than tell you this.  You deserve it.  You’re a great little brother.  There, I said it.”  (Full commentary on that reserved for a hypothetical future post.)  I’m just saying that it’s not productive to stay pissed or burned for too long.  The first few times I got a blunt “I’m not interested” email response from an outstanding college student whom I contacted about considering TFA, I felt a little embarrassed and somewhat hopeless.  Four years later, I can tell you that I’m horrified at the thought of what might have happened had I given up easily instead of sitting up straight in my rolly chair and sending back a “Just out of curiosity, why aren’t you interested?” email.  I can’t even tell you how many students have replied to that question with more detail and ultimately agreed to speak with me about educational disparity…and then applied to TFA and become transformational leaders for kids whose lives would truly have been on a different path had I not built a tough skin.  The more you pick yourself back up – and quickly – the more opportunities you’ll have to try again, thus the better your odds of eventually getting what you want.

Like Caddie Woodlawn said (if you haven’t read this favorite childhood book of mine, add it to your list…), “If at first you don’t fricassee, fry, fry a hen!”  After you punch a pillow, cry on the phone to your mom or dad or best friend (or therapist?), and take a few moments to ponder the “what ifs,” it’s time to open your mind and consider the possibilities.  Not getting what we want forces us to be open-minded about alternate universes that we may not have imagined for ourselves, but which are our only options.  On the other hand, if there’s no compromising about what you want, but you get dissed, you’ve just gotta get creative and come up with a new strategy to achieve your goal.

You’ve gotta fight!  For your right!  To chaaaaaaange your mind! I fell in love with Wesleyan but chose to attend Wash U after not getting into the school with the naked dorm, and I wrote a memo at the end of my first year at TFA proposing my ideal job role (which wasn’t implemented) but took a more traditional promotion, and I spent over a thousand dollars and hundreds of hours on the business school application process but reinvented my plan for the upcoming year.  And you know what?  The only judgments I’ve ever gotten for reserving the right to change my mind (or, more accurately, to go with the flow…) are approval and praise.  When I didn’t get into any of the three top ten business schools I applied to, I immediately began to think of other ways I could achieve the experiences that I had hoped to get in 2011.  Among other goals, I wanted to climb a steep learning curve and to partner with smart & innovative people from all different sectors.  I realized that the even BETTER thing for me to do than to go to business school was to work at a startup, and I’ve had the most thrilling few months embarking on this unexpected, yet perfectly fitting adventure.

So, since you’ll inevitably not get what you want sometime in the near or distant future, here’s what I recommend you do:

  • Prepare. Entrepreneurship is so hot right now, and no one who was born in the mid-80s or later has the same job for more than a few years, so prepare yourself for sudden change, the unknown, and multiple realities and be ready to embrace any/all.
  • Be humble. Know that any time you don’t get something you want is a time to reflect on what you could have done differently to achieve your goal.  Clearly, you missed something this time; so, pinpoint your mistake or area for improvement and do it right next time.
  • Know your goal. Don’t become obsessed with the process or the means.  Remember what you were aiming for in the first place – if you don’t get your golden ticket by doing one thing, try another.  Giving up after the first attempt is pretty lame, so pick yourself up and try a different strategy to achieve the ultimate end you’re dreaming of.

On that note, I did NOT get what I wanted with this blog post: brevity.  Remaining humble and acknowledging that I didn’t try that hard, and brainstorming ways to achieve my goal next time (music post!)…

Danya: a How-To Guide

Danya: a How-To Guide

Since we’re still in the early stages of our blog writer/reader relationship, I’m going to go ahead and share another post that’s all about me-me-me.  Really, though, I thought twice about sharing this, since I’ve already written two posts that I think of as get-to-know-me ones, but I figured since Danyaneering is still fresh and I’m inviting new people to view it every day, it might be worth giving you a bit more insight into…me!  I’ll probably move this link on over to the About D page for future use, but it’s up front and center today.

HUGE thanks to Gadi Rouache for helping bring this fun project to life.  I like to think of Gadi as my very own, personal Design & Innovation Director, providing inspiration (aaaaand honest critiques) for me all the way.  Check out this link and tell me how you could possibly disagree with his awesomeness: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/gadi-rouache/7034-miles-in-the-bamabus_b_157109.html.

P.S. – I haven’t forgotten about the post that divulges the many times I have NOT gotten what I wanted, despite my danyaneering.  Will share soon!

P.P.S. – Thank you to Nicole Griffith, my wonderful managing director, who passed along The Three Gs to me early this year.  She is an incredible embodiment of them, and I thank her for her wisdom!

Just pick up the knife and bone it

So, I just called my parents to get a refresher on this story, and they told it in perfect empty-nester style: in tandem, correcting each other as they went along.  “No, it was a farmhouse, not a country inn.”  “Honey, you didn’t say that.”  “Well, I must have said that because you were annoyed and I know that it would have bothered you.”  I love them dearly.

They went to Ireland (yes, it rained the whole time), and they stayed at a farmhouse (not a country inn).  The farmer’s wife was the cook, and the farmer himself was the maitre d’ and server.  This was my parents’ first night in the Land of a Thousand Welcomes, so they treated themselves to one: a gourmet, homecooked, celebratory meal.  They ordered fish, but, when it arrived in all its original glory (spine included), my mother had to call out, embarrassed, “Excuse me sir, but we’re American!,” implying, “We have no goshdarn clue how to eat this!”  The farm owner/waiter/husband turned sharply, looking at my now-epicurean parents with utter confusion, and snapped, “Just pick up the knife and bone it!”

That’s how you get what you want.  You just pick up the knife and bone it, and that was one of the many mantras I grew up with, among “savlanut!” (“patience” in Hebrew) and “it’s not what you do, it’s how you do it” (which was often repeated to me as I disingenuously apologized for being a typically rude teenager).   The fact is, if you want something, you have to pursue it pretty ruthlessly, with no hesitation or embarrassment, and using logic, smarts, and charm.  You use the tools at your disposal, but if you have absolutely no idea what to do with the knife, then you come up with plan B and rip apart the fish with your fingers, dodging potentially life-threatening bones as you enjoy the buttery meat between them.

What do we want?

Maybe you want a job that pays the rent and allows you to buy lots of amazing organic kale that you whip up with some seasoned shallots before heading out to your 96th Phish show (and you live in Portland, obviously).  Maybe you want to graduate from a school with elegant courtyards and old traditions, become a JP analyst, head to a top 10 b school no more than two or three years later, and ride the fast track to CFO-dom.  Maybe you’re aching to meet “the one,” get hitched, quit your job, and build a family, making your spouse and children the cornerstone of your life experience.

Right now, I want to live in Brooklyn, have a real hobby (and time to pursue it), to start building some savings, to volunteer, to exercise, to travel short- and long-term, and to see more of my family and friends.  Pretty typical, I assume.  I also want to surround myself with smart, curious, ambitious individuals whom I can learn from, to hit a steep learning curve and climb it fast, to be passionate about or interested in the work I do (whether it’s do-gooder or simply entertaining), to help others find what they’re happy doing and to help them achieve the growth they’re pursuing, and to build a reputation for myself as a successful risk-taker and dream-maker.

How do we get it?

Well, I’ve got a plan of action for myself, and whether I’m working towards long-term goals or simply getting a free drink when I’m out tonight because that’s what I want, I’m acting with these principles in mind (feel free to skim the bold sentences for the quick lesson, read the rest of the bullet points for personal examples):

Pick up the knife and bone it.

See above – don’t just sit around and wait for someone else to tell you how to succeed.  Figure it out yourself!  I’m really good about asking for help, and that’s gotten me far, but I think that my most valuable learning experiences – and many of the ones where I got what I wanted in the end – resulted when I forced myself to just give it a try.  The summer before my senior year in college, my parents were generous enough to agree to buying me a car to take to school.  But August was rapidly approaching, and we hadn’t found the right one – good price, good condition, not a minivan… There was this great little, red Honda Civic, but it was stick.  And my dad didn’t think I could do it.  My sister’s the one who taught herself how to change a tire by doing so when my mom got stranded on the side of the highway.  Not me.  But, because of my (sometimes unjustified) self-confidence and determination, I pressured my dad to buy the car, which he did.  While we had a few lessons, it was pretty much up to me to drive around the neighborhood, avoiding hills at all costs, for the one or two weeks I had before my dad and I were supposed to hit the road from New Haven, where I grew up, to St. Louis, where I was in school.  I stalled out every other block, got stuck at the top of a massive hill and had people honking and swerving around me, and I even got some sage advice from an 18-wheeler’s driver after he saw me cause a near-accident.  But I learned, and I’m pretty damn good, if I don’t mind saying so myself.  So good that I drove my entire family around the Tuscan mountains of Italy in a stick shift station wagon (not sure how much my parents had to pay for the burnt out transmission…).

Shove your pride where the sun don’t shine…and be overly confident.  (In a totally non-contradictory way.)

You can’t be embarrassed or bashful about getting what you want.  You can’t be afraid that other people will think you’re unworthy or unqualified, and you can’t be timid about asking for your pot of gold (or, at least, asking for help in your pursuits).  Part of the Danyaneering principle is that I’m pretty damn sure of myself, even when I shouldn’t necessarily be, and that’s why I win more often than lose.  Sure I get rejected and told “no,” but those moments are harmless memories minutes or short days after they occur.  I’m certainly not embarrassed to speak in Spanish to the guys at the corner deli near my office, because, even though they say things I can’t understand and chuckle under their breath when I say something incorrectly, they give me my veggie wrap for $5 instead of the official $6.75.  I’m not bashful about having created a profile on OKCupid, and since I didn’t mind put myself out there and I sent lots of messages (many of which I don’t get responses to), I did end up dating someone from the site for a few interesting and fun months; in fact, I’m so not embarrassed that I’ve told lots of friends about the dating site, and I’ve now helped at least 3 other people come up with witty, personal profiles.

Get all up in people’s business.

Warning: this obsessive and somewhat stalker-ish approach should NOT be applied to blind dates.  That said, do your research.  A LOT of it.  Google people.  Who are your common connections on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter?  Do you share an alma mater?  Ask – when/how do you prefer to communicate, i.e., email/phone/weekends/mornings?  We like to talk about ourselves (could you tell I do?) and to feel important.  We like to feel respected and to be thanked.  At work, it’s absolutely essential for me to have a pipeline of the most excellent graduating seniors at the schools in my portfolio, because those are the people whom I’m going to invite to meet with me, whom I’m going to email 6 times until they attend the alumni panel I’m hosting, whom I’m going to put my time and effort into building relationships with so that they’ll open their minds to the possibility of doing life-changing things (for them and their students) in the classrooms that need their leadership the most.  I Google, I Facebook, I search the schools’ websites, I talk to alumni, I chat with professors and academic advisors and friends.  Then, I send that email or make that first call, because I can now sit down with those students, shoot the shit for 10 or so minutes and bond over our shared interest in ethnomusicology or Chile, and then bring out my pre-prepared, personalized arsenal of stories, one-pagers, and statistics to show them how being a lawyer (advocating for the disenfranchised…) is pretty much right in line with being a teacher in a low-income school (where 4th grade students are reading Goodnight Moon instead of Harry Potter because they’ve been systematically denied the opportunity to be where their wealthier peers are academically and in the future).  Send thank-yous, FYI notes (“just wanted to share this interesting article with you!”), and calls to action.  Build a relationship and get personal – that’s how you convince someone to truly believe in what you’re selling, not just to say emptily that they’ll buy your product and then walk right out of your store and go with the competitor.

Know Thyself.

I know what I suck at and what natural gifts I don’t have, but I also know my strengths and unique traits, and I play them up to get what I want rather than let my limitations stop me.  Last year, after a lifetime of being the “non-technical” one in my family (my dad’s an engineer who challenged my younger sister to learn binary language and write her own program if she wanted a Game Boy), I decided that I was going to become a total early adopter and join the tech world (or, at least the world of social media).  I don’t know how to code, but I can talk to a wall and my job has honed my online research/stalking skills to a master level.  So, I signed up for the networking-heavy New York Tech Meetup during Internet Week, Googled around about brand new apps, signed up for Foursquare, and started reading Paul Graham’s essays.  Me entree into the tech world certainly wasn’t going to come from me designing a mobile app, but I met the right people, went to the right places, and did my research – because those are my secret weapons – and now I can honestly say that when I head to tomorrow’s NYTM, I’m going to feel a lot more like a sibling than a cousin three times removed.

You CAN (almost) always get what you want!  (Pardon the edit, Mick.)

Everything I just said is pretty obvious.  Like, if you can commit to being confident, knowing what you want and going for it no matter what, and being prepared, you’ll probably get what you want most of the time.  There’s more I could say – negotiate, try again and again and again and when you don’t want to give it another shot do it anyway, flirt and smile (yup, simple as that), enlist henchmen to help you do your dirty work – but I actually have a confession, now that I’ve convinced you that you have everything you need to score that million you’ve been needing to turn your start up into the next Twitter or to get that ridiculously clever and cute guy you met on NYE to call you.

There are, without a doubt, a zillion times when I’ve tried all of these tactics and more and still been turned away at the door.  This post is way to0 long to get into what happens when you DON’T get what you want, but since that’ll definitely happen to you, as it has to me, I’m going to save us all some energy and hold on to that for the next post…

Intro to Danyaneering

{dan-yaneer-ing}

verb

to plan, finagle, or carry through by skillful or artful contrivance; to design or create using the methods of Danya: Somehow, she danyaneered her way into getting a pair of $400 custom kicks for $90…and he let her pick the design. -or- She just danyaneered her way into getting that karaoke bar to extend its Happy Hour for 2 hours and for $2 less than normal for our entire team.

-adjective

chutzpadik, ballsy, in control, risk-inclined, charmingly (and, sometimes, unjustifiably) self-confident: Did you see how danyaneering she just was?  She didn’t know anyone in the room when we got here, and she’s already got the host of the party introducing her to arriving guests.
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It pretty much sucks when your friends talk about you behind your back.  When a friend snidely dropped in conversation that I had just been “so danyaneering,” and I looked back at her, confused and out of the loop, we both knew the cat was out of the bag.  For a moment, she hemmed and hawed, attempted to backtrack, and awkwardly glanced away.  And, then, we laughed.  Peed in our pants laughed.  Fell off our chairs laughed.  Hugged each other, rolling around on the floor, loving how well we knew each other laughed.

It turns out my friends had been using the term “danyaneering” in private – well, just without me there – for months.  It’s a loose combination of Danya (my name) + domineering + engineering + commandeering (and others I may still be unaware of).  After the initial pang of hurt I felt at the thought of being left out of their in joke about me, I actually swelled up in pride and love for these friends who knew me so well and who had just given a name to my personal pizzaz.  Danyaneering.  Danya.   Neering.  Danyaneeeeering.  It could mean so many things!  Be more than one kind of figure of speech!  This was perfect.  I could finally describe that feeling I got when I entered a room of new people and started thinking of all the things I might have in common with them so that, once we met and became fast friends, I could introduce them to each other, creating a social web of connectees.  I could finally put into words the skill I possessed that made me the go-to person at work and amongst my friends for getting special deals, bargains, and exceptions to pretty much any rule.  For once, I could put a name to the emotion I felt – a mixture of guilt and success – when I shared an instant crush with a friend, but I approached him first, believing in the old adage, “you hesitate, you lose.”  I co-opted the term and reclaimed it for myself…and now we all agree, it couldn’t describe me better.

This blog is inspired by danyaneering – the risks I take in life and work, the funny situations I find myself in, the things I do to make my friends and family supremely happy or furious, the interesting and unexpected people whom I meet.  I’m not sure how my posts will shake out on a week to week or day to day basis, but this will also be a space for me to share all of the other things that make me who I am: the fashion I absolutely love and often can’t afford (sample sales, ahoy!), the words I know to be pliable and easily manipulated to mean so many things and to achieve many goals, the ideas I learn of and become obsessed with, the music that makes me think (or bust a move)…

Stay tuned, but watch out. You might get danyaneered.

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