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The Quixotic Appeal of Hamilton

26 Dec

I may never be in the room where it happens…and that’s ok.

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Like hundreds, thousands, maybe millions of other Americans, I am dying to see the hit Broadway musical “Hamilton.” I’ve dutifully watched the PBS documentary on it’s creator, Lin-Manuel Miranda. Eagerly listened to the singles from the mixtape as they dropped. Applauded the cast for their appeal to Mike Pence during a curtain call at a NYC show.

I’ve got Hamilton fever. And it feels pretty good.

It’s something to commiserate with certain friends over—a game to talk about what we’d have to be able to give up just to score a scalped $500 ticket to a weekday matinee.

“If I just ate nothing but beans for a whole month, didn’t run the heat or AC, used just one solar-powered flashlight and donated plasma 6 times, I think I could totally swing it. I’d be so regular too!”

It’s a way to connect with higher rolling friends.

“I heard American Express Platinum Card Members can get face value tickets to two shows in 2017, but you can only buy those tickets if you’ve spent like $50,000 in a month with American Express. So can you hook me up?”

It’s opening up the potential to travel to places besides New York, Chicago, or San Franciso, and experience shows besides Hamilton.

“Season ticket holders to the performing arts center in Charlotte are GUARANTEED dibs on tickets to Hamilton. So if I just buy tickets to three shows I don’t really want to see in a city I don’t really want to visit, I can get Hamilton tickets!”

It’s encouragement to be charitable.

“If I donate $5,000 to Planned Parenthood, I could potentially win tickets to THREE Hamilton shows. And I get a signed CD!”

It’s helping me break my addiction to Facebook—instead of trolling my newsfeed and seeing what a bunch of people I don’t care about are doing, I troll Ticketmaster.

“Surely a Wednesday 2 pm show in the middle of August would have a ticket available for under $400….Nope. Hmmm…. Let me just try a few more searches. Just a few more hours.”

It’s making me consider using hoarded Skymiles to take multiple trips to New York City. And actually learn how to make statistical calculations.

“If I go for three days once every three months and enter the Hamilton lottery for every show while I’m there, then what are my odds of finally hitting the jackpot and getting those $10 front row seats?”

Since I’ve never seen Hamilton I can’t say this for sure, but the quest to try to see Hamilton seems like almost as much fun as actually seeing it. It feels like trying to get the Golden Ticket, but for an elaborate re-imagining of our nation’s history with rap battles and choreography instead of a chocolate factory.

Don’t get me wrong, I’d love to see Hamilton, but I’m getting to the point where I’m so wrapped up in the quest, the desire to see Hamilton, that I wonder if there’s any way it could actually live up to the hype.

I’m sure I’ll see it eventually….I guess what I’m trying to say is that I’m willing to wait for it and I’m sure that I’ll leave satisfied.

God’s Business

9 Dec

I never thought that a small business training course would bring me closer to God.

But it did.

Let me back up a little bit. I should have known something bigger than me was at work when, almost exactly one year ago, I went to a local organization—

Increasing H.O.P.E.—for a small business counseling session. I left with a job offer.

The agency needed help with its social media, and even though I had gone to be counseled about a dance business I wanted to start, the executive director asked me to take on their social media. A month or two after my initial meeting with the ED, Dorothea Bernique, I began running Increasing H.O.P.E.’s social media. During one of our first meetings, Dorothea and her friend/marketing coach Lavondilyn Watson said that I was a perfect candidate for the H.E.R. Institute.

H.E.R. Institute (Hope, Empowerment, Restoration) was a small business training course that Dorothea and Lavondilyn had been planning for years. It was designed to help entrepreneurs learn how to build a rock solid foundation for their burgeoning business, covering topics from the entrepreneurial mindset to personnel and staffing. I knew I wanted in. The date to sign up drew closer and at that point I was waffling about what I wanted my business to be. Dance? Writing? Editing? Social media? Marketing? A “Glambulance” (a mobile beauty salon where drunk girls could get their nails done outside of bars at night…true story, you should see my notes).

Frankly, I was lost, confused, and overwhelmed with uncertainty. But I signed up for H.E.R. Institute anyways, knowing that it was what I was supposed to do.

Dorothea and Lavondilyn intrigued and inspired me. They called themselves women of faith, a term that I had heard before in my Methodist upbringing but never really understood. I had never met women so strongly convicted in what they do. God gave them certain gifts and talents, inspired them with a calling, and set them on a path. It seemed that they were impervious to what other people may think— only God’s opinion mattered.

“What is this purpose thing…?” I thought, “And where do I sign up for one?”

I cycled through so many ideas for my business, changing my mind what felt like every week, talking to friends and family, mulling over a million possibilities. I was still scared, still not “feeling it.”

But Dorothea and Lavondilyn and my cohorts in the class were behind me, encouraging me, praising me, listening, giving tough love and guidance. I picked a business name, created an LLC, got my business bank account, had a logo designed, opened a P.O. Box. Threw around some more ideas. Began developing products, identifying an ideal client.

Each step I took brought me closer. I began to feel more convicted—I had no other option but to roll with my business. I realized what it is that I truly love—to dance, write, and talk to people—and thought of ways to combine them.

Last week during our H.E.R. Institute class, nobody left dry-eyed. God was in that room. Something happened and we knew without doubt that we had been called, ordained, inspired, anointed…whatever word choice you want to use, by something so much bigger than ourselves to go on our paths. To start our businesses, to spread our gifts.

Over the next few days, I hit the pavement. I put together my website, set up my e-commerce, got my business license, had my first official gig as Baila ConmiGA and decided to launch my business. I realized that if not now, when?

So here I am. I’m terrified. Afraid of being judged, criticized, making mistakes, losing money, doing something wrong. But I’m trying to push past all of that. I’m trying to trust that God (or the Universe or the Aliens That Control Our Lives, depending on your belief system) will reward this leap of faith. I’m lucky to have a network of cheerleaders—family, mentors, friends, my dance partner, teachers—behind me, encouraging me along the way.

And more than all of that, I’m lucky that now I can consider myself a woman of faith. It’s been said that God works in mysterious ways, and if becoming an entrepreneur can unlock my faith, I can only imagine what could happen to you.

 

Anne Lamott inspired me to write this. I was nervous—I don’t usually write this kind of blog post for fear of being polarizing or for being categorized a certain way. But then I realized that Anne Lamott is a best-selling author, and isn’t that what all writers are aspiring toward? I love the way she writes about faith—it’s accessible and real-world.

G.A.’s Quick and Dirty Social Media Tips

10 Oct

Everyone thought social media was just a sexy trend that would soon pass, but it’s looking like its here to stay for a while. I’ve had conversations with several people over the last few weeks about developing and implementing social media strategies for a variety of end goals. For the past year, I’ve been working as a freelance social media coordinator and have come up with some quick and dirty tips for your venture— whether it’s for your ice cream delivery service (someone please do this near me) or just to try to get all of your friends to like your witty commentary on your raucous neighbors.

The first thing I must do is make a disclaimer: Social Media is NOT advertising.

Repeat after me: Social Media is NOT advertising.

Think about it—people get on social media to “hang out.” They get on there to see their friends new haircut, share jealousy-inducing pictures of their fabulous vacations, Instacreep on their ex-boyfriend’s new girlfriend, etc. People don’t want hard sells on social media. They don’t want you to be saying “Buy this, buy this, buy this.” Don’t people DVR television shows these days just so they can fast forward through the commercials?

What people do want on social media is to feel connected. To feel special. To feel part of something. To feel like they know you, know your product, know your brand. They want to hang out with you—laugh at your jokes, hear your interesting stories, learn something or be inspired. So cater to them.

My four W’s: Who are you talking to, Where can you find these people, Why do you want to engage with them, and What are you saying?

Who:

If you don’t know your audience, you need to take a few steps backward and identify it. Be specific. I’m not going to go into outlining your ideal client/target audience, but what I will say is BE AS SPECIFIC AND DETAILED AS POSSIBLE. You really can’t move forward until you have an idea of who makes up your audience.

Where:

Once you know who you’re talking to, you’re going to know where to find them. Don’t waste your time trying to get on every social platform out there. Be smart. If you’re a retirement home, do you really think your ideal clients will be on Instagram and Snapchat? And if you’re a teen boutique, do you think they’ll be concerned with your Linked In profile? It’s more valuable to have consistent, tailored, knockout content on two or three platforms than one post every four months on a half dozen networks. Figure out with platform or two your audience is already hanging out on, and go put yourself in front of them!

Why:

What are you trying to accomplish with your social media presence? Providing customer service in real time? Letting your audience get to know the person behind your business? Positioning yourself as an expert in your field? I cannot say this enough: Be useful, be inspiring, or at least be entertaining.

What:

Like I said earlier, do NOT make your page all about yourself. Make your page a resource for your audience. If you’re a kitchen store, then post recipes, local foodie events, articles about area chefs, funny cartoons about cooking… be creative and have fun. If you aren’t interested in your content, chances are, nobody else will be either. I tend toward the 80/20 rule in social media: 80 % of your content is about your audience and 20 % is about you. Using the kitchen store example, only post store events, sales, and new products 20 % of the time. Otherwise, your audience will be bored and disinterested.

Be personable and engaging—ask questions, encourage response, and PLEASE FOR THE LOVE OF EVERYTHING RESPOND TO YOUR AUDIENCE. If you get a direct message, respond to it within a day or two. Comment back, favorite a retweet, tag other people or businesses…this is social media. Not “I’m a recluse sending things into Cyberspace on my iPhone” media.

 

This is not rocket science. It doesn’t require hours of work every single day. If you’re consistent and dedicated, you can spend 15 minutes a day on your social media strategy. But it’s like a sourdough starter—you must feed it regularly or it will not yield anything.

This is a basic overview…if you have questions or comments, post them here!

I’m going to quote Nike here

12 Jun

Usually, I like to reserve my blog space to tell stories about the interesting characters I run into, experiences I’ve had, or my travels. However, this post has been percolating in my brain for a while and I decided to just do it.

Because you see, that’s the theme of my post. JUST DO IT. I’m so frustrated with people just sitting on their asses, complaining about their lives, yet refusing to take the necessary steps to change (myself included).

Let me clarify “people” as recent post-grads who are wallowing in their Millennial Malaise (yes, that’s a new thing, I think it will be in the DSM-V). I’m not up on some high horse here though, because I am certainly guilty of it myself. I’m just tired of it.

“Oh, I’m just taking some time to figure out what I want to do right now,” has been a standard response to people asking me what I’ve been up to post-college. My peers, some of whom are working some dead end job here or there, often answer with the same statement. We are all just trying to “figure out our lives.”

But what I’ve decided over the last few months is that it really doesn’t matter what you do, as long as you are doing something. It doesn’t matter where you go, as long as you are going somewhere. Is this concept anything new? Of course not!

We spoiled, middle-class, liberal arts degree holders are sometimes incapable of making decisions. We are scared that what we choose won’t be glamorous enough, won’t change the world enough, won’t fulfill our need to realize our dreams, pursue our passions, or any of those other sexy buzzwords they put on college admissions materials. Every potential job has cosmic significance instead of maybe just being how we fund what actually gives meaning to our lives.

Guess what guys? It’s called work for a reason. Because it’s work. It’s not supposed to be a daily party or an endless summer. Maybe some days you will be on top of the world and feel like you’re living your true calling, but other days, you’re going to just get through whatever needs to be done so you can make it to your improv class or to practice guitar.

The important thing, I think, is to make a decision. Maybe it’s to decide “I’m going to be a nanny so I can save money to go travel the world,” or it’s to decide “I’ll wait tables to make money while I work on my movie script,” but just make a decision and live it out. I don’t think decisions have a value assigned—there are no good or bad decisions, so with that mentality you can never fail. You can only learn.

I can be decisive to a fault. “Skip my last semester of college to be a tour guide in Cuba? Sure, why not?…Audition to be a professional ballerina? Go for it. Pack up my Honda Accord with everything I own and move back to Charleston, with no job or anywhere to live? Bring it on…”

Sometimes my decisions may be seen as impatient, rushed, ill-informed, or just crazy, but they are MINE and they were DECISIONS. Instead of stagnating or dithering around somewhere I didn’t want to be, I knew what I wanted and went for it. “Going for it” is scary. It forces you, and the people around you, outside of their comfort zones.

Yes my Millennial Malaise sufferers—it’s scary to leave behind the comfortable shell of complaining that you’ve built for yourself. It might be scary for your friends, who are in the same boat, to see you leave and see you succeed. It might be scary for your parents, who might not want to see you leave the security of a steady income to pursue a different path. But for the love of God, can y’all please just do something? Stop complaining, stop waiting for life to come to you.

Because it’s already here.