"People are amazing when you open yourself up to their stories. When you are truly open, and they in turn open themselves to you, you will discover the most amazing tales unfold from the person sitting next to you in a cafe, a bar or a park bench."
I said those words to my departed mentor, Mike, years ago. We were talking about the collecting of stories, the fundamental building block of writing. The greatest stories I have ever heard, in fact the basis for most of the stories I have written, come from people in normal settings. It's part of the magic of the world.
And so Day 1 was nothing short of magical.
I spent this morning with Katryna Johnson, sipping coffee and swapping stories. It's truly one of my favorite ways to spend a morning. Katryna and I have been in the same room several times over the past year, but never met. It's the inevitable truth of networking events I think, that we pass by the most fascinating people while trying to meet as many people as possible. It is sad when it happens, sadder still when we miss the opportunity over and over, but amazing when we can correct the error and meet this phenomenal people.
Katryna is a rockstar, without a doubt. I am not overly fond of using that term. (I believe it has become another empty expression we throw around far too often.) In Katryna's case, it is absolutely true. Her story is amazing! From the study of journalism, to years and a successful career in publishing (including my favorite magazine as a kid, Highlights) she went on to law school and established a successful firm. Through several twists and turns, she left the law practice behind and ended up in Charleston, SC training and empowering women entrepreneurs. It is a story that I was completely enthralled with, and one that, with all of my gifts of writing, I could never do as much justice as the amazing woman who lived it. It is also in that story, that Katryna and I connected.
It's not the specific events of our lives that give us commonality. I have never been to law school, and studied creative writing as opposed to journalism. My long stretch of career was in the military, and I am not foolish enough to believe that I even begin to scratch the surface of what successful women have to deal with in the business world. On paper, a timeline of our lives shows us to be very different, but the stories of our lives would disagree more and more as they unfold.
During our conversation, Katryna told me about her time as a lawyer and the firm she had built. She was incredible, representing great clients and building a business that many would envy. It was the ubiquitous grind we all refer to in the world of start up endeavors, and for a while she seemed happy with it. Then life shifted. Her mother became very ill and, as time passed, she realized that the work was dominating her life. She was "Living to work, not working to live."
And there it was. Connection.
This project is literally born out of my feeling that work was dominating my life, and not in any positive way. Katryna and I both had lives dominated by clients and our businesses. So much was being tossed aside for career. We both decided to leave. We both decided to do so on the best terms possible. She told me about searching for jobs for her people and wrapping things up. I talked about passing potential clients on to other advisors and setting things right with current ones. We both talked about the pull to stay for one more client, just a few more months and a little extra money. We both also talked about the revelation that we needed to leave when we did, or else we would be stuck in that cycle. Katryna went on to side gigs and ghostwriting, ultimately founding her program where she uses her years of knowledge and experience, along with her excellent research skills to train and empower women pursuing entrepreneurship.
I don't care what anyone says, when you leave a safe and defined job to pursue a dream, you question your sanity. In a world where we are taught to make the safe decision, it's only natural. I'd be lying if I said that wasn't going through my head these past couple of weeks, but then I connected with someone who did it. Someone who was walking, talking proof that my decision was a good one, that pursuing this dream was worthwhile. I instantly felt recharged, and I wasn't feeling down at all at the time. It was a breath of wind picking me up and I really needed it.
This is the power of listening to stories, the power to be inspired and the power to connect with others through shared experience. A connection is more than a business card, and it is more than delightful chit chat over finger foods. It's even more than a shared experience, or a couple, but they are a good start.
Everything on Day 1 of an endeavor feels good. The smallest wins set benchmarks at the beginning, but this Day 1 feels even better. I have made a connection, started a friendship, and I can't wait until out next chat.
Favorite Dinosaur - Brontosaurus - they are gentle giants, not aggressive and possibly it stems from a love of the Flintstones. (This is me too)
Who Should I Meet and Why?
Nope I'm not going to spoil the future of the story...