So remember when I balked at Gerald Chertavian’s advice to double whatever amount of networking I was currently doing? Well, it’s happened. In the past couple of months I’ve been invited to join groups in the nonprofit and youth development spaces, and I also finally signed onto Meetup. My calendar is populated by events, and I recently realized that when it comes to setting up coffee dates, I’m no longer always the asker! My schedule is still as irregular as ever, but I’m doing really well on my resolution to stick my neck out a little further this year, both socially and professionally.
A lot of the events that I’ve been signing up for have been educational. I’m giving myself the business and technology training that I never got and never in my life ever thought I’d need. Thankfully, New York City is a wonderful place to be for budding social entrepreneurs. I get access to a lot of free and affordable workshops through places such as the NYU Reynolds Center, Goodnik, Be Social Change, Skillshare, and the Foundation Center.
Consequently, my reading list has changed considerably from my grad student days, when works of literature, philosophy, and critical theory populated my bookshelves. These days, I’m leafing through books related to entrepreneurship and articles on youth development. Since I’m far from saturated in these topics, almost all the reading I’ve done on marketing, developmental and behavioral theory, product design, etc. has been useful. But useful isn’t necessarily enjoyable, and it’s this fundamental change in my relationship to reading that I miss the most about my time in literary studies.
Before I actually graduated I had this fantasy that I would be able to devote so much time to all the great works that I’d never gotten around to reading (i.e., almost all of Shakespeares’s historical plays). I think that I was anticipating a lack of intellectual stimulation post-graduation. The reality is that I spend so much of my waking time thinking about how to build out Minds On Fire (and filling all the gaps in my knowledge in order to make it happen), that when I do have time to read for fun, more often than not, I find myself picking up whatever assorted piece of middlebrow literature or mass paperback I find in my building’s informal book exchange. It’s easier to squeeze in a few pages of undemanding prose here and there, since even my long subway rides are usually reserved for work reading.
Come to think of it, my entire relationship to language itself seems to have changed. Even the writing I do on a regular basis is a far cry from the long-form academic pieces I got so used to producing. And while I used to be able to get away with reading a carefully crafted paper in front of a large audience (seriously, this is how 99% of academics do conferences, and when they write well, I found it quite engaging), now I actively have to work on my public speaking and presentation skills. Though my tendency is toward long, meditative sentences, I now have to package my ideas in digestible, bullet-pointed morsels.
On balance, however, this is a really interesting phase to be in. I’m still enjoying the research and development part behind the scenes, but as I’m beginning to meet more and more like-minded people in the nonprofit and social entreprise spaces, and it’s surprising how much I’m liking that aspect of my work, as well.