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The 3 Rs

I love that informative and catchy jingle, perfected by Jack Johnson, but I’m not referring to Reduce, Reuse, Recycle (and does that apostrophe make the statement look grammatically incorrect?).

And forget anything that involves aRithmetic––this wRRRiter has two English degrees. Yet I can rarely sit down and eke out a coherent sentence without falling prey to myriad temptations.

My favorites include:

  • The latest Instagram shot of my cousin’s zucchini harvest
  • The first season of The Blacklist now streaming on Netflix (in which my longtime celebrity crush James Spader bears a striking resemblance to my Gonzo journalism crush Hunter S. Thompson)
  • Sudden urges to organize my sock drawer or scrub the bathroom toilet

ANYTHING to avoid that still, quiet voice, whispering, “Sit your arse down and WRITE, goddammit!”

Mere distractions, but mighty powerful ones, they be.

Indeed, the three Rs in my life these days include Reading, wRiting, and Resistance.

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That last one has enveloped the first two of late. So many books discuss this phenomenon and occasional curse. Ironically, some of it is the best writing I’ve encountered in years. Even my own work, or lack thereof, is infused with it.

The difference is that resistance fuels theirs while it debilitates mine.

Steven Pressfield dedicates at least two entire books to the topic: The War of Art and Turning Pro. I read both over the summer, while procrastinating (read: resisting) and delaying to return to writing on a regular basis.

This process prompted a rare chain of events. The procrastination actually inspired me to stop doing what I was doing while reading the books, and instead break through the resistance, and start writing!

Rule #1: Writers write, they don’t talk about writing. Duh.

It is kind of like when my mother buys books about clutter to help her clean up the clutter, but then uses them to add to the existing pile of clutter…

(Funny that about 20 minutes after I wrote that last sentence, during yet another bout of unwarranted Resistance, I stumbled upon a YouTube video of Joe Rogan interviewing Steven Pressfield discussing this very topic. It looks like Resistance can also double as serendipity.)

Both processes can devolve into vicious cycles.

But when the pupil is ready, gurus appear. They can manifest in various forms:

  • Dreams (or nightmares, when your subconscious is particularly desperate)
  • Muses, appearing as an idea, a mentor, inspiration, clarity. Call it what you will.
  • Steven Pressfield and other inspiring artists (some of the most notable ones in my life include Tom Robbins, Anne Lamott, David Sedaris, Elizabeth Gilbert, Stephen King, and Ruth Reichl, to name a few)

The number of ways Resistance––this adversary deserves a capital ‘R’––tried to foil my plans to write even this brief piece on the very topic is at once devastating, pathetic, and all too familiar.

It is also hilarious because I, Astrid the Dragon Slayer, can recognize its trickery just a wee bit faster now.

This call to action––to write––must be pretty fucking important. I had to slay some seriously persistent dragons this week:

  • Disable Words With Friends
  • Bury my phone
  • Mute James Spader
  • Cork an open bottle of Malbec (which had a screw cap)
  • Enforce Draconian Facebook parameters on myself: 20 minutes and three comments max.
  • Get out of bed
  • Put the pint of Half Baked froyo back in the freezer…with at least two servings left

But here I am, still alive, slightly less restless, slightly less likely to gauge out my eye with an icepick to rival the pain of not writing.

And ready to face more dragons and Resistance’s henchmen tomorrow.

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Simmons Leadership Conference 2013

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(Conference schedule. Astrid Lium photos.)

The Simmons Leadership Conference attracted more than 3000 professional women to the Seaport World Trade Center on April 2. Known as the “world’s premier professional conference for women,” the 34th annual gathering marked its 2013 anniversary with a Women of Influence theme.

This year’s panel included an array of speakers from various backgrounds, including:

Greeting the crowd at 8am was master of ceremonies Joyce Kulhawik, long-time broadcaster in Boston and Simmons College alumna.

Following her warm welcome, opening keynote speaker Sallie Krawcheck provided “Leadership Lessons for Women in Business.” The Wall Street executive offered an inside view of the obstacles and opportunities influential women in finance and business face.

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(Leadership Conference luncheon held at the Seaport World Trade Center on April 2.)

The morning and afternoon presentations included a mix of topics and backgrounds. The speakers––including marketing expert Kelly McDonald, Simmons professor and business consultant Stacy Blake-Beard, PhD, and co-authors Lois Frankel, PhD and Carol Frohlinger, JD––displayed their influence in the business world with inspiration, insight, and humor, touching on a number of issues:

  • personal finance
  • communication
  • crisis management
  • multicultural marketing
  • mentoring
  • negotiating

Attendees had the opportunity to meet the presenters during a book signing break, followed by the morning keynote speaker Charlene Li. Author of the bestsellers “Groundswell” and “Open Leadership,” Li is a social media expert and a board member of the Harvard Alumni Association.

Li discussed the importance of social technologies in the rapidly changing world of modern business. She underscored the point throughout her talk that “social media is about relationships, not technology.”

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Li broke divided her talk into three parts:

  • Strategy
  • Organization
  • Preparation

In regard to strategy, she claims that most businesses fail when they lack clear business goals. “Strategy is what you decide to do and not to do,” she said.

In turn, Li set forth six phases of social business maturity.

  1. Planning: develop relationships with your audience, clients, followers. Monitor what people are doing and listen to their feedback. (Example: The American Red Cross monitors social channels during disasters and relief efforts.)
  2. Presence: Stake a claim, take a leap, and engage with others. (Example: Shell tracks its reputation impact on a daily basis.)
  3. Engagement: Dialogue deepens relationships, so it’s best for companies to develop rules for engagement. (Example: Intel’s social media guidelines.)
  4. Formalize: Organize for scale.
  5. Strategy: Become a social business and connect the dots. (Example: Sephora integrates social and digital elements into their community as well as in their stores.)
  6. Transformation: Business is social, and women are particularly social beings.

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(Keynote speaker Charlene Li discusses social media in business.)

 

In regard to organization, Li referred to seven success factors, of which she offered two: planning details and having an initiative road map. She underscored the importance of filtering information. “We have to be parsimonious about what we focus on,” she said. “Choose carefully and let others pass.”

For her third part, Li outlined five ways in which companies can prepare:

  1. Align executives with clear business goals. Translate your social media to their world; don’t force them to understand your social media.
  2. Ask the right questions about value, not return on investment (ROI). (“How many of you calculated the ROI of your time spend at this conference today?” Li asked in jest.)
  3. Create a culture of sharing and build relationships that way.
  4. Master the art of failure. Google’s mantra is “fail fast, fail smart.”
  5. Determine your personal social strategy. Leverage connections and use your networks.

During the Q&A session, the first question came via Twitter. An audience member asked, “How do you deal with online rage?”

Li’s response: “Never feed the trolls. When trolls have no audience, they move on.”

Her final point was social media ubiquity. “I want social media right here all the time,” she said. “It’s so easy to better know people through social media.”

 

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