After going to the Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival, the We Heart Japan tsunami relief night, the Legacies of Violence conference on human rights, and all the arts and culture shows, I’ve seriously found the magic in the saying “90% of life is just showing up”. Here’s some hints for everyone to benefit from, and how I applied it.
Lesson 1: Explore your community
Stop living in your head and get out there. There’s more to community than just being a member of it–what it means to you is a lot different the more involved you are with it. You’re not limited to the neighborhood or city you live in, the religion you are a part of, the ethnic group you belong to, the political party you support, or the school you attend. It’s like paying membership dues to 24-Hour Fitness and only going there to use the treadmill: you can use all the equipment there, you can get a personal trainer session, you can attend the fitness classes, and you can get nutritional advice–so make the most of what you’re paying for there, just like getting to know more people around you can bring you more fulfillment.
Lesson 2: Experiment and attend different events
Step out of your communities too if you can. Follow what’s going on in your local newspaper or see what’s going on at different locations in the vicinity or outside of where you live or normally go to. If you’re willing to fly from San Francisco to Coachella every year for music festivals, there’s nothing wrong than the occasional adventure to the suburbs or another city for a weekend of fun. If I had known about the UCLA events website, I would have gone on to meet Neil Gaiman, Dave McKean, Stan Lee, and a host of other wonderful people at other events–and that was just inside my own community. The world around you is smaller than you think, and just by asking for help, you might get it–I asked if anyone could take me to Tempest Free Running Academy in Chatsworth and an hour later, I am making arrangements for going by carpool to get there the next day.
Lesson 3: Always be prepared
Be prepared to come with business cards, be well-dressed, know how to get to some place and have a back-up plan for going there and coming back, and know how you’re going to make you ten- and thirty-second sales pitch when talking to others. You need to be able to both make a good impression and a lasting one. A business card and good look with punctuality will stay in people’s minds, because you’re not wasting time exchanging numbers, and you can appear more professional that way.
Lesson 4: Volunteer yourself
Free help is generally welcomed, even if it’s last-minute. At the We Heart Japan and C3 events, I didn’t have access to as much for not signing up or paying for it, but I offered to help install some pieces and carry things, usher people around, and they did not hesitate to issue orders to me. I made good friends and contacts this way, as well as experience I can through on my volunteer résumé if the need arises.
Lesson 5: Hang out around the event anyway
When I couldn’t attend an event or panel, I just hung out at the lobbies or the general vicinity and talked to people on their break or recuperating. It’s a great backdoor way when volunteering doesn’t work out, and I have more free time as well. Just by being there, you have an opportunity to meet people–use it!
Lesson 6: Talk to everyone
Seriously. Don’t discriminate because someone doesn’t look important or appear to be influential or useful–people can and will surprise you. By talking to catering people, box office workers, and other volunteers, I was able to get an introduction to others who were in line with my own interests, as well as make more friends.
There was a point at the C3 conference I was seriously offended by being snubbed by some people who determined I was not useful for not being established, powerful, or famous, who went so far as to lie and say they had no cards to give, but later on give them to others in front of me, hug everyone else goodbye or run up to greet them while ignoring me, and say they haven’t been on Facebook or read my e-mail when I’m seeing in the news feed their profile pictures changing and who they have added as friends. Yes: the news feed shows limited activity from people when your request is pending, and it’s easy to spot the liars that way. These people are essentially shameless social climbers.
As offensive as it was, the real problem came when the social climbers who had earlier dismissed me suddenly started changing their attitude when the celebrities I had talked to both approved of and encouraged my ideas, while suggesting collaborations and further dialogue. When I mentioned how to get out of jury duty, which I learned, as a paralegal, the social climbers suddenly found a use for me instead of passing a judgment and dismissing me. It’s extremely insulting, but it goes to show how these people who underestimated me suddenly found out I had some value that the established celebrities and professionals saw in me that they were blind to. People aren’t about the summary of accomplishments or catalogue of possessions–but about their potential and how they are working toward that. Recognize this and you can see whom you need to talk to and whom to distance yourself from.
Lesson 7: Follow Through
You can make a good impression, but if you don’t follow-through, you wasted your time and their time. Send an e-mail, add them on Facebook, and try to meet up if possible to go beyond the short pitch of marketing yourself from the brief interactions. By doing so, your connection strengthens and you aren’t an opportunist. I ran into plenty of opportunists and social climbers, but I’m not afraid to put myself out there. When you put yourself out there, you are open to jerks and phonies, but if you don’t put yourself out there, you miss out on opportunities too. So when you jump into the ocean, there will be sharks, but you just may find some real treasures there. Just be sure to jump in well-equipped, know when and where to go in, and how to get back out, as well as who to be with.
So put yourself out there if you want to move up in the world and out of your head. See you at the next event!