Two pointy sticks

We’ve all been told “It’s not what you know, but who you know.” I used to think to myself bitterly: Well, I don’t know the right people. That’s out of my control.

And I realized that knowing the right people could actually be in my control. I just needed to get outside of my comfort zone. I would have to *shudder* network.

At business school we jokingly called networking events “The March of the Penguins” as hordes of students desperately waddled through the throng with black suits and wine, trading business cards at a rapid pace.

You know how successful I was at that? Not very.

I’ve written before about food and networking, and how great that is. But I’m going to let you in on the secret to how I started to build my network, and it doesn’t involve suits or business cards (though we do have wine):

Knitting.

Two years ago I hijacked a twitter conversation between people I didn’t know, who were looking for a place to knit, and offered my place. That day, I met the most incredible, powerful, and talented group of individuals, who I am so lucky to count in my professional, and personal, networks. We met, we ate, we drank, and we talked. We learned about each other’s interests and skill sets. These are the people who invited me to work on projects with them (including the incredibly successful Be Good Be Social Toronto conference), and these are the people who have been absolute rock stars in supporting my art and Etsy store. These are, frankly, my kidney people.

So what though, right? I just lucked out in finding a half dozen women whose interests and professional aspirations align with mine who also happen to knit. That’s not replicable.

Hear me out. I was invited to another knitting group. We socialize. We talk about books. We also talk jobs, careers, and opportunities.

There’s even a knitting group at work. Consider it a more creative and comfortable water cooler, and a crafty (get it?) way to build relationships with coworkers.

ASIDE: The broader knitting community is massive and organized. Keep on our good side.

Knitting is networking. And I recommend getting in to it.

But I’m a dude! You might cry. Well, step one, get over your gender essentialist issues, like these guys.
But I don’t like knitting! You might lament. Well, that’s your loss.

Now, it doesn’t have to be knitting. It could be something you’re really good at – or something you’re new to. An activity.

Knitting, or any group activity, takes the suits and business cards out of networking. We keep the wine though.

But I’m an introvert! Well, my friend, so was I. I know the anxiety of approaching strangers, and the constant fear that I’ll be laughed out of the room. Networking through an activity lets you work on something personal, and yet bond over a shared interest. Video games. Books. Drawing. Sports. Fashion. The possibilities are endless.

ASIDE: I was in Snakes and Lattes the other week and thought this place would be perfect for networking. There’s food, drink, and board games. How much fun would be it to have a networking event in that arena? (Maybe avoid Cards Against Humanity – just to be safe).

Are you all about the suits and business cards? Does the thought a conference room of strangers make you want to hide? Do you have a creative way to build your network?

In closing, here are some cool famous people knitting:

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Crabby Thanks

I want to rewind things back to 2011. I wasn’t sure any year would be better than 2011. I was on a roll. In the span of 365 days I completed my MA, MBA, Graduate Diploma, I got a job with the Ontario Ministry of Tourism and Culture, I got married, and I bought my first house.

The year ended, and I thought to myself: Ok, that’s it. You’ve peaked. Take it easy. You can’t top this year, so don’t try, because it will only end it tears.

And 2012, by contrast, was far more mellow. No grand life milestones. No new accreditations to hang on my wall.

So it was with absolutely giddiness that I found myself on Paul Nazareth‘s Golden Crab list. (Especially since I remember being super jealous of the indominable Clare McDowall topping his list in past years and wondering how it must feel to be that awesome. True story.)

Why name an award for a crab? Well, as Paul explains: “because it’s a food you can only eat with focus, with people close to you because it’s messy and it’s rare.”

Paul is an absolutely inspiration to me, and to many. I’ve encouraged friends and colleagues to join him at a Starbucks for an early morning meeting, because his advice and energy is as good as gold. When I see them after their chat with him, it’s like I’ve introduced them to Downton Abbey. They weren’t sure what to expect, but Paul, as with Downton Abbey, leaves you feeling energized, warm and fuzzy,* and impatient for your next interaction.

I’m not sure there’s anyone I promote as much as I do Paul. I did just compare him to Downton Abbey, and for me there is no higher accolade. He makes me feel like I can do anything, and reminds me of the value of doing good in this world.

So to be included in his Golden Crab list was absolutely amazing. And to be counted among such amazing people? Even more so.

It goes without saying that you should check out his twitter and blog (and of course his pristine LinkedIn profile).

Paul is all about helping and paying it forward. So here I am. I’ve got skills, and I’m here to help. Let me know how I can.

Who is your inspiration? Who gets the fire in your heart going for your life’s work? And, what can I do to help you this year?

*Certain episodes notwithstanding. You know the ones I mean. Paul would never break your heart like Downton Abbey decides to do every now and then.

ADDENDUM: This was my 100th post! Thanks for reading, liking, commenting, all those great things you do! Without you, this might as well be a diary.

If your new year’s resolution was to give back…

Then have we got an event for you.

It’s that time of year again! Timeraiser, one of my favourite events, is coming to Toronto in March.

I love Timeraiser. It’s an art auction. But instead of bidding dollars, you bid volunteer hours.

Opportunities for young donors to engage with causes – beyond our sometimes meager wallets – are what gets my blood pumping (plus, there’s art, which is pretty much my main passion in life). Because volunteers and organizations get to work out their arrangements themselves, we’re not just talking envelope-stuffing and door-knocking volunteer gigs. This event helps organizations take advantage of an incredible (over-) qualified demographic of young and determined professionals.

The cherry on this bombastic sundae is that Timeraiser pays the artists for their submissions too.

Last year I won a work of art at Timeraiser with a bid of 100 hours (which is the maximum allowed). I was at first daunted by the commitment, but I was able to reach that goal, months ahead of schedule.

Timeraiser put in to perspective how much of my time I donate to causes I love. It also made me think differently about what services I can provide. Through Timeraiser I helped organize events, designed promotional material, and worked on print layout for publications. I consider myself quite good at these things, and have done them pro bono (just sounds fancier than “free”) before, but for some reason the experience with Timeraiser let me see the accumulated value of my donated time.

And, because I’m as thrilled to support Timeraiser as I am the nonprofit organizations of my dreams, I’m submitting my own artwork for the auction this year. I would be thrilled to see my art hanging at the event, and hopefully inspire some aggressive bids…

Hope to see you at Timeraiser this year!

2012 in review

The good people at WordPress compiled a summary of this blog over 2012. Here’s an excerpt:

600 people reached the top of Mt. Everest in 2012. This blog got about 11,000 views in 2012. If every person who reached the top of Mt. Everest viewed this blog, it would have taken 18 years to get that many views.

Click here to see the complete report.

Thanks for coming by, reading, and interacting with me and my blog over the last year. I hope this year is full of exciting new adventures and topics about which to write, and look forward to sharing it all with you.

What topics are you interested in? How was your blogging experience in 2012?

Get the lead out

I was very fortunate to attend Environmental Defence‘s #EcoBeautyMarket tweet-up event this week.  I made my way through the room, checking out vendors toting all sorts of cosmetics, soaps, shampoos, creams, deodorants, and lip balms, all of which were free of the harmful chemicals that are prevalent in the same sort of items you might pick up at Shoppers Drug Mart or Loblaws.

Think, for a moment, of your morning routine. After you complain at your alarm clock and at the fact that it’s still pitch black outside and your bed is just so warm and comfy. On any given day you maybe wash your face, brush your teeth, shower, shave, apply makeup, etc. By the time you’ve left the door for work or school, you’ve put up to 100 chemicals on and in your body. (Yes gentlemen, you too).

But so what, right?  I mean, if products are sold to the public, they have to pass some sort of test, right? Safeguards in place to protect the consumer?  Well, 85% of cosmetics are not tested for human safety!

Turns out there are loopholes in the cosmetics industry that allow companies to include ingredients without our knowledge. Just one example: if an ingredient contributes to a product’s scent, it doesn’t have to be listed under the ingredients. This makes sense – companies don’t want to list their secret and proprietary recipe on the back of each of their products. But it also means you don’t actually know what you’re putting on your skin, your hair, your lips.  How can consumers be expected to make informed choices without being informed?

In the late ’90s when it was discovered that the paint on childrens’ toys contained traces of lead, there was a massive recall. But certain lipsticks still contain lead, and are not recalled. Lipstick, a product intended to go on your lips, can have lead it in.

There’s also an assumption that, hey, okay, the chemicals in your products are harmful, but they’re only present in tiny tiny quantities. Yet think how many times you brush your teeth, or apply lipstick, or use shampoo – those tiny tiny quantities can build up faster than your body can flush them out.

Rick Smith used himself as a guinea pig, and over a 48-hour period of using products with triclosan (found, most worryingly, in Colgate Total) and other chemicals prevalent in many of our daily products, levels of these chemicals skyrocketed in his system.  While Health Canada has cleared triclosan as safe for human use, it has been linked to the creation of superbugs and, as something we often rinse down the drain, has negative effects on our environment.

And this is just one of the hundreds of chemicals present in our cosmetics and household products.

At the end of the evening, the feeling in the room was clear – we wish we had known all this information before the vendors had packed up, because we would have picked up more items!  I had an urge to rush home and dump the contents of my medicine cabinet in to the trash.

That’s when There’s Lead in My Lipstick author Gill Deacon calmed us down – it’s not about throwing everything out. It’s about being more selective with your purchases, and what you put on and in your body.  Remember – your skin is an organ. What goes on your body, ends up in your body.

If you’re interested in learning more about this, Environmental Defence has got lots of terrific information.

As an aside, you might also enjoy movies like Food Inc. and Tapped. (Since watching Tapped, I haven’t had any bottled water or water from a water cooler).

Curious about what companies strive to get the lead (and triclosan, and parabens, etc) out of their products? Here are just a few:

At the market I scored The Basic Element‘s rosemary candelilla lip balm and clay facial soap, and citrus deodorant from Green Beaver. They’re Canadian products (yay!), and cost pretty much the same as the brand-name versions I normally buy. But do they work? Better than my regular products.
(Disclaimer: I don’t know if all eco-beauty products outperform their chemical-filled counterparts, but I am confident that there are competitively-priced and high-performing eco-beauty products out there, and worth the hunt).
So take a chance, #treatyoself, and try out an eco-friendly product. It’s not about clearing your shelves and relying solely on water and baking soda to clean every surface of your body and house… but if you can avoid putting questionable chemicals in your body… why wouldn’t you?
What are your thoughts on all this? Would you ever substitute your daily products with an eco-friendly version? Or is it too granola for you?