“Not even the William Shatner”

I decided to answer this week’s prompt – What are the edges that make the most sense to me personally and for my goal(s) in the CPA incubator? – by answering the following questions from Seth Godin’s Ship It Journal:

Given that you’re not the Michelangelo of this domain, the Julia Child or even the William Shatner, how can you possibly hope to have a breakthrough? The only solution is to find edges others haven’t found, to bring a dynamic others are afraid of. What’s yours?

What first struck me about this short passage is that it questioned my very nerve to be hopeful – “how can you possibly hope to have a breakthrough?” Before I even got to this sentence, I was already considering all the reasons why my specific goal in convening women to invest in other women was trite, duplicative, maybe even irrelevant. Aren’t there banks? Aren’t there foundations? Entire organizations dedicated to making this happen? And then, my doubts were validated. How dare I hope?

So, I considered the second half of the passage. “The only solution is to find edges others haven’t found, to bring a dynamic others are afraid of. What’s yours?” And this is where I reflected a bit on what dynamic I bring that others are afraid of. Myself included, sometimes.

I can navigate through multiple layers of responsibility, expectations, communities, cultures, roles, and competing interests with vision and discipline. Within this complex framework, I stay the course and bring enough activation energy to develop a plan and implement it. My edges lie in connecting, planning, and activating. What does this look like? How do I know?

The best example I can give of this is related to how I leveraged my time, resources, and skills to accomplish a goal in 2017. I had set a personal goal of opening my own business without leaving my job, while continuing to contribute to social and environmental sustainability efforts within my city. How this played out was working full-time at a large company, planning and applying for grants to open a business, opening a business, and serving on local non-profit boards while volunteering in my neighborhood to keep my ear to and boots on the ground on development that affects my city, my community, and my neighboring communities. While this level of time, energy, and resources is unsustainable to devote on an ongoing basis, I learned from that spark I lit that initiated the entire plan to materialize. I learned that in complexity, I find ways to make direct connections that serve multiple benefits. I learned that I could and would do the things I set out to do. And I learned that I am good at asking for help.

Recently, a friend told me that “maybe if she worked on an idea she had with [me], her idea would finally happen.” I was really humbled by that statement – as nonchalant and jovial as it was – because it affirmed my interpretation of my edge. What could anyone be afraid of, in soliciting my edge? Perhaps, that there will be accountability and investment in place from someone else who is all in to make that idea happen. Perhaps, that I will relentlessly work on that idea until we see it through together – and remind them constantly.

Now, I seek to apply these lessons in convening people that may not normally intersect to identify a common purpose and establish a strong system that nurtures and grows other women and minority entrepreneurs. From last week’s prompt, I received excellent questions regarding my preparedness to “follow through on engaging others – not to convince them to go along with [my] thing but to either offer feedback to help [me] refine a model that [I’m] kind of wedded to or taking where [I] start from and allowing it to be truly shaped/co-created through engagement.” I was challenged to acknowledge “a spectrum of need.” And that question and challenge are what motivated me to seek my edge – to embrace my latent discomfort everywhere as an invitation to be comfortable inviting people everywhere.

Not only do I acknowledge “a spectrum of need” for entrepreneurs of different ability, resources, stories, communities – I recognize how much stronger the web is by bringing representatives from across the spectrum together. And not only am I open to inviting them to go along “with my thing,” but how important and special the “thing” will be with others’ feedback and ownership and investment – financial/tangible or otherwise. Hence, the edges I would like to see come from this network will be in the “spectrum” of diverse needs represented, availability of diverse resources, and resulting depth of connections formed. In some ways, my goal of converting PizzaPlex into a worker-owned business relies on this edge of making connections, and asking for help. The edges of PizzaPlex are in distributed ownership (at this time, only in decision-making and accountability – not yet financial) to reflect a commitment to “Pizza. People. Planet.”

My personal edge manifests in the connections I make when I reflect and use my own skills, network, or passions as a starting point. I don’t have all the relationships in place to launch a successful investment club; however, I can make connections between incredible human beings who excel in so many areas I do not, and gratefully welcome them to build something with me and invite others. I am willing to put in the work and light the spark – I hope many minds will bring the fuel to keep the clean, particulate- and smoke-free 😉 flame alive.

RS – Another week of comments that do not disappoint, and posts that inspire so profoundly! This week, between the theme of fellow team members’ posts and the theme of questions I received on my own post, one emerging insight I have gleaned is that I need to consider how Trust is built into my own actions and my plans. Trust must be bi-directional. It must be mutual to be comfortable building together. But Trust doesn’t stop between customer and service provider. Trust needs to exist among all stakeholders. Do we trust each other to help each other launch our dreams? Do we trust our allies – be they conventional or non-conventional? Do we Trust ourselves to hold ourselves accountable?

I’m still mulling over what Trust looks like, how you know when it’s there, and how strategies to persuade must still be rooted in authenticity that fosters Trust. I am going to be more intentional asking myself how I measure Trust, and ask for feedback as to whether others have Trust in me. I don’t know how yet, but I am curious to learn.

4 thoughts on ““Not even the William Shatner””

  1. Hi, Alessandra, thank you for your wisdom! I really appreciated your observation that there are specific ways to move to a spectrum of need on three fronts: 1) asking instead of telling – so beautiful to be reminded of this; if we offer our questions, we can let the community move us all toward a shared response/vision and 2) your gift as a convener – are you familiar with Lois Weisberg? She was a “cultural connector”, a hugely important role in any community, and it sounds like you are also one of those rare connectors! and 3) your question about how we can leverage our own spectrum of need(s)/gifts in this group is an excellent question! How do we do that? Jessica’s request that we #intropost is one. What else do you see?

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  2. Alessandra – Please know that we missed you at the CPA convening. Thank you for sharing your wisdom and your edge. How can you use your edge of connecting to advance CPA or the Investment Club? Which non-conventional allies can you think of that can help you advance this work?

    How do you use your edge of planning without being too rigid? What systems can you set in place to respond to urgent needs?

    What strategies will you implement to activate those who haven’t been connected to the cooperative concept? How will you activate those who may not necessarily see the point in investing in a for-profit business?
    It sounds like you have been incredibly successful at code-switching. How will you use that talent to build, inspire, and galvanize others?

    This quote made me think of you, “You have brilliance in you, your contribution is valuable, and the art you create is precious. Only you can do it, and you must. I’m hoping you’ll stand up and choose to make a difference.” Seth Godin

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  3. Hi Ale!

    I’m sorry I didn’t get to offer my
    Comments. Encore your reflection, but I figured I can still add value by commenting on your reflection.

    I see trust as the missing link within your strengths and the outcomes that people perceive you can achieve. That your potential as a connector is grounded in the trust you inspire.

    I particularly liked the question “what does trust look like?”. To that I’d ask you: what has trust looked like in key moments of your life? When you decided to make PizzaPlex a worker-owned co-op, how did you know there was trust? In each of your main endeavors, what has trust looked like and when did you realize it existed?

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  4. Hi Ale! I, too, am late to the party, but still happy to chime in :). First of all, YES! Your relentlessness is a very important edge. I’ve seen how your willingness to put in the work, to drive the drain the train forward while rallying others to join you along the way has allowed you to turn great ideas into actions. And btw, I’m guessing this is the same friend with which I had a similar conversation about you – us both saying how we’d love to work with you to accomplish our own goals because with you they’d actually make it to life. Ha!
    I have no doubt that you have the passion, grit, self-accountability, and ability to build and leverage diverse connections to see your idea through. As you prepare to ship, my questions to you relate not to edges, but things closer to the center or “heart” of how you will carry out the work ahead of you:
    1) You mentioned in your post that the pace at which you’ve moved previously as you built up and contributed to multiple organizations and efforts is unsustainable. Have you considered how/where you prioritize the investment club in all of this? Are you willing/able to stop investing as much time and energy in your many other pursuits, releasing yourself from activities or organizations to free up time for this- even if it means disappointing people who want you to continue to carry the load? What trade offs are you willing to make? What’s nonnegotiable for you?
    Considering how far your capacity is stretched already, have you thought about trying to build a team to realize this vision together with them, one or two partners who you’re inviting to have some level of responsibility and co-ownership for bringing this vision to life? If so, what qualities would you be looking for in your partners and how might leveraging them add value for you? Would it be worth it even when you consider the work that would be required to build the level of trust and shared visioning necessary for such a partnership to be truly fruitful?

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