My big brother is celebrating his anniversary this week. Twenty three years ago, I stood with a huge group of people at the front of the hugest possible church crowd in a blue satin bridesmaid dress.
I did not know anyone. But it was a party, and I managed to quickly find the other 17 year old girl who didn’t know anyone either. She knew someone who knew someone who brought her, but her family had just landed back in America after years spent as a missionary in South Asia.
Perfect. Coolness and popularity were as far out of her reach as they always were for me. Tanya and I hit it off and spent the whole afternoon in perfect giddy companionship. Partway through she said, “You’re a lot of fun! My cousin said you were hard to get to know.”
Someone knew who I was? and by inference, someone had tried to get to know me?
After Tanya described the cousin, I remembered. She was a nice lady in her early 20s and had stopped from time to time to speak to me. I always assumed that she, like my brother and nearly every other married grownup in my life, was engaging me in conversation out of a sense of Christian charity for the next generation. Therefore, out of respect for her, I had always tried to be polite, excusing myself as quickly as possible and letting her off the hook.
I had read it completely wrong. She knew who I was and wanted to know more.
I was not invisible.
I’m not seventeen anymore, but I am still surprised to discover I am visible when I least expect it.
I can walk into a convention center full of people and have a series of intense conversations with people I have never met and with whom I will never speak again. I used to think this was shallow. Why didn’t I make true relationships with this people? I must be deficient not to follow up and cement this connection that obviously had such promise. But they vanish like fog in the afternoon.
Email, LinkedIn, Facebook and G+ help me at least have a tenuous thread to these amazing people I couldn’t stay in f2f contact with. I am a devotee of the Christmas letter, making sure to *lick envelopes* to keep my friends and family in my life.
Then I read Superconnect: Harnessing the Power of Networks and the Strength of Weak Links. I like the Power of Networks, because I am a telecommunications expert. That is a powerful network. So…these authors assert and give evidence that the most powerful connections in our lives–the ones that set us on new paths and ventures–come almost exclusively from people we barely know. Our close connections are tapped out; they’ve given all they can. To strike out in a new way, you need something new.
I remember thinking this when I set out to start dating again in 1999. I was in my pond sitting on a lily pad, and all the frogs and fishes swimming by were not what I was looking for.
I needed a new lily pad. Maybe a new pond.
What’s a girl to do? Hello Internet, my old friend. I got a lot of new connections. One of them is sitting on our couch right now reading pundits on his iPad. Our anniversary is next month. It worked out.
Once more I find myself in need of new frogs. I want to find a way to promote my writing. My books, the ones I’ve published and the ones I am about to publish. But that’s not all.
There is this. This. Right here: my Wonder Weekly. It has surprised me lately by becoming visible.
Of course, it was not by accident. I decided I needed to believe in it–in ME–again this year. I was going to act as if it were important. I began to do a series of things to let people know about it. On the path to figuring out how to do that, I started to make connections.
I made one connection, which led to another, and this frog started leaping. I told people, with my mouth, about this. I signed up people by asking for their email addresses and using my hands to type these addresses into my database. I doubled my subscribers.
But then a connection I made told me how to start connecting using twitter. And then a friend I met on twitter led to a super awesome book on how to organize my promotion efforts. Look at me go!
Last week, for the first time, someone I do not know signed up. I shrieked and told my friends that I would never feel this famous again. I am writing for the world now! After all this time, I am ready for it! These words matter, and they make a difference to people. I *should* be read by lots of people I don’t know.
Wait. There is more.
Another somebody, a very old friend, made a connection for me to someone new, and I signed up for a class. I take classes, but not like this one. This was a leap; I don’t know if it’s a new pond or not but all of the scenery is different from this lily pad.
I guess that’s the point.
Back to reality. In the middle of the night, my daughter called to me. SIGH. It’s going to be another long night. Fish out the iPhone and the earbuds, start one of my favorite podcasts so I don’t lose my mind with boredom sitting at her side to keep the scary monsters at bay.
I pick one I hadn’t listened to in a while, Entrepreneurial Thought Leaders. They talk about how to find venture capitalists, how to pick a founding partner, when to sell, recommending ‘Fail Fast’ and a whole host of Silicon Valley rarified air that I find inspiring.
Press play at 2 AM on a friday morning, and I found this. A magician and a mechanical engineer?
Ferdinando Buscema told a roomful at Stanford about what he does.
I would not have been able to understand him if not for my new class. He said that there is a place for the unexpected and unbelievable in business. If there is a place for it in business, there is a place for it everywhere. He did the impossible, not just with playing cards. He did it with his life. He took his magic skills and his engineering mind and made the connection.
We need to believe, we don’t need to act like everything is so separate. More things are possible than I realized. And here’s the resonance for me: “The world is not made up of atoms; it’s made of stories.”
Yes. Yes it is. And stories are what I do–just like this one I’m telling now.
I tweeted about it and told my stranger-friends about this amazing message. I am delighted but not surprised that found this man–he’d even given a TED talk. This guy was incredible!
Wait. It gets even better.
Remember last week when a stranger signed up for my Weekly Wonder? I said I would never feel this famous again.
This morning, Ferdinando Buscema signed up for this newsletter. Out of the haystack of the internet my new hero found the needle of me. I am visible in a way I never ever expected.
Hello Signor Buscema! Thank you for believing in yourself and trusting the world to have a place for you to be in it. Thank you for putting yourself in front of a camera and telling everyone in the world about what is possible.
It was not possible that you should find me. But you did. I ask myself again:
Why? Why me?
It feels like magic. And when I think about magic touching me–my life–I am so excited I can barely breathe. Magic is not like lightning, it strikes the same place more than once. I recognize I have a gift. My ME, when I show up and live it, use and and share it with people, is magical.