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In the pause: The Theater of the Disappearance at The Metropolitan Museum of Art

They say that on a clear day you can see forever. On this clear day, I went to see the current rooftop installation at the Metropolitan Museum of Art by Argentinian artist Adrián Villar Rojas. It’s haunting and beautiful, and you still have a month to see it. Though there’s no sound in the exhibit, I kept finding myself hearing stories from these statues. What happened to them? Why were they at this dinner party? Who are they? What were they hiding? I’m certain these stories will find their way into my second book in the Emerson Page series.

 

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In the pause: The difference between a boss and a leader

Let me be clear about my philosophy on leadership. I’ve had two kinds of bosses: amazing ones who fight for their people and truly awful ones who fight against their people. Those of you who have worked with me and for me know this: I fight for my people. I block and tackle for them. I listen (rather than just waiting for my turn to talk). I can’t always get them what they want, but I will always get them what they need and won’t rest until that happens. Everyone gets a seat at the table and gets to have their say without sugar-coating. Everyone gets clarity and transparency. The hinges are off the door, or better yet there’s never a door at all. I am there to serve, support, and encourage, not to criticize or dictate. This is what it takes to have a team. Until you do that, you may be someone’s boss but you’ll never be someone’s leader. And there’s a world of difference between those two roles. Let’s always be mindful of that distinction and push ourselves to be the latter. Not surprisingly, if you take care of your team, the team will take care of customers, and customers will take care of investors. It’s as simple and as difficult as that.

In the pause: I love my job

I started my new full-time job this week, and I have to say that after just a few days it has exceeded all of my expectations. I recognize that I am still in the early days of this role with this company, and I think it’s worth detailing exactly what I love about it and why:

1.) I love artists. I mean, I really love them. All shapes, sizes, and genres. All of my colleagues are artists in some way. Musicians, writers, actors, dancers, directors, designers, producers, singers, visual artists, bakers, and improvisers. They literally bleed creativity. And then, we add to that the fact that we are an organization whose clients are all performing arts and cultural organizations. I am surrounded by art, and everything I’m doing and learning is helping to further art in all its forms. How cool is that?

2.) Artists are an accepting, helpful, and collaborative breed of folks. The doors are open, the hinges are off, and everyone is encouraged to grab a glass to toast to creativity. This is by far the most welcome I have ever felt at any job in my career. It’s also the most diverse and the organization of my training schedule is just stellar.

3.) We have lots and lots and lots of interesting, thorny problems to solve. There will never be a dull day at this place. Never. We work inside of Salesforce and the platform is POWERFUL. I mean, I’ll be learning something new about it every single day. It’s mammoth and nearly every organization in every sector is using Salesforce is some way. Getting that experience of working in Salesforce, customized for nonprofits, is a skill I will be able to utilize over the course of my entire career.

4.) I use every part of my brain and every part of my experience every day. My job combines all of my experience as an artist, and in business, technology, and product. In many ways, everything I’ve done up to this point has helped me to land right where I am.

5.) New York City is my muse. My office is near Carnegie Hall and I also have the flexibility to regularly work from my home. I love that I can walk to work and that when I step out of my office, I am smack dab in the middle of Manhattan.

I am under no illusions that I will never have a tough day. I’m sure I will. And even on the tough days, what I will most appreciate about this company and our incredible product is that there is a higher purpose and everyone here is on-board with that higher purpose. That’s the crux of it all: everyone here is driven to make the world a better place through the combination of technology and business to support and foster the arts. I couldn’t think of a better place to be right now.

In the pause: Hudson Valley One featured my book and its backstory of why I wrote it

I’m so pleased to share that Hudson Valley One wrote a feature about my book, Emerson Page and Where the Light Enters, and my motivations and influences that helped me to write it. My thanks to journalist Sharyn Flanagan for her thoughtful and generous writing of the piece Personally speaking: Christa Avampato.

In the pause: You need a minute

“Pause, breathe, repair your universe, proceed.” ~Anonymous

Yesterday I had a moment when I felt overwhelmed. My new job has a lot of systems, passwords, procedures, opportunities, possibilities, and many people in many places. This is the vertical learning curve I was looking for.

On my way home, I went through my mental checklist of what I’d done in a day, what I’d do the next day, and how I’d get through the rest of it to fully get up-to-speed. (Pause.) It’s going to take some time and a lot of effort, and that’s all okay. (Breathe.) When I got home, I went into my Trello board and organized what I would do when, brought some sanity to my inbox, reconfigured the wiring in my apartment for my home workstation, and lassoed by calendar. (Repair my universe.) And today is a brand new day. I’ll proceed.

In the pause: Starting a new chapter today

“You can fail at what you don’t want so you might as well take a chance on doing what you love.” ~Jim Carrey

Today I’m beginning a new full-time job. Success is never guaranteed to any of us though I fully believe that our odds of success increase dramatically when we do something we love. In that case, even if we fail, at least we have spent our time on something of value.

That’s how I feel about my book, Emerson Page and Where the Light Enters. It’s also how I feel about my work as a journalist, product leader, and theater manager. My new job utilizes all of my experience in the arts and business, and I feel fortunate and blessed to have this opportunity.

I’m sure there will be many learnings in the coming months. Today, I’m enjoying the thrill of the new and the unknown, the excitement that comes from putting my whole heart into something that makes the world a better place.

 

In the pause: Your writing requires this one personality trait

“Damaged people are dangerous. They know they can survive.” ~Josephine Hart

My friend, Tony, wrote this quote on his Facebook wall and it immediately brought a smile to my face. People who have been knocked down and rise up, again and again, can never be beaten. They will find a way up, out, over, and through any and every difficult situation. It will take time, courage, and a significant amount of effort but they will do it. They are the people I admire the most—the ones who persist against any and all odds, determined to live the life they imagine.

In the pause: Recording the audiobook for my young adult book

Inspired by authors like Neil Gaiman who record their own audiobooks, I decided to put my voiceover skills to use and record the audiobook version of my novel, Emerson Page and Where the Light Enters, myself. (By doing this myself, I’ll be able put more money into my marketing plan since my publisher isn’t doing much of the marketing work I had hoped and they had said they’d do.) It will be available on Amazon the same day that the ebook and paperback launch—November 1, 2017. I’m having so much fun creating this content. It will take a lot of work to record and edit, but I’m going to learn so much in this process! I’m also thinking about doing a podcast of it, much like Welcome to Night Vale, and a YouTube version that would be a digital graphic novel.

In the pause: Welcome, Autumn

“Autumn is my time. I am most radiant and full of energy when the leaves are falling and there is a ghost of change in the air.” – Ladymadsen (The Iris Diaries)

I try to enjoy every day but I have to admit that truly I wait all year for the sweetness of autumn: the crisp and cool air, the gorgeous colors in the trees, toasty drinks, and delicious and rich fall foods. Give me my boots, jeans, and sweaters, and you give me instant happiness. Autumn is my spring, when my soul comes to life and celebrates change in all of its glorious forms. This is my time. For me, this is the season of possibility when I wake up to my own potential and the potential of everything around me to reach its peak.

In the pause: Falling down is a gift for your writing

“Sometimes we fall down because there is something down there we’re supposed to find.” ~Unknown

This week I wrote a guest blog post related to my book that details the journey that led me to find Emerson. I had to take a long and winding road to meet her, and that road was often difficult to navigate. During the rough times, I would have given anything to have them end as quickly and painlessly as possible. Now in hindsight, I can see why they were necessary. The difficulties gave me so much more than they took away. The things they took from me needed to leave my life, and what I learned and the people I met in the process of my healing are now some of the very greatest gifts of my life. Experience is funny that way; it’s only with time and distance—sometimes a very healthy dose of each—that we see our difficulties for the treasures that they are.

If you’re going through a difficult time right now, I want you to know this: eventually, maybe years from now, you will look back on this very moment and I promise you that it will make sense. You will come to appreciate it as much as you appreciate every joy in your life. The road out of your difficulty may not be easy, but the strength you get from that climb and the view that you will find at the end of that road will make it all worthwhile. So keep going. One foot in front of the other. One moment after another. Breath to breath. That’s the best any of us can do, and it’s enough.

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This week, the many different threads at my job started to connect. It’s immensely gratifying to learn a large and complex technology platform, all for the sake of bringing more art, theater, music, and dance to more people. The vertical learning curve is becoming a little less vertical. Or maybe I am just becoming a more adept climber.

This idea of scaling walls reminded me of this sign I saw a few months ago when I was shoulder-deep in my job search, including interviewing for my current job. I wasn’t sure what would happen in my search, or what I would do about what would happen when it did happen. (This is how my mind works. It’s in a constant state of whirring.) What I needed was a sign, so I asked for one as I made my way up Fifth Avenue from the New York Public Library to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. That’s when I saw this sign in the North Face storefront: Walls are meant for climbing. And about 30 minutes later, I heard from my now current job that I was moving on to the next and final round. Less than a week later, they offered me the job.

It’s this sense of optimism, asking the Universe for guidance, and then opening our eyes and ears to take in the wisdom around us that we have to take with us everywhere we go, into every situation that we face. We may not always be successful though our odds dramatically increase when we can look at a wall not as a roadblock, but as a reason to smile. I got this. You got this. We all got this.

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