Thursday, August 8, 2019

28. Writers

Yesterday morning, I had breakfast with a colleague I rarely see but hugely admire. Rafael's a brilliant designer, a smart analyzer and a real gentleman.

What I didn't know was that he's a member of Toastmasters, which he joined after he was invited to speak in South America and realized he needed a way to get over his shyness and learn to capture and keep and audience. Rafael mentioned that Stefan Sagmeister, who speaks all the time, must have had a guide or format and that Stefan at one point must have had to learn how to win over an audience. Upon joining, Rafael found  that Toastmasters is welcoming and supportive and—just as importantly–has a series of tools and tips. As Rafael learned more from Toastmasters, he noticed that Stefan Sagmeister and others follow the same format (even if not intentionally) to tell a tale and wow a crowd. High achiever that he is, Rafael stayed with Toastmasters and became president of the chapter.

When I mentioned that I'd considered taking acting lessons to overcome inability to engage a listener let alone an audience but that Toastmasters might be better, Rafael invited me to attend as a guest. I may well do so, especially since my goal is to learn to communicate as opposed to learn to act. Amusingly, when I told Rafael my small stories at breakfast, I was well aware of rambling (no doubt unwittingly violating all guidelines of communicating and engaging).

• • •

A polymath and seeker, Rafael is also writing a memoir. While taking a class at Columbia, he was concerned about his ability, but he realized his story is important. It is. A native of Mexico who grew up in the Sonoran desert, he: moved to LA for school, worked like crazy, excelled; moved to New York, excelled as the creative director of a media company, excelled; started his own firm, is excelling and still striving. Of course his story is more compelling (especially in today's political climate which derides Mexicans), but all stories are important.

The late Toni Morrison (February 18, 1931–August 5, 2019) also had a more compelling story, but one quote encourages those of us who feel we have less to communicate.

The theme you choose may change or simply elude you, but being your own story means you can always choose the tone. It also means that you can invent the language to say who you are and what you mean.

and better:
You wanna fly, you got to give up the shit that weighs you down.
So, here's to seekers and stories and to getting on with it—and flying.

(Written August 7 for August 7)

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