Last week I had the opportunity to attend Plywood Presents, a two day gathering of Atlanta’s social innovators. Plywood Presents is an event from Plywood People, an incredible organization in our city. They seek to solve problems by connecting creatives, business leaders, and nonprofit activists in order to come up with innovative ways to change the world. I don’t consider myself to be the most creative person on the planet (or in Atlanta for that matter) but I am passionate about changing the world. You had no idea right? Me, want to change the world? Nah.
We heard from some incredible minds over the two days. I had many takeaways from the gathering, but listed out a few below as they were good reminders to me to stay grounded and focused on what I feel called to do:
“Love your projects more than anyone else” This came from Doug Shipman, the executive director of the National Center of Civil & Human Rights, soon to open in Atlanta. This really resonated with me. I need to be incredibly passionate about my projects. If I don’t love what I’m doing more than anyone else does, its unlikely I will suceed in my endeavors.
“Loud is not always right.” Danielle LaPorte threw this statement out there in her talk, and it stuck with me. The loudest, most authoritative voice does not always carry the right decision. I need to listen to my heart, and listen to wise coucil around me that may not always be the most boistrous. This reminds me of my husband in a lot of ways. He’s the quiet type, and doesn’t speak much. But when he does speak, he has good ideas, and he’s usually pretty perceptive. Sometimes its important to listen to that quiet voice, whether it be from within us or from our environment.
“Step away from the noise” This was from Les McKeown, and it was a good reminder for me. He talked about the different noise around us, and how for many of us, we are never turned off to the noise. Smart phones, instant updates, facebook status alerts- instant information at our fingertips. Its easy for me to get distracted by all this noise, and it kills productivity. Les reminded us that sometimes in order to get really creative and to stay fully focused you must turn off all the outside distractions. I think this works well to instill inner peace and focus on what really matters in life as well.
“Everyone wants to work, and everyone wants to feel stylish”– Neil Blumenthal reminded us of this in his talk. He is one of the founders of Warby Parker, an innovative company with a business model that works kind of like Toms- if you buy a pair of glasses, they give a pair to someone in need. I loved this comment from him. Sometimes its easy for us activists and do-gooders to forget that all of us have things in common, and we all want to be treated with respect. It goes back to the “teach a man to fish” concept. Remembering that most all of us want to feel beautiful is a good reminder to me to focus on the humanity of the people I’m trying to help. They aren’t a number, they’re a person.
“Find a pragmatic solution”– Another nugget from Neil Blumenthal: he reminded me to keep things simple. Find a solution that works, that’s practical and doable. I think we make things too complicated sometimes, and we get caught up in minute details and insignificant facts that we forget the simple solution to the problem. Not all solutions are simple, but many are, and we need to focus on being practical as we set out to promote justice
I had many other takeaways from this gathering, but these are just a taste. I would certainly recommend any of the Plywood events, they are full of good ideas and awesome people. Its a refreshing, positive environment. Organizers and attendees have one goal, taken directly from Plywood People’s mission and passion:
“We will be known by the problems we solve.”