Category Archives: authenticity

Make Mine Local — with Lots of “Likes”

According to an article in Salon, the American Booksellers Association reported an increase in the number of independent bookstores in the U.S. in the last five years. This is certainly surprising news considering the seemingly increasing popularity of e-books and the convenience and low prices of Amazon.

The article claims that two things are driving the increase in indie bookstores:

  • a desire for authentic local experiences
  • social media marketing

The “local movement” of the last few years has done wonders for our communities. People care about consuming local food and using local services. When local businesses thrive, so do communities. In my own ‘hood, neighbours banded together to form a community association — DECA — that has brought new life to the area by offering incentives to local businesses and by creating and promoting local events like farmers’ markets.

Even big builders have seen the error of creating unwalkable suburban neighbourhoods where driving to large chain stores is the only option for residents.  People want to live near hubs offering something local and unique, and builders now attempt to emulate just that.

As for social media, the Salon article rightly points out that small businesses thrive when their customers create word-of-mouth buzz. Sophisticated consumers don’t trust advertising, but they do trust their friends — real or online — who let them know where the good restaurants are, what pubs have the best craft brews, and which new books they can’t put down.

Smartphones, of course, allow us to find the best stores and restaurants in any ‘hood in which we find ourselves. No longer is there a need to play it safe by sticking to the big chains. A unique small business with great online ratings can be found in seconds.

Authenticity and word of mouth: sounds awfully old-fashioned, doesn’t it?


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Filed under authenticity, books, future of publishing, new books, online life, online resources, reading, the Internet and us

Finding Your True Self

I’ve posted before about Richard Rohr’s Falling Upward, which explores the two halves of life, represented by the false self and the true self. If you’ve ever found yourself wondering, “Is this all there is to life?” then you’ve probably succeeded in creating your false self — which isn’t bad per se, it just doesn’t go far enough — and are ready to seek your true self.

For me, reading Falling Upward was like having a conversation with a wise, beloved friend. The pithy book is over much too soon, however, so I went looking for more.

In Immortal Diamond, Rohr carries on the conversation. The content makes clear that Falling Upward left readers wanting more — more tangibles in the form of explanations and practical guidelines (which are actually not necessary once you’ve discovered your true self). Immortal Diamond describes key concepts, such as the false and true selves, in greater depth than Falling Upward does, and the end matter includes six appendixes (or appendices, if you prefer — the Canadian Oxford lists both as acceptable) replete with diagrams and a list of personal practices to implement.

But these concessions to readers taking preliminary and tentative steps away from their false selves don’t diminish the book one bit. The fact that Rohr felt the need to write a second book on the subject fills one with only comfort and hope that such demand exists.

Any writer who synthesizes the world’s knowledge — as Rohr does — is a must-read. Rohr is a Franciscan priest, but trust me: you need not be religious to benefit from his work. That’s the thing about truth, it’s too big for any one tradition — religious or secular — to contain.

“Healthy religion,” Rohr writes in Immortal Diamond, “should be the most inclusive system of all, making use of every discipline, avenue, and access point for Big Truth.” It is this inclusiveness that, unlike in mere personal therapy, allows the spiritual teacher to identify false problems and wrong frameworks, in effect zeroing in on the big — and it is big — picture.

Ultimately, both Falling Upward and Immortal Diamond are about claiming the good news of the Gospels: you can have life and have it abundantly. That’s right: you can. And no, it has nothing to do with Jesus of Nazareth dying on a cross for your sins — at least not in the way you might think, not in the way that many Christian churches would lead you to believe. In fact, there’s nothing to believe here at all. Rather, there’s something for you to experience, and my hunch is that you already know that.

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Filed under authenticity, books, life and literature

The Charm of Ali Smith

I’ve posted before about enjoying Ali Smith’s writing, and here I go again.

There’s no pleasure that compares to curling up with great writing. Some writers express ideas so well that they seem to know what you’re thinking and feeling before you do. This sentiment is expressed by one of the main characters in John Green’s Fault in Our Stars, another book I’m currently reading (quite the long wait for that one at the public library). I love experiencing that kind of connection with writing, but that’s not how I feel about Smith’s writing.

Instead, Smith has charmed me with her subtle creativity: Both the overall structure of her novels and that of her individual sentences break convention without being annoyingly “capital C” creative. There’s no “look at what I can do” literary gymnastics.

But what Smith can do is impressive. She captures character voice so thoroughly it’s as though there’s nothing separating the character’s thought from the reader. For example, in The Accidental a teenager feels responsible for a tragedy, and Smith gives the reader a front row seat on his mental roller coaster: The stark facts present themselves again and again between other frantic thoughts of what-might-have-been and if-only-could-now-be, and the whole thing keeps going round and round. (Okay, yeah, maybe it’s a stream of consciousness thing if stream of consciousness weren’t some kind of writing style — and that’s just it: I’m not thinking “oh, stream of consciousness” while I’m reading Smith.) Who doesn’t know that wrenching place where regret is unbearably palpable?

I’d love to have a conversation with Smith’s editor, and I’d love to see the original manuscript. It appears as though Smith’s been given (rightfully) plenty of free rein. But for all I know, maybe the ride was a whole lot more wild before Penguin took over the controls.

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Filed under authenticity, books and awards, editing and writing, life and literature, writing

Nix the Networking Noose

Lots of editors are introverts. We love reading — alone! — and we have little trouble working at home as freelancers.

Of course, we must deal with our clients and with any other issues related to running a business — talking with the accountant, with the computer techie, or with the account manager at the local office supply store. And we must market ourselves to keep the gravy train rolling. Yes, we must “network” whether we like it or not.

For me, the thought of networking is not pleasant. I hate self-promotion and sales talk, and isn’t that what networking is? This is who I am, these are my skills, and this is why you should pay me money. Oh, and this is my business card. Now I’ll smoothly bring the conversation to a close and move on to my next victim.

Clearly, I need to change my perspective on this.

Today, I discovered this article that helped me do just that. The article suggests that, instead of focusing on yourself when meeting someone new, you should focus on the other person. Huh.

This idea has been expressed before, but I enjoyed the author’s refreshing take: don’t network; help people instead.

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Filed under authenticity, freelancing, networking, work issues

What’s Your Word?

According to the Toronto Sun, this is PwC’s personal brand week. (I have no idea what “PwC” stands for — even their website left me wondering. I guess their brand is so strong that their name doesn’t matter, heh. ) On their website, PwC offers this tool to help job hunters understand how they’re perceived in online searches. Armed with this knowledge, job hunters can then work to correct any inconsistencies.

To get the gig they want, job hunters and freelancers should be clear about what they have to offer a company — in other words, they should be clear about their brand. Recently a branding exercise has been making its way through the media: Choose one word that represents you.

Although I’d love my word to be innovative, daring, or brilliant, there’s no denying that my word is persistent. That, along with confident, is how others often describe me. I know I can do anything if I put in the time. From learning a new skill to getting the job contract I want, it comes down to daily habits performed with drive and consistency. Obstacles are nothing to me:  With persistence I find ways (hey, there’s some innovation for you!) to accomplish my own goals and those of the people and organizations that I’m fortunate to be involved with.

Once you’ve identified your word, you’re on your way to creating your brand. It’s a matter of making sure your brand is loud and clear — online, on your resumé, in person — to employers. Because your brand is unique, it sets you apart from the pack and makes finding the right fit easier for both you and prospective employers.

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Filed under authenticity, branding, freelancing, job-hunting, online life, work issues

Holacracy at Work

Whenever I hear about changes in the workplace, I think of the Portlandia skit where Julia is meandering through one of those modern, techie workplaces where cubicles have been replaced with bouncy balls, slides, and “The Basket.” (Watch the skit to the end to see what I mean.)

The subject of work and workplaces has been a recurring theme on CBC Radio’s The Current. The show recently revealed that millennials are cobbling together part-time jobs and delaying life events because of financial insecurity. And some businesses — even so-called traditional ones like TD Bank — are creating workspaces that do indeed get rid of cubicles in favour of large open spaces where employees can interact.

I was pleased to see a favourite company of mine, Precision Nutrition, featured today on The Current. PN was presented as an example of a company whose structure follows that of a holacracy: authority is distributed evenly among workers, who have roles and not titles. Holacracy (ideally) gets rid of bureaucracy and ego-driven behavior in favour of worker efficiency and autonomy. Gortex has been a holacracy for half a century, and Zappos is about to follow suit.

I think holacracy could very well bring authenticity and productivity to the workplace. And maybe it would give freelancers easier access to a company because there would be more workers with hiring autonomy (we freelancers can hope!).

All this positivity doesn’t mean I don’t want to see a funny skit about it, though (did you follow my double negative there?).

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Filed under authenticity, work issues

It’s an EVENT

I bet you’ve noticed my new pet peeve a lot lately: the overuse of event by marketers. We used to talk about event venues or about sports events. There was some importance attached to an event, or at least some kind of formal program.

Not anymore.

Yes, it’s been a brutal winter, but do I have to keep hearing weather forecasters speak of “snowfall events”? We’re Canadian, yes, but it’s just snow. Does yet another Hollywood movie with no plot but lots of wreckage really constitute an “event” in my life? Hardly.

The Canadian Oxford Dictionary defines event as “a thing that happens or takes place, especially one of importance.” Okay, that’s not so strict. Technically, an event could be just about anything. But let’s not reduce a word to meaninglessness by attaching it to every marketing campaign going.

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Filed under authenticity, editing and writing, usage