Reading the Signs

There are several SxSW 2013 wrap-up posts being published this week and I am not about to repeat any of the supposed take-aways. Instead, I want to share three things I observed this week that have me rethinking my glass half-empty approach to life.

First Sign: Silver Linings Playbook

The week started off like any other. Busy. Conference call. Busy. Pack for SxSW (using a spreadsheet outlining what specs / Threadless tees I would wear each day). By Thursday, Boston was being walloped by a snow storm packing a bigger punch than predicted. Our plane was delayed on the tarmac, but eventually we were the last flight out before flights were cancelled at Logan. I had closed my eyes before take-off and must have dozed off because when I woke up, I noticed that Silver Linings Playbook was playing on the monitors throughout the cabin. Having not watched the film yet, I was bummed the movie had started, but decided to plug in my headset and watch what remained.

Pat: “I hate my illness and I want to control it. This is what I believe to be true: You have to do everything you can and if you stay positive you have a shot at a silver lining.”

The story is about two people trying to regain control of their lives and be positive as actions out of their control try to knock them down. The script is smart and tight, despite layers of social and philosophical complexity.  Each character is trying to read and interpret the signs of life events to determine their next step. Is our fate decided by superstitions or our how we choose to react to life’s challenges? The movie ended with me thinking how cynical I have become about everything…personal life and work. Am I waiting for my silver lining to drop into my lap? What am I doing to encourage positive life events?

Second Sign: Say Yes to the Mess

On Saturday, my friend and I went to feed our inner nerds with a session by Frank Barrett discussing his book, Yes to Mess: Surprising Leadership Lessons from Jazz. I am far from a mellow person. Jazz? Not in any of my playlists. (At least, not on Saturday. But as I write the post today, Kind of Blue is providing my morning soundtrack.) From the moment I walked into the session room, I felt at ease. The smooth sounds of jazz unwound my anxiety-ridden muscles.

For the next thirty minutes, everything made sense. Everything connected. Barrett, jazz pianist and Professor of Management and Global Public Policy at the Naval Postgraduate School, explained the eight principles to say yes to the mess of business and still maintain structure. This man understood me – Understood my problems and fruitless battle to maintain or create control. Needless to say, I walked straight out of the session and immediately bought the book. Less than a week later, I have devoured the text and cannot wait to put what I have read into positive action. The dog-eared pages and extreme highlighting are frightful, but the sign of one of the best business books I have read and highly recommend.

Third Sign: Fan Girl Moment

SxSW would not be complete without a fan girl moment. And yes, it was me being the fan girl. Complete with hysterical giggling for three hours and unable to spell my own name. I met Hugh Howey, author of Wool.

As I was at the SxSW bookstand in the Convention Center buying Yes to the Mess, I spotted Wool on the shelf amidst social media / business books. I was a bit excited to see the book I had read the week before (all in one sleepless night) –and raving about-in print. Now, Lauren, why would you be so excited to see this book in print? Well, technically, this book was not even supposed to be on the shelf until the 12th. Wool began life as an e-book and author, Hugh Howey, made history by signing a print deal with S&S, while he continued to maintain digital rights.

As I stood gushing over the book to my friend, a man leaned over and softly said, “I wrote that book.”

I may have snorted and continued talking. “No, really, I wrote that book.” Not arrogant. No attitude at all, the man holds up his nametag and I dissolve into giggles. It is Hugh Howey. He chatted with us, invited us to attend his panel the next day, and I got a picture with him. All the while I am laughing like a prize idiot. And did I mention, he posted about our meeting on his blog? Yes, I am still giggling.

I did attend the panel the next day. This man is smart and insightful. He sought his silver lining and found it. Also, I bought an additional four books for friends and a post card for my pal Matt Ridings (who recommended the book) – Hugh autographed them all.

I am reading the signs and I think the Universe is trying to tell me to stop and smell the roses. Exactly what is my cynical behavior and commentary serving me? Nothing. So perhaps, it is time to drink from the glass that is half-full. Every challenge is an opportunity.

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  • Jason Konopinski

    I needed to read this, Vargas. Thanks for writing it.