Cold Emails

Cold emails suck. They really really do suck. There are very few things I dislike doing, but cold emails are one of them. Cold calling, cold emails, cold communication of any sort makes me incredibly uncomfortable, but I feel justified in saying that most people would agree with me. I’ve only met and connected with a handful of people in my life that feel confident in their cold communication skills, but that confidence was usually grown through practice.

Even though I say I dislike cold emails, I get a feeling of success when I get a response from one. It did not take long for me to understand that the best cold email is a short, direct one that offers the recipient an easy to answer question or request. Keeping this in mind, I try to find the balance between warmth and efficiency in my cold emails. I don’t want to come off as robotic and mechanical, but I also want to make sure that my communication is taking as little time as possible to get my message across. This is a challenge, but I take it as such.

I got a response from one of my most recent cold emails today. I didn’t expect one from this particular person. I’ve been down on my response rate for cold emails lately, and I think it has caused my ego to take a hit. As an eighteen year old, I am not sure I have yet to grasp the nature of communication via messages without any prior introduction, but I know that they are necessary. For every twenty cold emails I send, I may get one response, and that’s perfectly fine with me.

Regardless of my current disdain for cold emails, I know that practicing them will eventually rid me of that anxiety. I think it is important to remember that we all come from a place of constant work and grind, and the goal is to eventually be the person receiving cold emails. That dream will only be realized if you’re willing to step out of your comfort zone and market your abilities to the right people.


A Socratic Educator

What does it mean to be a Socratic educator? What are the credentials required to label yourself as such? Well, I label myself as a Socratic educator, yet I have no credentials. I have yet to receive a university degree, attend any sort of licensing program, or been presented with a certificate detailing what I am trained in. What I did, however, I think is much more valuable than any piece of paper or four-year program could give me: I watched people who called themselves Socratic educators try to teach me and took note of everything they did wrong.

My high school was a Socratic school, but that label was truly only a marketing scheme. Throughout my four years at Moreno Valley High School, the amount of Socratic education I received steadily declined. What I was left with was a watered-down “discussion-based” school that focused more on teacher philosophy than on the student involvement. My seminars turned into lectures from instructors about their political doctrine or personal moral beliefs. Initially, this frustrated me, but I knew that I had to find a way to make the school work for me until I graduated.

Do I really have a right to call myself a “Socratic educator?” Maybe not. I think about all the people in my life that undoubtedly deserve that title, and I wonder if labeling myself as such is disrespectful to them. On the other hand, I do work in education, I do focus on discussion-based, Socratic styles of learning, and I have operated as an educator of sorts. I do believe there is more value in experience than anything else, and I lived through four years of watching my teachers fail to provide me with the education they promised.

The concept of a seminar is simple. A few rules here and there to keep the discussion calm, but otherwise, you’re free to speak as you want. Judgment is thrown away as people come together not to argue but to ask each other for a better understanding of their differing opinions. I took the best experiences I had, the best seminars I could remember, and thought about what set them apart from the rest. I wanted to focus on what seminars meant to me and how I could take the most meaningful elements and apply them in real-world settings.

I started hosting radio shows using Socratic ideas. Students who had never been exposed to any kind of discussion-based learning quickly adapted to a simple theory meant to keep the conversation productive. It was more than easy, it was enjoyable to introduce them to this kind of communication, which is more than the teachers at MVHS can say. The radio shows have been incredibly successful, airing on KNCE Taos, KSFR Santa Fe, and NPR. My most recent success with them was an award for the NMBA Best Student Journalism Broadcast on our show about gun violence.

I call myself a Socratic educator not because I think I am “deserving” or “worthy” of the title, I do it because it’s what I want to be. I am not interested in becoming a teacher or going through the grueling licensing process. Instead, I want to spread the idea of progress through conversation, through connections, not classrooms. People respond well to tolerance and genuine interaction, two ideas that seminar is based in. Being a Socratic educator has never been about shoving my ethics into the face of my peers, it’s been about asking them to consider a different point of view while I do the same. In my opinion, trying to spread that message has taught me a lot more than any lecture could.


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Tomorrow marks the start of my last week at Ballet Divertimento. Although I have enjoyed my time here, I am happy to say I won’t be returning to this specific school. Today was a wake-up call for me in terms of ballet and I saw exactly how the art I had fallen in love with could slowly kill me.

I met my friend for breakfast this morning. She is everything a ballet dancer should be – kind, resilient, strong, devoted, passionate, hard-working, loving, etc. She had been using this intensive as an audition for the academic program at the school and had been rejected on Friday. They rejected her for a few reasons, one of them being her weight.

I want to make it clear that she is not in anyway overweight. She is not unhealthily thin, but she is certainly not heavy. She, on the other hand, very much thinks she is. I left the cafe a little bit later with a lot on my mind. On my way to the metro station, I came to the conclusion that I would not pursue a professional career in ballet or even entertaining the idea of it.

It’s funny because I say this as if I ever had the chance of having a professional career, which I really didn’t. However, my friend’s disheartening end to her time at Ballet Divertimento did remind me of how unwilling and unkind the world of classical ballet is. Considering that I started late and do not have a body well suited to ballet has made it very difficult for me to find training, let alone perform.

Reality dictates that we acknowledge certain truths. We can choose to fight these truths or allow them to exist within their given plane, choosing to abdicate instead. I chose abdication. I could force my body into an unnatural state, get my way into a dance company, and say “ha! I won” before dropping dead. But I would rather live my best life and allow my love for ballet to persist.

This past week, I watched another friend break her foot. She was also at the intensive to try and get into the school’s academic program. I think her and I both knew, deep down, that she was a beautiful dancer, but the school was so skewed in its perception that it would never want her. Despite this, she soldiered on. Working hard through every class, every boring lecture, every plie. Now, her foot is broken, it may never be the same, she may never dance again, and it’s all because of a stupid school that didn’t care about her.

But I do. I care about her. If I were her, I would want to scream at the artistic director. I would want to write and write and write about how angry I am that young women such as her would endure such immense pain for the attention of those that would scorn them.

I love ballet. I hate ballet culture. I’ve never even really enjoyed performing ballet. All I want out of ballet is the opportunity to progress and find the beauty in my efforts. I refuse to break my back while trying to fit into the mold of a dancer. Ballet brought me life and joy when I was in 10th grade and I will never allow a school or a company to wring that happiness from it. They would take my love, they would take my passion and hard work and dedication and wring it from me until I had nothing left. I refuse to hate ballet, even if that means it will never be my life.


Too Niche

For the past six months or so, I’ve been working a lot on growth. Personal growth, web growth, social growth, professional growth, etc. Trying to formulate any kind of progress, internal or external, is a long and involved process. Lately, I’ve been wondering if my efforts are too niche and what exactly that may mean.

Since December of last year, most of my work was focused solely on alternative education. I was sure that alt ed was the niche I was meant to work in and, although I don’t think I was completely wrong, I think I was limiting my perspective. Alternative education is continuing to blossom as more and more parents, and students realize that traditional ways of “learning” aren’t actually beneficial, but this mass exodus has much broader implications.

In April of this year, I started working with an incredible alternative school in Senegal. When I went to visit the students, I did a lot more than act as an instructor. I learned a lot about poverty in Sub-saharan Africa and how western countries often perpetuate it through relief efforts. If you own a pair of Tom’s shoes, you probably haven’t really helped support impoverished people in Africa. You buy a pair of those shoes, Tom’s sends a pair to a child in Africa, sounds charitable and straightforward right? If only economics were that easy to work around. It’s impossible to compete with free, so that pair of shoes that were supposed to help end poverty just put another local African shoemaker out of business. By purchasing these shoes, you’re falling into a pit trap of western pity.

Suddenly, the depth of my own ignorance was brought to my attention. I had never bought into the Tom’s shoes model, mostly because of my own vanity (I think they’re ugly, sorry,) but I found myself sickened by the thought of how much the company has profited off of this marketing scam. I am aware that the owner of Tom’s acknowledged the problem and made an apology, claiming he had no clue that the scheme would end up backfiring so horrifically; but his apology won’t bring back the jobs he took.

As I started to learn more about economics and confronted my own lack of education on the subject, I became increasingly absorbed and fascinated by the ideas and possibilities that it held. I started writing more about economics, politics, and theory and less about alternative education. I realized that my content was no longer relevant to a lot of the sites I used to write for, and it really threw my creativity through a loop. On the one hand, my newfound curiosity for economics and how it influences human behavior was captivating, but on the other, I was still very dedicated to alternative education. I wondered if I had pigeonholed myself into a niche that allowed for minimal variation in my writing.

Is it possible to be too niche? That’s the question I kept asking myself. Had I shoved my way into a community that was so specialized in its battle for change that it was keeping me from growing? In short, no, I had not. I had every right to leave that community and stop fighting for alternative education if I wanted to. The problem was that I didn’t want to give up my interest in alt ed, it was that I began to see the push for different methods of school as a symptom of a much larger consensus; the consensus that the lives we are all living are not primarily dictated by our will. I saw economics, education, politics, lifestyles, etc. all under this umbrella of suppression of free will.

I do think it is possible to be too niche, but I don’t think it is easy or sustainable. Onc I stopped worrying about whether or not my content was relevant and started thinking about the audience I was appealing to, my content became a lot more interesting. Many alt ed advocates also battle for the decentralization of government and laissez-faire policies, topics that I was interested in exploring. Those people didn’t want to read about education 24/7, just like I didn’t want to write about it 24/7. Most people want to see the connections between all of these ideas and form a network of compatible concepts.

Regarding marketing, niches are useful. If you can appeal to a particular idea or group of people, you have a much better chance of building an audience quickly. However, those groups are limited not only in scope but in readers. To create an audience that will last, it’s smarter to use niches as a foundation and expand your content from there.

Start with a niche, build content for those ideas, become familiar with concepts that are compatible with them, and start expanding. Soon enough, you’ll appeal to more than one niche and your content will be on an exponential curve of relevance. Very few people participate in one niche exclusively. There are more than enough opportunities to integrate your ideas into several groups of people. The challenge is patience and perseverance.