An Objective Approach to Ayn Rand Con

When I told my boyfriend I had been accepted on a scholarship to attend this conference, he was surprised. He had actually been the one to introduce me to Rand and her objectivist philosophy, but I had yet to dive into the ideas. I bought a copy of Atlas Shrugged and, frankly, I am still intimidated by it.

It was an easy to decision to make, everything was already paid for. All I had to do was get to Atlanta and enjoy two days of listening to people speak about the gap between tribalism and individualism. Professors across a broad range of disciplines gave their interpretation of how cultural and political tribalism was disrupting the process of free thought and individual liberties. It was fascinating to listen to, but I have some objections about their ideas and the conference in general.

It would have been a problem if I had come to Ayn Rand Con without some intention of being skeptical of what would be thrown at me. I do agree that some of the lecturers had insightful points about how to maintain free thought in an age where collective intellect and the inherent defense mechanisms within groupthink can lead to a polarization in personal philosophies. It seems that you either sacrifice some of your values to be with the group that you agree with more than the other one, or you stand alone, atop a hill that you are crying is morally correct. Neither sounds appealing to me.

One big question I kept finding myself asking is how would Rand feel about this convention herself? Surely she would object to it on the basis that it is somewhat a deification of her and her ideas. I mean, just naming the conference after her would have been enough to set off a red flag or two in her head. I would like to imagine that Rand would be somewhat approving of the young people that come to this conference and have the courage to disagree with what some of the more experienced thinkers have to say. I think she would see free thought at play.

Despite all of the problems I could pick at within the conference, it really has been fun. I’ve met people from all across the continent in many diverse universities and alternative programs (*cough* Praxis *cough*). Having the opportunity to meet and converse with some profoundly intellectual thinkers has been really wonderful and exciting. I sometimes find myself feeling less intelligent or capable when I am at McGill, but I am beginning to wonder if that may be less a question of my abilities and more a question of my values.

Eloragh

Hello, November

You have 60 days left in 2018 to do something. Who cares what that is? All you should focus on is the fact that you have 60 days with nothing to lose. 60 days to do 60 things and learn 60 something-news. You get the idea. 60 days.

When I think about what I associate November with, I think of coziness, family, comfort, food, holidays, etc. I think about all of those warm, fuzzy feelings that accompany the New Year. I’ve always thought of November in warm colors. The reds and oranges and yellows of the end of fall never cease to make me feel welcomed and loved. They are colors of passion, desire, and happiness.

As time creeps on, Winter tends to make me feel isolated and cold (big shock.) New Years has always felt the coldest to me. The tinsel and sparkles that people use around January 1st are so metallic and harsh, I find it hard to see them as festive.

Maybe it’s because I’ve always associated the New Year with leaving behind good memories that will never be relived. Of moving on into a new, frightening 12 months with who knows what in store. It feels as though I am doing the same thing I did the previous January – looking down the long path that leads to Christmas.

Welcome, November. You will be my favorite month.

Eloragh

Having a Thoughtful Supervisor

A couple of days ago, my supervisor reached out to me with a Facebook post that was relevant to my work. He asked me if I thought it would be worth reaching out to the poster, and when I said yes, he requested that I send him a draft for practice. This specific “supervisor” isn’t really my supervisor. He is a very busy person who I just happen to work under, but there are many other people that I usually go to before going to him.

That’s why I was so surprised when he took time out of his day to help me practice my outreach skills. He edited the email I sent him (which I made a really stupid but funny mistake in) and had me send it off. I am a marketing intern for this supervisor, so I really turn to the marketing team for help or advice before I turn to him, but I did initially connect with and get the job through him.

He’s a thoughtful person. Today, I had a phone call with him about some of the tasks I could complete going forward. I’m unpaid right now, so everything I’m offered is optional and pretty low pressure, but I still put 100% into it. Whether or not it eventually turns into a paid position, I’d like to know that I gave the job my all during every stage. While we were talking, he didn’t speak to me as though I was an intern. He understood that a lot of what he suggested I take on as work was unfamiliar to me and that I wouldn’t be going at it alone. However, he also didn’t hold back from offering me opportunities because of my lack of experience. It was clear that he didn’t see me as incapable of catching on quickly.

When I think about him in relation to some of the other supervisors I’ve had, it strikes me how straightforward and communicative he is. The project I’m working on with him is only starting to get going, but he had done his absolute best to give me jobs even while things were slow. When I compare this to my previous supervisors who had a hard time seeing past my age, I realize how grateful I am to be working in a sphere of people who are genuine and want to give me opportunities. As long as I continue to follow through on what I promise, my age is beside the point. To this group, it’s all about showing up and getting your shit done.

I appreciate that. Being thrown into a complicated world but still being viewed as a semi-child is difficult to be ok with. I’d much rather prove my ability and move onto being treated as a valuable worker with skills that can benefit my employers (or supervisors) mission. I do have a lot of learning to do, I admit, but the team I work with is aware of that and ok with it. I don’t claim to be more capable than I am. I aim to remain humble and keep my ears open as I continue to work with a spectacular set of people.

Eloragh

Why you Should Ask Stupid Questions

As I have been working with many different mentors and helpers over the past few months, I have learned to acknowledge my own ignorance. I have also learned that there’s a difference between being willfully ignorant and unknowingly ignorant and that most of us are the latter. Once we are aware of our ignorance, we must also become aware that we will have some stupid questions to ask before we can rid ourselves of it.

Here’s a scenario: you’re meeting with your mentor/supervisor/boss, and you have a question for them that you’re afraid to ask. You think it’s stupid and they’ll give you flack for not knowing the answer to it or using common sense to just figure it out. So, you don’t ask the question, and you go on to do the task that the issue was associated with. Because you didn’t ask the question, you mess up the job and then your mentor/supervisor/boss is actually upset with you. You explain that you didn’t understand a specific component of the task and they say “why didn’t you just ask?”

I’ve been in this situation more than once, and it is just as humiliating the fifth time as the first. Probably more so, because then I realize that I didn’t learn anything from the previous four times it happened. Now, I understand that it’s better to ask an ignorant question and look like an idiot in front of your supervisor than make your supervisor look like an idiot in front of someone more important like a client or customer.

You should also realize that whoever you want an answer from probably won’t think your question is stupid, especially if you’re still learning. The reason you are assigned bosses or mentors or supervisors is so you can ask questions and learn how to do your work correctly. If they get upset with you for being curious or wanting to do something well, they’re the asshole, not you.

Ask your stupid questions, especially if they’ll help your work. Good, hardworking people have respect for those that are willing to admit their own ignorance and seek help. Learning from others is one of the best ways to become proficient in something. Ask questions, get as much information as possible, let yourself look stupid. If you ask a stupid question today, you won’t make a stupid mistake tomorrow.

Take this advice with a grain of salt. There are times when it’s better to learn through your own action and accept that you may make a mistake. There are also questions that can be answered through search engines or forum questions. Your assigned help shouldn’t be the first option you go to for answers, but they should be fairly high on the list. Eventually, through their support and your own determination to rid yourself of ignorance, you’ll stop asking stupid questions. On the other hand, if you’re too afraid to look a little stupid, then you’re probably too afraid to take more serious risks that are necessary to succeed.

Eloragh

Miscommunication

Mistakes happen, it’s nothing to be upset or irritated about. Life is full of errors. Something I always tell my parents is that I really want the freedom to make mistakes. I think one of my most significant flaws is that I know I can fall back on them. I do believe I will need to sweep them out from underneath me soon, so I see the reality of my mistakes. I can’t have that safety net, or I’ll never whip myself into shape.

With that being said, most mistakes are caused by some form of miscommunication. Today, I was supposed to have a phone call, but I had failed to give the other party my number, and they had failed to do so as well. We sent emails back and forth for an hour, and I sat on a Zoom call for 30 minutes before I had to ask them to reschedule due to another commitment. This was neither their fault nor mine. We both are busy people, and busy people make little errors every day.

My little errors annoy me. I think about how easily this problem could have been avoided, and that makes me frustrated. I wish I had remembered to send them my number or clarify that I would prefer using Zoom. Either way, I solicited the call, so that failure was on me. I still feel that safety net beneath me and I wonder how I would be feeling about this experience if it were not there.

Communication is what I want to do. I like communicating with people, I think it’s challenging and rewarding. There are a lot of ways to make a conversation, email, or message go wrong, but if you can say what you want to say well, it’s more impressive than most people realize. Making a good first correspondence is essential. It sets the stage for any relationship – romantic, business, etc. That’s why I’m so intrigued by it. I’m fascinated by how much our interactions influence our ability to work together in any given setting.

These last few days have been strange. I am saying goodbye to Montreal and this apartment that has brought me so much comfort and stability. I have a fantastic view of the river, a health foods store with pre-made (delicious) salads right below me, and I am only a kilometer from the entertainment district. Packing is painful, more arduous that it has ever been before. Perhaps, I miscommunicated how much of an impact this city has had on my behavior. Maybe I haven’t realized the full extent of how happy I am here.

Either way, I can’t come back until the end of August. Three weeks doesn’t sound too long, but it’s only a week less than I spent here and look at how that changed me.

Eloragh

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.

Eloragh

Preparations

There is this idea that has been sitting in the back of my mind since I was in 11th grade. I have pondered it, doubted it, tried to reach for it, took too much time to grab it, and got a second chance to achieve it. I love public speaking. No, I don’t love the fear of standing in front of a bunch of strangers and talking for ten minutes, but I love the challenge.

When I was sixteen and trying to decide what to do for my senior project, I considered the idea of applying for TEDx events and giving a speech about my experience in public education. I did do that (you can watch it here), just not at a TED event. It was a fantastic event, so many community members and friends showed up to support me, but it just made me want to achieve my goal of the TED stage that much more.

A few weeks before I graduated, I received a notification from a Facebook page I followed called “TEDx McGill.” I had come across this page while searching for a TED event to submit an application to and decided to follow it because it was relevant to me in two ways – TED and McGill. However, after doing some digging, I couldn’t find any evidence that this event would be returning for a 2018 session, so I gave up hope of participating in it. Low and behold, this independent TED stage was coming back and wanted applications for student speakers.

Long story short, I jumped at the opportunity. I took a month to write my application, edit it, edit it again, have other people edit it, worry if I should even apply, edit it some more, and then finally submit it today. I was nervous as I hit the final button, I wondered who I was up against and if I had said anything worth reading. I’ve never applied for anything like this before, so I couldn’t help but think that my words and justification for wanting to be a part of the event may not be relevant.

The people who run this event know who they’re looking for and that may not be me. I don’t know how many people applied or what they put on their application, but I do know that I am proud of myself for even submitting the damn thing. It has brought me so much anxiety and concern in the past weeks, I just wanted it out of my drive. I’m hopeful, maybe naively so, but I know that 98% of success is just “showing up” or in this case applying for what you want. So many people throw away opportunities because they doubt their abilities. Maybe I still doubt myself from time to time, but I don’t let those thoughts keep me from acting.

Eloragh