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October, 2012:

New Rule: The Law of Two Feet

I’m making a declaration – The Law of Two Feet will apply to all aspects of my life for the entire month of November.

Law of Two Feet by orcmid from Flickr

I learned about the Law of Two Feet at my first Podcamp (now called TechPhx). At this unconference, it is perfectly acceptable to leave in the middle of a session if your needs aren’t being met in the session you’re sitting in. The responsibility is on you to get your needs met and to take action if that’s not happening.

Over the past few weeks I’ve found myself in situations where I realize 10 minutes into a meeting or an event that it’s not what I thought it was going to be and there was no benefit or point for me to be there. I wanted to leave, but I didn’t know how to excuse myself without feeling like I was being rude.

This month I’m going to figure that out. If I feel like my presence at a meeting or event was unproductive, I’m going to take myself somewhere else.

This is going to be like an assignment I got when I was taking improv acting at Jester’z. For a week we had to act on every impulse we had as long as it wasn’t going to get us fired or arrested. I was a 3L at the time so that week I walked out of meetings, wrote weird things on white boards, and randomly sat on tables.

This is going to be fun. Feel free to join me in this endeavor and let me know how it goes!

Darwin meets Dilbert: Applying the Law of Two Feet to your next meeting by opensourceway from Flickr

Top 3 Tools to Establish a Name for Yourself

When I was a law student and now as a young lawyer, I go to a lot of networking events. They’re a great way to meet people in your community. There are other tools that will help you make a name for yourself online and at the national level. I wanted to share my three favorite tools. There are other ways to make a name for yourself, but these are the top three that work for me.

The Twitter Bird by eldh

1. Twitter
I’ve been a huge proponent of Twitter for a long time. It’s my primary networking tool when there’s someone new I want to meet. All you have to do is follow the person you want to meet and wait for an opportunity to respond to one of their tweets. It’s a great and easy way to break the ice with someone without feeling forced or fake.

If the person is going to be at an upcoming event, tweet at them about how excited you are to see or meet them. Then during the event tweet a quote from them or an accolade about them. After the event, be sure to tweet about how awesome they were/are.

2. Maintain a Blog
Having a blog is a great way to showcase your expertise and interests. At networking events and interviews you can talk about your interests or you can prove it by referencing past blog posts you’ve written on a topic. Maintaining a blog is a lot of work but it’s worth it. It’s not enough to start a blog. You have to update it regularly – preferably weekly – and be patient while you build a following. It takes a while to get there.

If you are someone who is lucky enough to have an assistant, it’s ok to let them take care of posting your work to your website, finding images for your posts, and taking care of your SEO stuff, but don’t let them write your verbiage. Your readers want to hear your unique voice so write your posts yourself.

3. Help A Reporter Out (HARO)
HARO is one of the best ways to get local and national exposure as a potential expert in your field. HARO is a service that connects reporters with potential sources. You can subscribe to HARO for free and you will get 3 emails a day, 5 days per week with dozens of opportunities to share your experience or expertise.

Most of the requests won’t apply to you, but some of them will – and you need to respond quickly if you want to be a contributor. A lot of the reporters who use HARO are on tight deadlines. I usually respond to at least one HARO every week. It’s especially beneficial when I can include a link to a blog post I’ve written on a topic – I think it increases the odds that a reporter will use me for a story over a lawyer who doesn’t blog on the topic.

You can also use HARO to network by referring a reporter to others who might be a good fit for their needs or by referring contact to HARO if a reporter is looking for input that they can provide.

There are lots of ways to make yourself stand out within your profession and the business community. These are some of my favorite tools, but it is definitely not an exhaustive list. If you have a tool or technique that you’d like to share, please leave it as a comment.

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Election 2012: Negating Evil

I Voted by stephenyeargin

I was working on my ballot over the weekend and I realized this year, more than any previous year, I’m not voting for candidates as much as I’m voting against their opposition.

I Voted by stephenyeargin

I Voted by stephenyeargin from Flickr

Ever since I was old enough to vote, I’ve always voted by mail with the exception of one minor one-item ballot. I can spend weeks preparing my ballot. Most of the summaries provided by candidates in the voting materials are worthless so I do my own research. It’s common for me to email candidates questions about the issues that matter most to me and I have spreadsheets that help me keep track of where candidate platforms align with my views.

I’ve never voted a straight party ticket because I don’t feel like I belong in any political party. Most people would say that I’m fiscally conservative and socially liberal. I prefer to say I’m logical and sane.

Technically I’m a registered Republican but i should probably be an Independent. I changed my party affiliation this year so I could vote in the Arizona presidential primary. I will continue to change my political party as needed to maximize my voting rights and opportunities.

I’ve received a lot of phone calls from people taking political polls this election cycle. I almost always say I don’t know who I’m voting for in any race because I have strong objections to almost every candidate’s platform. One person asked me which candidate I preferred in a particular race and I responded, “Neither. They both suck.” In many races I feel like I’m voting for the lesser of the two evils, but this election is worse than usual when it comes to my options for state and national positions.

More than ever I feel like I’m performing a balancing act with my ballot. I tried to find candidates that mostly fit with my views and vote other people into office who will make it hard for them to pass bills into law on issues where I disagree with their position.

I find political ads obnoxious and I change the channel whenever I see one. A television ad isn’t going to change my vote. I recycle every political ad that arrives in my mailbox without looking at them. Whenever I get a political robo-call, I hold the phone away from my ear so I don’t have to hear it and I find satisfaction in tying up the line for a minute so they can’t annoy someone else.

I believe you have to vote to maintain your right to bitch. I have a feeling I’ll be bitching not matter who ends up in office because the people who would be best suited for a position are not found on the ballot.

Backstage at Ignite Phoenix

I had the pleasure of speaking at Ignite Phoenix #5, and I fell in love with the organization. My role at Ignite Phoenix has always been backstage. I was a runner at Ignite Phoenix #6 and I’ve been the assistant stage manager since Ignite Phoenix #7. I’ve volunteered at every Ignite Phoenix event since 2010 with the exception of Ignite Phoenix After Hours #2.

One of the few pictures of Andy and I holding still at Ignite Phoenix #12; photo by Devon Christopher Adams

I love working at Ignite Phoenix. Andy Woodward is our stage manager and we have running the show down to a science. The show starts at 6:30pm which means the core team has to be at the venue usually by 3pm to start setting up. Andy and I spend most of that time in the theatre. We draw a box on the stage in tape so our performers know where they have to be seen by the video camera. We set up the confidence monitor – a screen that shows the performers what’s on the screen behind them. We work with the venue’s crew to set the lighting and sound levels and to determine which performer will use which microphone. We also set up the area backstage so our performers are comfortable when they’re not on the stage.

I’m a big fan of the mantra “Be prepared,” so my bag backstage is full of all kinds of stuff I or a presenter might need like my clipboard, pens, highlighters, Sharpies, mini flashlight, safety pins, caffeine, ibuprofen,  Kleenex, my lucky handkerchief, and my Swiss Army knife.

A little over an hour before the show our performers arrive and we take them through their orientation. We want them to be comfortable with the stage, backstage, their green room, and we tell them for the first time what order they will be in during the show.

During the show, Andy is at the edge of the stage making sure that each performance goes well and he does the final prep with each performer right before they go on stage. I’m in charge of most of everything else backstage. It’s my job to put the microphones on and take them off of each presenter and to keep track of everyone when they’re backstage.  I’m constantly counting heads, making sure I know where everyone is.

It’s my job to be there when presenters need me and to stay out of their way when they don’t. I respect each person’s need to do their own thing when they’re nervous. It’s fun to watch who paces, who reads through their notes, who brings their laptop to go through their slides, and who hangs out in the presenters’ green room downstairs. I want each presenter to feel excited and secure when they step out onto the Ignite stage. I try to instill a sense of calm confidence when I’m putting on their microphone and congratulate them when they finish.

I’m really looking forward to Ignite Phoenix #13. We have an incredible cast, an awesome team of volunteers, and amazing people at the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts who help make it all possible.

Coming Out Day 2012

October 11th is National Coming Out Day. (In case you didn’t know, I’m bisexual.) I wish holiday didn’t have to exist. I wish sexual orientation was a non-issue and that people could be attracted to any gender without anyone raising an eyebrow.

Rainbow Flag

Rainbow Flag (Photo credit: Rev Dan Catt)

Unfortunately, we’re not there yet. Children across this country and the world are being told that they’re going to hell if they’re gay. (I generally try to stay out of people’s religious beliefs when it comes to who/what they worship, but I take issue when a minority is being told they’re going to hell for something they can’t control.) These kids are being teased so badly in school it’s driving some of them to drop out or commit suicide. Depending on which study you read, 20-40% of homeless youth are LGBT.

This problem continues into adult society where many people can still be fired because of their sexual orientation. And in most states, a committed homosexual couple is treated differently under the law than a committed heterosexual couple. The question that comes up for me is “Why do you care?” If you’re a hetero, two homos getting married does not pose a threat to you or your relationship. Why should you get over a thousand benefits under the law when you get married but they can’t? It broke my heart when I learned that at least one person in my family voted in favor of Prop 8 in California in 2008, and my family knows that I’m queer.

I also don’t understand people who say that gay unions should be legal but the word “marriage” should be reserved only for hetero couples. Seriously? The Supreme Court ruled that separate isn’t equal a long time ago. I don’t care if you call it “marriage,” “civil union,” or “oogie boogie,” whatever term you want to use for governmentally recognized homo unions should be the same as hetero unions. If individuals and religious organizations want to use a different word, that’s their prerogative.

We’ve made a lot of progress in terms of gay rights in the last few decades. I try to remember how far we’ve come when I feel like a lonely gay in a hetero world. It gives me hope that it will get better and some day we’ll be equals.

This is the song that reminds me that even when I feel like a freak, I’m not a freak alone.

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Escaping School Bullies

October is Bullying Prevention Month. Bullying is one of my passions because this is an issue that is literally life-and-death for some young people. It’s a pervasive problem in our schools and the online community. This past summer I was asked to share my thoughts on a study that found that 17% of middle schoolers experienced bullying. The study’s sentiment seemed to portray the message that bullying “isn’t so bad.” The interviewer changed his tone when I pointed out that the findings suggested that nearly 1 in 5 children were being targeted, possibly tortured.

Self-Portrait #23 by Robby McKee

I believe that stopping bullying requires a multi-faceted approach that involves the school and the parents. The child who is being bullied needs support and the bully needs to be assessed to determine the cause of their behavior as well. Schools and parents also have the responsibility to foster a sense of acceptance in students to decrease the chance that a person or group will be taunted. If the school refuses to do its job and protect these victimized students, then the families needs to turn to higher authorities which may include the school board and/or the police. No child should be afraid to go to school.

Today I began to ponder what a child’s options might be if they can’t stand being in school anymore. I don’t support children dropping out of school in general, but for some, that’s their best chance for being safe. I’m very proud of what Caleb Laieski did a few years ago. He dropped out of school on his 16th birthday, the earliest date he could legally quit school, to escape the bullying he was forced to endure. He has since earned his GED and works in the Phoenix Mayor’s Office. I hope he’s a role model for other similarly situated students.

Caleb was able to withstand the bullying until his 16th birthday, but some students are not so fortunate. What do you tell a 14 year-old who is bullied every day – to hang in there ‘til he turns 16? I don’t think so. That could set the child up to commit suicide before he turns 16. These children have options to escape their tormenters and they should take advantage of them.

  1. Online School: If you’re going to attend an online school, make sure it’s a legitimate school with a demanding curriculum. Apparently there are a lot of scams out there.
  2. Home Schooling: When you opt to be home schooled, make sure you follow all the applicable laws and regulations set by the county. The woman I talked to today at the GED office said you’ll still have to take the GED.
  3. Community College: I called Rio Salado Community College today and they said a 14 year-old could be enrolled with a special admission. You have to take a placement test to make sure that you’re academically ready for college-level work. You will also have to take the GED when you turn 16.

I will vehemently oppose any proposed legislation that would require children to be in school until their 18th birthdays. Until the education system can effectively prevent bullying in schools, children need a way to escape when they are in a worst-case scenario.

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