I’ve had a tough time feeling inspired lately. The sometimes daily struggle of making ends meet, getting paid for what I do and changing my diet and somewhat lethargic lifestyle has taken its toll on me.
This is no one’s fault. I’ve made more than a few decisions that have made my life immeasurably harder and I’m paying for each and every one of those in nearly anything I do. But that’s cool.
I went to TEDxPhxDC last night with high hopes. I wanted to be blown away by designy people and I wanted to be impressed. I made it through three presentations and then left because I was very tired. But I didn’t leave disappointed or empty handed. I left feeling a bit validated. I left feeling that at least some of my more questionable decisions actually made sense. I left feeling inspired.
Being a good neighbor is extremely important to me. Not just the obvious things, like keeping your stereo down and not planning late-night parties during the week, but a sense of looking out for some greater good, even if that requires a short-term sacrifice.
Most people don’t really know each other. We’re polite and we’re cordial and we’re seldom forced to work together. We usually don’t have to, as the sprawl of Phoenix metro allows each of us to escape from whoever they want every single night. This NIMBY philosophy has always infuriated me, but I know that changing it first means it must be recognized.
I tried to do that at November 2009′s RadiatePHX meeting at Local Breeze. I wanted to force people to reconsider what was actually happening in the city, what really needed to be done and how hard it was going to be. An unhealthy amount of liquid courage, a few shots of espresso and a remixed rant later, I felt like an absolute failure. I ranted on stage, I bitched on Twitter and unleashed a level of vitriol that, while completely true, didn’t do anything to help. I’ve always regretted that night.
But that was yesterday. That was before Jim McPherson showed me his list. Before Jim got on stage at TEDxPhxDC last night and talked about what we can all do to leave our mark. If Jim, who has a track record of getting things done, can manage to check off even a quarter of what he’s set out to accomplish, then my personal failure was worth it.
While I definitely would have liked to convey my points more eloquently and, if you’ll forgive me, less confrontationally, it worked. I traded something I had plenty of (confidence) for something Jim lacked at the time (inspiration to make a list) and we’ve now both been rewarded.
Being a good neighbor means a lot more than keeping within yourself and sharing a cup of flour. It also means making do of what you have, who people are and how things come together. It means being okay with being wrong, but always striving to be right.
I can’t say I’d do it all the same way again, but I can tell I’m glad I did.
A note from the publisher:
This is my account of a night long ago, and it’s long, so feel free to skip it and comment to Tyler below.
I read the above post last night and it brought back memories of a night that many of our readers experienced first-hand. To me, it is a profound testament to Time, not just as a wound healer, but as a key ingredient for growth and connections.
It was November 2009, and a special edition of RadiatePHX. As host, I had contacted Tyler a few weeks before to ask a favor: would he please moderate a discussion about what is wrong with Downtown Phoenix?
This was 180-degree change of perspective for this monthly gathering, and I knew Tyler was just the person to take this on. Not because he’s a “hater,” as some people lazily believe, but because he actually cares a great deal, and is stronger than most to pose the questions and challenges that most of us shy away from. Albeit, sometimes that is because most people edit their thoughts more appropriately, but I digress.
One of the people who questioned me directly about Tyler leading the discussion was, yes, Jim McPherson. I have known Jim for almost as long as I’ve been Downtown. Kevin Bacon has nothing on Jim. He is the most amazing connector I have met in my lifetime.
Yet, this question from someone of Jim’s caliber only seemed to reaffirm my brazen notion that this Tyler-led discussion would be an iconic, disruptive moment that would meld Downtown’s veteran advocates with the newer voices of the Downtown scene. It would engender understanding of one another and fuse us together as we tackled the challenge of elevating Downtown, while enticing more people to experience this place we love! (See also Braveheart and Animal House)
I believe in balanced problem-solving: listening to voices from opposite ends of a given spectrum and calibrating (what I believe to be) the best approach from there. For me, Tyler and Jim are the personification of that approach. They are very smart individuals, yet opposite in many ways, and I respect each of them.
A few minutes before the event, I asked/stated to Tyler, “You know people don’t believe you can do this, right?” We laughed and plunged ahead, not realizing a fuse had been lit.
In some circles, that night has become known as “Tyler-gate.” Our fearless moderator had what is commonly referred to as a meltdown and proceeded to shout over anyone and everyone’s attempt to contribute to the discussion. I was in awe, as it became the worst version of lightning in a bottle. Publicly I’ve looked back with an involuntary laugh. It was simply an astonishing downward spiral display, and I had an unobstructed front-row seat.
The memories of that night live on for many, one person reminisced to me about it just earlier this week. What they and Tyler don’t know is how much I blamed myself. I was stunned, but surely I could have done something – anything – to mitigate the damage. I should have broken through to help a friend, one who had weeks before agreed to my challenge without hesitation. Tyler will undoubtedly brush that notion aside, I am sure.
But, from there he moved on to develop CenPhoCamp with Yuri Artibise, and his love for Katie Charland, among other things. He seemed to have reached the peak (nadir?) of his disenchantment and strived for a better…life.
And now this post above. Full circle, from Tyler to Jim, two of my favorite people.