January 11, 2010

National Mentoring Month, Beth Kanter's birthday, and me

For several weeks now, I've been thinking a lot about the idea of getting myself a mentor. Not because it's National Mentoring Month (that actually slipped my mind as I was having these thoughts), but probably because it's a new year, and because of where I'm at in my career, and because I feel ready to try something new. I was thinking about it so much that I felt a blog post brewing.

Then I got an email from Amy Sample Ward giving me a heads up about a group effort to write some Happy Birthday Beth blog posts. Knowing how unlikely it was that I would actually bang out two blog posts in one weekend, and sensing a conjunction of topics, I set forth on a clumsy attempt to get all of my thoughts about this stuff out at once. And here it is.

You see, the reason I feel ready to really take advantage of a mentor, is I have come so far in the past year and a half. And as near as I can recall, the beginning of that year and a half journey starts with Beth.

Sometime around the spring of 2008, probably thanks to Friendfeed, I started finding and reading a lot of cool posts from Beth's blog.

In August of 2008, I watched with interest as Beth raised $2500 for her cause in 90 minutes due in great part to her reach on Twitter and relationships she had built both in person and with the help of social media. (Again, my awareness of this was due to Friendfeed, which made me aware of Gnomedex, and of some of the "players" in the social media sphere.)

My memory is not what it should be, but I have a hunch that Beth led me to become much more aware of Holly Ross and NTEN, and then in Feb 2009 I attended a We Are Media workshop with Holly and Beth. Mind = blown.

I keep coming back to the synergy of a) the personal connections I was able to make with Beth and Holly; b) the ability to see their social graphs on the social web; and c) the resources shared by that social group. That synergy has propelled me, in a very short time, to where I want to be for my organization and for my profession.

In April 2009, I attended NTC and gave an Ignite session there on my favorite topic, Friendfeed. By June 2009 I found myself co-leading a workshop at NCVS for 350 people, with Holly and Marnie Webb, on Social Media for Nonprofits. To prepare for that workshop I picked up the phone and connected with Jonathan Colman and Danielle Brigida to ask for some tips. I'm not sure I would have done that without the inspiration from Beth to transform online connections into personal offline connections.

Whether or not I get a formal mentor this year, Beth is already a mentor to me by the very act of who she is. Not in the superficial, "she has 300,000 followers on Twitter" sense, but in the very real sense of how completely authentic she is in life, work, and online. When I see her, she is so often happy and energetic, and ready to combine play, work, friendship, conversation and exploration. She has a true carpe diem spirit, tempered by a wonderful base of pragmatism and realism, a huge sense of curiosity, and a healthy work/family/me time balance. Just seeing those qualities in action inspires and mentors me to embrace those qualities more fully in my own life.

So, Happy Birthday, Beth. This is a very condensed/abridged account of the impact you have had on my work and life. May you get your birthday wish to help send Cambodian kids to school. I know you will.

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