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Even loners need tribe

Posted by Ilise Benun on

I just returned from my weekly Toastmasters meeting. If you don’t know me, you might not think there’s anything remarkable in that, much less anything worth blogging about. But if you do, or if, like me, you’re the kind of person more comfortable working alone (a common affliction of sole proprietors), then you have some idea of why I might be marveling over this.

When you work for yourself, it’s easy to stay in a little bubble. What’s more, with the advent of new media and technology, it’s even easy to make yourself believe that you’re not: if you’re wired, you’re connected, right?

Well, yes. And no.

I’m a firm, if somewhat new believer that a big part of connecting
can only happen face to face. I love my internet, but one-on-one
networking? Um…not so much.

Since working with Peleg and Ilise, though, I’ve realized how important it is to get out there and literally meet
the people I chat with or exchange emails with or—yes—hang out with on
blogs and boards. Because there’s something that happens in person that
just can’t happen via telephone or ethernet connection.

The ideas and feelings I come away with from a real, human exchange are  almost always ‘juicier’. When I read emails from the kernspiracy
list (a group of L.A.-based designers and creative types), I get all
kinds of great tips and information; it’s an invaluable resource for
asking questions, finding great new links and exchanging ideas.

But when I actually hang out with my co-kernspirators at our monthly
get-togethers, I invariably come away with so much more. Whether it’s
the wine (we meet at a local artists’ pub) or the not having to type so
much, "meatspace" conversations tend to flow more freely than their
online counterparts.

They also take some really interesting turns. I may start out by
sharing my new business card design with a fellow designer and end up
giving him insight into his own marketing. A chat with an art director
about the horrors of traffic on the Pacific Coast Highway ends up with
both of us squealing over a new idea for a collaborative web project.

And meeting in person makes some things much easier. For example,
several design students come to the kernspiracy meetups to get feedback
on their budding portfolios—a pretty daunting prospect no matter where
you’re doing it. Not that any of us would ever be cruel when evaluating
a cohort’s work, but I think we’re more thoughtful with our commentary
in person. You’re just made more aware that there’s a real, live human
being sharing a bit of his or her heart and soul than you are when you
look at a bunch of JPEGs or PDFs online. Plus we sidestep any of the
confusion over "tone" (or lack thereof) with e-communications.

Finally, maybe I’m hopelessly old-school, but I just trust someone
more when I’ve met them in person. I found out about Peleg’s famous Pricing & Marketing Workshop via the e-mail list, but if I hadn’t met Spencer Cross (a fellow
blogger and the founder of kernspiracy) in person, I don’t know that
I’d have plunked down my hard-earned money so fast, no matter how great
a value everyone said it was. And then I never would have met Peleg,
Ilise or found myself…well, here.

I know, I know—it’s ironic that face-to-face communication resulted
in more of the electronic kind. Then again, no one ever said you had to
destroy your bubble to expand your universe.

Just remember to take a break from it every once in awhile…

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