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The Lobster Roll Guy

I knew it was over as soon as he said, ‘How old are you again? Oh wait, and when is your birthday?’

It’s another late night dinner, another night out, another in a long and steady catalogue of dates with Jonathan.

I’m munching on green beans and mash. Shaking my head slightly, I think to myself, ‘Oh no. He doesn’t even know how old I am’. I can feel myself start to sink low into my chair. My chest starts to feel empty and heavy at the same time.

He didn’t remember, but he helped me celebrate my last birthday a few months earlier. He didn’t know, but I knew his age like it was etched into the back of my hand. He probably wouldn’t remember this detail either; the romantic bar that was set months earlier by our chance meeting with a stranger that I later called The Lobster Roll Guy.

Jonathan and I met The Lobster Roll Guy in one of those random and fleeting New York-style meetings.

Night’s end and descending inside an elevator, Jonathan and I were leaving a charity event together. We shared an elevator with another man who oddly announces that he has just eaten the best lobster roll of his life.

‘What’s a lobster roll?’ I asked him. I meant it. I’d never seen or eaten one before.

The stranger’s drunken eyes unglaze for a moment. He looks at me, ignores my question and says, ‘Wait, keep talking.’

I must have looked confused because Jonathan chimed in and said, ‘Your accent. He wants to hear more of your accent.’

‘Oh, right,’ I replied. Not an uncommon request. ‘I’m Australian,’ I smiled.

The stranger nods at me, cocks his head to one side and looks up at Jonathan. His eyes dart between the two of us. He’s summing up the situation in the remaining seconds as the elevator hurtles towards the lobby. The doors open and as he steps out of the elevator, he leaves Jonathan and I with this parting comment.

‘You, sir, are the luckiest guy in the world.’

Jonathan laughed. I did too. Truth be known, I beamed. Not because I think it’s true but because I really wanted Jonathan to believe it was true. Regardless, nothing feels more corroborating than external validation, even when it comes from drunken strangers who have a thing for lobster rolls.

I later renamed the stranger inside the elevator as The Lobster Roll Guy. I thought a lot about his comment and in time it’s become somewhat of a dating yardstick. The Lobster Roll Guy made me realize how important it is in early dating that both sides feel like the luckiest person on Earth. It has to be mutual in order for dating to feel fluid and reciprocal.

Only with Jonathan, it didn’t. If I’m honest, it never did. Over green beans and mash and him telling me that he had no idea when I was born, I could no longer ignore what I’d been denying for a long time – that I wanted us more than he ever would.

There were shared interests, but never a shared spark. A mutual caring that grew, but never developed. I hung with him and his guy friends, only I was a girl. I was frequently his mate, but only ever his friend. He always kept me at arm’s length, and I naively filed that under the complexities of New York City dating.

It went on like this for a long time. The convenience worked for us both but I kick myself now for letting it go on for as long as it did. A part of me wonders if he, consciously or otherwise, fed me these steady negative signs in order to make a dignified exit.

After getting through the last of my green beans, I could no longer deny that the end was now here. When we finally talked it out later that night, I refused to sob about it and we agreed to remain friends.

He was in my life for all of two minutes and only told me three sentences but The Lobster Roll Guy taught me a lot. Mostly that the sweet spot in dating comes when both sides feel they are the luckiest person on Earth to be dating the other.

Now that the dust has settled on Jonathan and I have the wise lessons of The Lobster Roll Guy deep in my back pocket, there’s really only one thing left to do. If I am going to find the one who thinks of me like The Lobster Roll Guy, I probably need to try a lobster roll for myself. And that then begs the question.

Where is the best place in New York City to find the best lobster roll?

I’m still searching.

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Stretcher in Hospital

When Clinicians Go Corporate

Professionals who make the jump from hospital bedside to the corporate world bring a unique set of skills and experiences to the business table.

I’m one of them. I worked as a speech-language pathologist in large acute hospitals in Australia for almost 10 years. I treated patients with strokes, other neurological pathology and head and neck cancer. I transitioned out of the clinical world via an MBA several years ago and I now work for a health technology company.

Nearly 15 years after first graduating, most of my peers are now in some kind of middle management role. I know only one or two like me who made the full corporate/business jump. People like me see their influence and expertise being directed beyond the four walls of a hospital. We upskill and re-educate, shift and pivot, usually into different careers and industries while taking a unique set of skills and experiences with us.

What are are those unique skills and experiences for clinicians who go corporate, and what are their advantages? Here are some thoughts.

1. A deep appreciation and understanding of the experience of illness.

Those with clinical experience already have a deep fascination and interest in health, disease and healthcare.

Taking that a step further, when you work with patients in hospitals you develop an intimate understanding of the patient journey. Your job is to help people to navigate the experience of illness and disease. You learn to recognize the patterns of how patients, money and influence flow through the healthcare system. You deal with the unique politics and organizational structure that’s present in hospitals and other large healthcare organisations.

2. Instant commonality and connection with healthcare professionals.

When I engage with clinicians today as part of my current job and explain that I was once like them, there is a shared sense of having ‘worked the trenches’. It feels like an instant commonality, a mutual respect and a sense of camaraderie.

I felt it too when the tables were reversed. When I was a clinician, rightly or wrongly, I always respected professionals who came from where I did. And I could always tell when another professional had a clinical background – in their language, knowledge and approach.

3. Understand and can deal with risk.

Clinical work is much grey-er than most people realize.

More often than not, the course of action to take with a patient is not clear. It’s a process of gathering as much good information as you can, consulting with everyone around you, drawing on your prior clinical experience, knowing as much of the research evidence as you can, and then problem solving it out to the best of your clinical ability.

When I worked as a clinician, I dealt with disease risk every single day. My area of expertise was dysphagia or disordered swallowing. I was dealing with something that in normal people is a complex and intricate process involving coordination and timing of neurology and musculature.

Until it goes wrong. The ability to eat and drink easily and safely is something that most people never pay attention to until it doesn’t work properly. Swallowing just happens and there’s no true way to tell exactly what’s happening inside someone’s throat. You can’t ‘see’ inside someone’s neck to find out exactly what was happening while they eat or drink. I had to infer lots of things and manage each patient’s relative risk of having food or drink end up in their lungs rather than their stomach.

4. Expect long hours and hard work.

Everyone works hard inside a hospital. The hours are long and intense, you are constantly on the move and you hustle.

Information comes at you from everywhere. Your job is often to drill down to the info that is of most value to you and your patient. In a hospital there is a continuous and consistent push towards the same common end goal – get the patient well enough to discharge them. In the business world by comparison, I find that sometimes the end goal can be less clear or worse, not clear at all.

5. Are team players, highly empathetic and good with people.

Most clinicians are good with people and are highly empathetic. What drives them towards clinical work in the first place is their tendency to be givers who are service-orientated, humble and smart. They generally come from a place of compassion, hope, comfort and an intense desire to want to help others.

Clinicians have to talk to, connect with and build rapport with different kinds of people. The best clinicians do it naturally and authentically. That ability to connect and talk with anyone lends itself well in the business world, and especially in tech where there’s a tendency for insular work among smart tech minds.

I cut my professional teeth within a team environment that knew the value of collaboration. In my clinical experience, I worked in small teams alongside other healthcare professionals and together we treated patients to the best of our collaborative ability. The best teams I worked on had a common goal, competent members, a strong leader (usually the resident doctor) and valued the input of each of its members.

6. Expect pressure and can handle it.

There is no other pressure quite like dealing with sick people. Make a wrong move in business, and someone might lose money. Have a brain fade inside a hospital, and you could make a person sicker, or worse.

The pressure can be intense. I frequently dealt with very unwell patients with special kinds of breathing tubes (specifically, tracheostomy or tracheotomy tubes). On more than one occasion I had mere seconds to decide whether I could do something to make a patient breathe more easily or call in reinforcements in the form of the crash cart.

There’s no other working environment like a large acute hospital. It wasn’t until I left the hospital as a workplace that I realized what a unique and unusual workplace it actually is. For many years I didn’t know any other workplace.

No one really talks about what it’s like to work inside a hospital. You are in the front seat, witnessing modern western medicine in full flight. From that front seat you can see humans at their worst. Sickness and illness become the norm, to the point where you forget what normal ageing and healthy socioeconomics actually look like. A routine day for you is never a routine day for your patient and their loved ones.

To summarize, professionals like myself who were once clinicians and go on to roles in the business side of healthcare bring a unique skill set and experience to the business table. We appreciate and understand the healthcare system better than most because we were once intricately a part of it.

Sarah

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23andme and Angelina Jolie

More from the archives of my old blog. I wrote this piece back in June 2013 after I spat into a cup and sent my DNA off for a full ancestral and health analysis.

My spit revealed a lot. Turns out I am of 99% northern European ancestry (no surprises there). But most shockingly, I have a genetic variant that’s associated with a higher risk of developing Alzheimer’s Disease. 

Skillfully I was able to weave my own experience of genetic testing with that of Angelina Jolie’s and her public battle with breast cancer. My experience with personal genetic testing then begs the question – would you want to know what’s lurking in the DNA of your spit?

A good friend and I were discussing Angelina Jolie’s recent revelation that she underwent a preventative double mastectomy after learning she carries a genetic flaw that puts her at high risk of developing breast cancer.

Through this discussion I learnt about 23andme; a personal genetic testing company co-founded by Anne Wojcicki, the wife of Sergey Brin. He’s also a co-founder, of Google.

Here’s how 23andme works.

Pay $99 and order the kit online. They send you a container. You spit into the container. You spit into the container for what seems like 10 minutes. You send it off (but don’t post it in the state of New York, for some dumb reason it’s illegal if you do). Four to six weeks later and they email you the results.

Super cool, I thought. I’m curious about everything, especially myself. I cannot resist this.

And so welcome.. to the fascinating world that is personal genomics and crowd science.

My results

The results are divided into two separate sections, health and ancestry. I’m going to bypass the ancestry stuff and discuss some of the interesting findings from the health section of my report.

What came as a surprise was my risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. Based on my being female and of solely European ancestry, the testing revealed that I have double the average risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease between the ages of 50 and 79.

This is because I have one copy of the genetic variant that is associated with a two-fold increase risk of developing the disease. Luckily I don’t have two copies of this same variant, or my risk would shoot up to an 11-fold risk. Yikes.

What does this have to do with Angelina?

Angelina revealed that she carries an inherited genetic mutation known as BRCA1. Along with BRCA2, these two genetic mutations account for most cases of inheritable breast cancer in women. Prior to her recent surgery and treatment, Angelina’s doctors estimated her risk of developing breast cancer was an alarmingly high 87%.

It’s important to note that falling into such an extremely high-risk category is rare. Angelina has the double whammy of carrying the genetic flaw and having a strong family history of the disease.

Writing in the New York Times, Angelina reveals that by undergoing the surgery, her risk of developing breast cancer went from 87% to under 5%. Given the drastic drop in risk from undergoing the surgery, little wonder she did what she did.

I am in no way trying to compare the gravity, seriousness and impact of Angelina’s genetic testing experiences with that of my own. But by looking at what we know about Angelina’s experience with genetic testing with my own, some important issues surrounding genetic testing and personal genomics can be extrapolated.

It’s all about risk

Fortunately for me, I don’t carry an inherited genetic mutation like Angelina. Instead what I have is a single copy of a variant of a gene that increases the risk of developing Alzheimer’s Disease.

According to the report from 23andme, my risk of developing Alzheimer’s Disease between the aged of 50 and 79 based on genetics alone is estimated at 14%. Without the gene variant that I carry, my risk would half that at 7%.

While not dramatically high, a 14% risk of early onset Alzheimer’s disease is still double the normal average. I have built my career around neurology and have seen enough Alzheimer’s disease in my time to know what the end stages of the disease are like. Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias are awful, insidious, non-curable and relentlessly progressive diseases.

Angelina no doubt had top specialist doctors to advise her. These doctors would have taken into account the results of her genetic testing, family history and a whole range of other data to arrive at her individual relative risk for developing the breast cancer. In my case there are no doctors or specialists examining all the other factors that might contribute to my risk of Alzheimer’s Disease, or any disease for that matter.

Because 23andme offers informational testing only. It is not diagnostic testing and it does not have the benefit of having specialist doctors to assess your individualized risk based on other important factors besides your genes (like family history, other medical history and environment).

To its credit, 23andme tries hard to break down and visualise the science for the average person to make it palatable and digestible. But ultimately comparing numbers with numbers is simplistic while trying to decipher to complex science behind disease risk is not.

Now what?

Revealing a genetic variant of a terrible disease for which there is no cure has the potential to seriously alarm and upset people. Armed with this new information, what do people like me do about it? What should I be demanding now from the medical profession in terms of future disease prevention, monitoring or management, if anything at all?

But 23andme doesn’t properly acknowledge that the information it can reveal can be misinterpreted by its customers who don’t understand the concept of risk, the distinction between informational and diagnostic genetic testing and the importance of having disease risk assessed by specialists within the context of other factors such as family history and environment.

A classic case of TMI?

I don’t think of it like that. Not at all. In no way do I regret undertaking this kind of testing.

I am buoyed by the fact that there’s no known history of Alzheimer’s Disease in my family, early onset or otherwise. Both my grandmas are textbook examples of how to age well. They are treasures. Both are in their mid-80s and they continue to be fit, thriving and engaged members of their communities. My Gran is all over facebook while my Nan is the most resilient person I know.

In any case, I love this kind of stuff. It combines areas I’m fascinated with; disease, risk, statistics.

For the lucky majority of us, our genes are not our destiny. Risk is just risk. Risk is not an absolute. After all, many men and women with the BRCA1 gene mutation never develop breast cancer. Many people with the same genetic variant that I have never develop Alzheimer’s Disease either.

Informational genetic testing has added to my health knowledge. But what’s more powerful is knowing that one’s best chance of preventing disease, genetic or otherwise, is to prevent it in the first place – eat a sensible balanced diet, maintain a healthy weight, exercise moderately and limit alcohol, cigarettes and stress.

Me and my genes are going to do just that.

Sarah

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Ready? Aim! Fired.

I got fired once.

As hard as it was at the time, it became a tremendous catalyst for change that eventually turned out to be the best thing that ever happened to me. Simply put, if I hadn’t got fired on this day, I would never have ended up in New York City.

This happened back in March of 2012 at the closing stages of a very hot and memorable summer where I spent every evening after work watching the sun set over one of Adelaide’s numerous and incredible city beaches. 

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Sunset over Glenelg Beach in Adelaide, Australia

I wrote this post about a week after I got fired and I’m glad I did. It brings back very powerful memories from that day and it now serves as a reminder of how traumatic the event was, and how god-awful-hard the months were that immediately followed.

What I like about this post is that I had no idea what was coming next. At the time that scared me greatly. I get the sense from the final paragraphs that maybe I knew this was big but I could never have predicted how big or what a life-changing event getting fired that day would turn out to be.

Why share this with my now considerable audience? Why openly admit professional failure?

I’ve been inspired by two things – this recent HBR blog post on openly talking about failure and I’ve been reflecting on my own career change journey thanks to my involvement in co-hosting this upcoming event in New York. 

I often think about what I’d be doing now if I hadn’t got fired that day. Would I have continued my cosy set-up in Adelaide working as a management consultant? Or would my feet have eventually got itchy, and I would have spread my considerable independent wings regardless? Read on and judge for yourself.

I lost my job last week. And no, I am not joking.

Technically I wasn’t fired. My job was declared redundant. Like the difference between the two is supposed to make me feel better. It’s a horrible word, redundant. And to be declared redundant? Officially it means deprived of one’s job because it was no longer necessary for efficient operation. For efficient operation? Fuck that. I’m still sitting here, the first Monday morning in over 10 years and I have no job to get up and go to. It feels very strange.

This was supposed to be my dream job. My dream post-MBA job. Recall that just four months ago I chucked in the very secure long term job I had in public health, packed up my life, moved on my own and to a different state for this job.

This is very unfamiliar territory for me. I have never been fired or made redundant from anything. I have never felt so comprehensively rejected in all my life, and foolish, and completely demoralised. Welcome to the real world of work, Sarah! You are no longer the sheltered pseudo public servant you once were, in a cushy job where no one gets fired.

I am not going to go into the specifics of why I lost my job and I don’t want to bash my old firm. I need to tread lightly here. What I will say is that the GFC is not over, kids. This country has not escaped it. It is starting to permeate into government departments who are reducing their spending accordingly.

I knew for the better part of two weeks that this was coming. While no names were mentioned initially, as soon as I heard the boss say ‘reducing headcount’, I immediately felt very vulnerable. I was the last person they hired. I may have had nearly two weeks to sit with it but how do you prepare yourself knowing you’re probably going to get fired?

I had wondered exactly how they would do it; the part where they tell me they are terminating my employment. Would they take me to a public place, tell me I have to leave, where I couldn’t make a scene or hissy fit it out in public? Or make a meeting time with me on Outlook, where I would know in advance what was coming? I knew my head was on the chopping block. Decision day arrived. It was uncharacteristically grey and rainy outside and it mirrored my mood. I wore my favourite pretty red hair clip and hoped for a shift execution.

I am proud of me for handling it as well as I possibly could. I listened to what sounded like a short rehearsed speech from my very nervous boss. I had time to cry about it. I was told to gather my things. I had $30 cash stuffed into my left hand. I was promptly marched out the door and into a waiting taxi. The fucking indignity of it all. How’s that for a swift execution? It was all over in 15 minutes and by 9:30 that morning, I found myself back at my apartment wondering what the fuck just happened.

Two weeks is a long time to wait to learn your fate. It was incredibly difficult to front up to work, knowing I was probably going to get fired soon, and actually concentrate and do anything that resembled work. It was like a rollercoaster. At times I brushed it off and felt fine about it, other times I was convinced I would keep my job and other times I drove myself crazy and over-thought it to the point of floods of tears. Only natural I guess.

I hate thinking I was an easy target for firing because of my personal circumstances. Or lack of them. I don’t have a family or partner to take into account. I don’t have a young family or kids in private school. I’m the one with the newly minted MBA who can take it pretty much anywhere and if that fails, can always use my clinical background to fall back on. I could always do a PhD if I got really desperate. I may have options, I have more options than those around me but I have worked hard to set myself up to have those options. Nonetheless having options doesn’t make it any easier when you’re the one in the firing line.

I have hated telling people about what happened. Especially my old colleagues in public health, where redundancy isn’t part of their vocab. Some people I just haven’t told. I am completely ashamed to put ‘unemployed’ and ‘my name’ into the same sentence.

It’s been nearly a week since it happened and I’m feeling a little lost. As much as I’ve resented it, my work has always been a huge part of my identity. Now that’s gone and I’m not sure what I am anymore. I am not used to having so much time on my hands.

But I am much more than my work. More than a growing collective body of research. I get the feeling that this experience is going to prove it to me. I can take the time to cherry pick and wait for the best job with the best fit. I can explore what I am truely passionate about, what blows my hair back and what will really make me jump out of bed each morning.

In the meantime I have to stay positive and busy. I can finish off a research paper that’s up for presentation mid year. Think of all the running I can do! I have no excuse for not smashing up that half marathon I’ve been eyeing off next month. I’m going to watch every single movie nominated for Best Picture, all in one hit. And the tv I can watch! American tv is cranking up soon in the lead up to its summer hiatus. Awesome. And what about all the wonderful new music waiting for me to explore and wrap my ears around? I can catch up with pals and not be the one that has to rush back to work or be home before 10 on a weeknight. My kindle is going to get a serious work out. I can read and read and read and read. I can even try meditation. I can take dance class every single night of the week. I might just do that.

I will be okay. I am not going to panic. I need to spend time thinking hard about what happened and what I want to do next. I need to keep the bigger picture in mind here, now more than ever. People get fired every day. I can keep a roof over my head and food on my plate for a very long time to come. And I don’t have to quickly scoff my lunch sitting at my desk at 4pm any time soon.

On the back of every bus ticket sold is this town they print short motivating affirmations. On the back of my bus ticket last week was this very timely quote.. every ending is a new beginning. Exactly right. As for my new beginning? Dusting myself off, taking full advantage of the downtime and not letting this smash my confidence are some of the options I’m considering.

Sarah

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The Bright Red Sharpie of Life

I have been trawling through my archives for more standout posts and came up with this one.

I wrote this about 18 months ago – back in February 2013. I recall typing this one out on my iPhone while on a bus commuting either to or from an airport. I can’t recall exactly where I was. I want to say I was in Australia but I can’t say for sure. That (Australian) summer was an especially heavy travel time for me as a flitted between northern Australia and South East Asia doing, well, whatever I wanted.

That kind of freedom and opportunity gave me incredible clarity. In this piece I used a simple Sharpie metaphor to describe how my early adult life was dominated by meeting societal expectations, the pressure I felt to conform and the struggle I went through to eventually leave all that behind.

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As one navigates early adulthood and forges a path for themselves, you take the lead from the bright red sharpie of life.

There are boxes to be sequentially ticked off. You use the bright red sharpie to slowly tick off these boxes.

You don’t know it. But those boxes tick off items on an invisible but powerful list of social norms and conformity.

House, home, husband.

Tick, tick, tick.

Profession, career, travel.

More ticks.

The ticks don’t lie. The ticks should make you happy.

But deep down you know that you aren’t.

And so the bright red sharpie of life turns on you.

Instead of ticking off the remaining boxes like you expect it to, the sharpie keeps its cap on and starts tapping at you instead.

It taps at you from the very corner of your mind.

Tap, tap, tap.

The taps gradually get louder until they crescendo into a persistent scream telling you that it’s all so wrong.

TAP, TAP, TAP!

It builds to a point of fog and frustration and you can’t ignore it another minute.

Something has to change to make the tapping go away.

To make it stop, you make changes. Big, profound life changing changes.

You tell yourself change is good. But change is also hard. Insanely hard.

Now it doesn’t tick or tap. The bright red sharpie of life just draws. It’s a giant jumbled red mess. Like how a 3-year-old might draw a snowstorm. Or a thundercloud.

You wonder why.

Did you upset the bright red sharpie of life? Or were the tick boxes simply wrong to begin with?

With insight, bravery and the benefit of the healing passage of time, the sharpie begins to draw you a different path.

One without tick boxes or conformity.

You throw away the tick boxes altogether and call them out for what they are – an illusion and a myth.

Then the bright red sharpie of life stops altogether. No ticks. No taps. No chaotic red drawings of messy red thunderclouds.

With enough courage, you do away with the sharpie. It gets replaced instead with a plain white canvas to call your very own.

And what you’re left with is an understanding – that using the bright red sharpie of life to tick off boxes is right for some people.

But not for you.

Sarah

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My Fairy Tale Life

Here’s another post from the archives of my old blog. This is rare creative piece I wrote that offers an equally rare glimpse into my personal life.

This is one of my favourite posts because it perfectly captures a single moment in time. Reading this again nearly two years after I wrote it, it’s the context that underpins this piece, rather than the content itself that I think about the most.

I punched this piece out on my iPad while riding the M train from Brooklyn, where I lived at the time. I had arrived in New York about a month earlier and felt totally in awe and starstruck with the place. It was so new, so tall and so exciting. That contributed to the extreme naivety I felt at the time. Life genuinely felt like a fairytale back then – I had no job, no ties and was instead living inside my own ballet-inspired version of Eat, Pray, Love.

It’s interesting to compare this context with how I feel now about New York and life in general today. The naivety and passivity I once felt isn’t there anymore, nor is the veil of ‘I’m not worthy’ that’s so obvious when I re-read this piece. It has been replaced with a strong sense of me deserving my seat at the table; be it with any man I choose to date or just Manhattan itself. It is no longer the other way round.

Here’s the original post..

On this afternoon, I find myself standing on a kerb on 7th Avenue. Somewhere in the uber trendy Manhattan neighbourhood of West Village. It is an unseasonably warm and sunny Sunday, especially for October.

I am pressed firmly against the muscular chest of my date; a 6’2, delightful and utterly charming blonde Ben Affleck lookalike. I am nestled into the exact spot where I can smell what I imagine to be the coming together of both his aftershave and his deodorant.

One of his linen blazer coated arms is up over his head, expertly hailing a cab to take us uptown to a movie. His other arm is cupped lightly but sincerely around my right shoulder.

He is explaining to me the nuances of hailing a cab in New York City – something I have yet to do for myself. The light on top means occupied. The larger light means off duty. That means it’s at the driver’s discretion as to whether he picks us up. Two don’t and simply drive off.

I cannot believe how well I have managed to fit myself into this scene. I am rocking my long, beachy goldilocks to absolute stunning perfection today. They are blowing gently in the breeze from the oncoming traffic. My outfit is fitted and shows off my big blue eyes. This is me in my Sunday best and is as urban as I’m prepared to get in this urbanly dressed city.

I quickly shake off any thought that I am somehow not worthy to be here in this moment. I am not sure what he sees in me or why. It could be the blonde skinny ballerina factor who’s foreign and talks funny. It could be that I’m uncomplicated and accessible. Whatever the reasons, I am brave enough to go with it and to just not care.

He has already told me he doesn’t hate my taste in music. He seems engaged by my observations and views on life. He hates facebook almost as much as I do. He walks the sidewalk with a slow purpose and a quiet determination. There is something of a commonality going on here. But he is calling all the shots and I know it. As casual as I know that this is, I am here because I want to be. I keep getting invites from him that I just don’t want to turn down. I can handle this and wherever I don’t want it to go.

In a city that is so comprehensively dominated by appearances, I’m thinking we probably look great together. A little too great for my liking. As I’ve become accustomed to, I dutifully and skillfully suppress anything that resembles letting my heart come crashing in. This means that none of the people in the cars who pass by and happen to notice us are batting an eyelid, myself included. There is nothing out of the ordinary happening on this kerb right now.

In this cab-hailing embrace, I cannot help but smile. Whatever small part of me that pays attention to appearances coupled with the fleeting prospect of romantic perfection doesn’t want this moment to end.

But it does end, with the shift jerk on the wheel by a cab driver as he pulls over to pick us up. I curl myself into a ball to land in the black plastic interior of the cab. He speaks our destination to the driver. And as quickly as this moment was created, I am driven away from that kerb and deeper into my fairy tale life.

Sarah

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Book review — Smartcuts

Something different on my blog today – a book review.

Of a new book out last week called SmartCuts: How Hackers, Innovators, and Icons Accelerate Success.

It’s by Shane Snow, a young entrepreneur and journalist based in New York City. I approached Shane after he sent an email calling for people to read and review his book prior to its release. Although I’ve never met him, Shane is one of many New York entrepreneurs I monitor for their content and thoughts on the tech and startup scene in this city.

Shane’s journalistic credentials speak for themselves. His work has been featured in the New Yorker, Wired and Fast Company. He’s also the co-founder and CCO at Contently – an online editorial company that offers a software platform and marketplace for freelance journalists to connect with brands to deliver high quality content marketing.

So what is a smartcut? Shane describes them as strategies individuals use to achieve rapid, ethical and sustainable success. They are not short cuts – instead they are strategies for amplifying success such as lateral thinking, training from masters, adjusting from rapid feedback and thoroughly rejecting the traditional corporate ladder. Shane examines historical and current careers (ranging from President Lyndon B. Johnson to the dubstep DJ Skrillex) and explores what they have in common – they all used strategies (or smartcuts) to accelerate their success.

In a style similar to Malcolm Gladwell, Shane presents interesting, well-written and well-researched anecdotes to demonstrate and support his stance. Like how Gladwell writes, this is not a formulaic, cookbook style discussion or a how-to for replicating the same kind of career success for yourself.

Nonetheless this is an interesting and worthwhile book that makes a couple of salient points that I’d like to explore in more detail. Let’s begin.

1) Innovation extends beyond products or companies.

Apple announced last week a suite of new product offerings and every tech writer was quick to sing Apple’s innovation praises.

But innovation isn’t just about companies or products. What I think is cool (and what I think Smartcuts is really about) is recognizing that innovation is more than a hip company or snazzy product. It’s possible to have an innovative career and this book ultimately looks to find the commonalities between a handful of notable and outstanding ones.

2) New York City is THE yardstick.

Writes Shane of New York..

New York has indeed become a global yardstick – for artists, businesspeople, and dreamers of all stripes… If you can make it in New York, people assume you can make it anywhere.

So true. Because of this, there is tremendous value in being a New York City import and coming from an environment that’s nothing like it. Shane and I have that in common – he came from Idaho, I came from the suburbs of Melbourne. Coming from a far flung place makes you appreciate the quality and accessibility of everything that’s amazing in this city – be it culturally, professionally or socially.

Shane describes a sense of awe, of star-struck, and the push that comes being surrounded by such talented and high quality professionals at the top of their respective game. I feel exactly the same way about being here. I can identify with this book just that little bit more because of the New York City references it contains.

Bottom line – should you read this book?

Yes. This book will appeal to those with an interest in business, innovation, startups and entrepreneurship. More than that, Smartcuts shows us there is value in finding links and putting structure around interesting and divergent careers. It’s then up to each of us to emulate them.

Get Smartcuts via amazon.com. Link is here.

Sarah

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