A Love Affair with Mass Transit
While walking along the South Congress bridge into downtown on a morning filled with clouds and drizzle, I flashed back to a cozy memory of my old subway line. That moment gave me pause, and I considered the pros and cons of public transportation. During those steps in the drizzle rain I could only think back to the good parts.
Dear N Train,
As it rains here in sunny Texas, I think back to those rainy days in New York. I can see myself shuffle down the street with a broken umbrella, then I fight my way up the stairs and I quickly grab the Metro paper. At the top I wait with baited breath for you to arrive. Those first few minutes of a cold dreary morning are alleviated once I step through your doors.
I sit in the comfort of a dry warm space where I could rest my feet. Even though there people pressed up against every side of me, I feel so pleasantly alone with you. My mind slowly wakes up in a relaxed state as I finish reading the paper, and I switch to my book of the week. People shuffle in and out, but I only notice because of the chimes. You say, “The next stop is 59th street, Lexington Avenue.”
You make sure I don’t miss my stop by letting me know where we are each time. Your pleasant voice tells me that, “the next stop is 57th street, 7th avenue.” As I rise from my seat, I realize my morning with you is over and I must move on with the day. I’ll see you again… tonight.
What does it mean?
I’m sure this love letter written to a subway train seems obscure and unrelated to this blog, but read the letter again. This is my reflection on how I spend my personal time verses my professional time. Riding a train to and from work every day forced me to focus on something I enjoyed for those 30 minutes each way. I didn’t do work or check emails, just read or listen music.
While being an entrepreneur or small business owner often means working long beyond a typical 40 hour week, it does not mean you should give up the things that bring you personal joy. I miss reading so often and being disconnected from technology for a period of time each day. Mass transit always forced it on me, so now I am working to find a way to make my own way.
Fear Comes From a Lack of Knowledge
There’s a huge information gap for most adults in the US around finance and investing. For a slew of reasons – most of which have deep emotional ties – we are scared of the “great wide open” market of investing. Many people view investing as gambling, but there is so much more to it than that.
I’m not in a financial position right now to NOT be investing in my future. Time is the one of the things I have control over when it comes to my money. The sooner I invest, the more my money can be compounding. Even though my income is pretty low, I can still set aside money each month to add into a Roth IRA.
Getting Money Smart
I just finished up a class through one of the local university’s community class program, and it made me feel empowered. That’s what knowledge will do for you. The stock market, bonds, tax shelters, and investing in general loses the fright factor one you understand how it all works.
Just do it! Don’t waste another minute pondering whether or not you should invest in your future. At a minimum, you should have a 401(k) with your company or Roth IRA on your own – and max it out each year. Take a class, do some reading, talk to people about money – whatever you are most comfortable with. When you’re ready, you may want to speak with a Registered Investment Advisor. I’m not saying that you should hand off your money to someone right away, but many RIA’s are willing to consult with you or be a source for advice. I’m no expert, but compounding interest is a pretty awesome thing to have working for you and growing your wealth.
Networking is More than Exchanging Business Cards
No matter where you live, building a network of people to support you and vice-verse is one of the keys to business (and personal) success. I love attending networking events and meeting new people – connecting with others is a huge part of my personality. Not everyone is bubbly and outgoing, so speaking to strangers does not come easy.
After many years of meeting strangers and creating connections from coast to coast, I can safely say that making 1 or 2 genuine connections is more valuable than collecting 20 business cards from people you may never speak to again. Business Cards are not a form of currency. If you’re the shy person worried about what to say or who to approach at a networking event, just take a deep breath and think about the true possibilities. The worst thing that can happen is someone may be too blind to see how great you are, and he/she could choose to talk to someone else. Try approaching the person in the room who appears to feel just as uncomfortable as you do, smile, and ask a simple question like “how are you doing today?”
Connecting with People in a Tightly Webbed City
While I absolutely love Austin, sometimes it can be unsettling when you realize the brand new person you just met has 3 friends in common with you. Occurrences like that were rare and exciting in New York, but here they are very common. This means a few things (all of which may be obvious, but I’ll list them anyway):
- Be careful with the stories you share. While the story about your friend John drinking too much and causing trouble is hysterical to you, it will be less appealing to his boss. After John’s coworker’s best friend retells the story in the office cafeteria, the boss and other coworkers may not be so happy.
- Be an open brochure, not an open book. By this I mean that it’s great to be open about who you are and what you love, but avoid giving away too much detail about yourself upfront. Information can be misinterpreted and things can get awkward.
- Not everything you do belongs on social media. I won’t even explain all of the reasons for us to remember this while networking. You get it. Check-ins and posts are fun, but be aware of the long-term possible affects.
Where Should You Go and What Groups to Join?
I’ve enjoyed mingling with lots of different groups in Austin. Here are the ones where I made the best connections.
- Austin Open Coffee Club (meets at Houndstooth Coffee on Congress)
- AWIG – Austin Women’s Investing Group
- AGLCC Toastmasters (Membership based. Don’t need to be LBGT to join)
- Creative Mornings (A new favorite group of mine)
- Metropolitan Breakfast Club (Membership based, but you can attend up to 3 times before joining)
- Network in Austin (First group I ever joined in Austin)
- Young Women’s Roundtable (not around anymore, but may resurface)
I also recommend searching Eventbrite.com and Meetup.com for the topics you are most interested in. You would be surprised how many other people are out there looking for the same things you are.