Since the Millennial Train Project, I’ve been asked over and over about the experience.
“Transformative,” “eye-opening,” “you had to be there,” are some of the cliche phrases I’ve been using.
But that doesn’t speak greatly to my time on the five-city journey with 25 other participants who I now get to call a family. We came together to take on unique projects in everything from education to social justice to the arts/culture arenas.
It’s been a few weeks and I took some time to pinpoint my most important takeaways from the traveling fellowship’s workshops.
With that said, here are five big truths from #MTPTrain anyone can apply to their lives or professions.
Own your language
During one of our debriefing sessions, Courtni, a fellow participant dropped a major key.
While meeting with an organization in Los Angeles, an individual told her that it’s important to own the language of the work you’re doing. A light bulb went off in her head.
She determined that she would change how she would describe her project, which was to create an asset-based resource center for transient youth in Detroit.
How many of us get caught up with cliches when it comes to branding and presenting our work? How many times can we use the words “thought leader” or “social influencer” when we want to let people know we’re experts.
It’s not wrong, it just doesn’t speak to our uniqueness or the value we’re bringing to the table. This may require a bit more creativity and soul-searching but I think eventually carving out our own language makes us more memorable.
Know what you have to offer
You may not be making someone money, but perhaps you’re saving individuals money.
Ike Umunnah, head of Global Strategic Partnerships at Target, and our on-train mentor from San Francisco to Denver (weren’t we so fortunate?!), led one of my favorite workshops. His advice above stuck with me because I had never thought about bringing value in that way.
Sometimes we don’t need more, we just need to do better with what we already have. And what if we can help others do that?
Take an individual who works a 9 to 5 but works a 5 to 9 or longer to achieve their side hustle. They may not have access to more time (there are only 24 hours in the day).
But maybe you can help them work smarter and not harder with resources and tools until they can quit their day job and they may be willing to pay you for that.
I have a friend who has picked up small jobs through Taskrabbit and was hired by well-off people who are willing to pay $20/hr, or more, to run simple errands because they don’t have time. But things still have to get done and they need easy and quick access to people who can be trusted to do it.
I and other content creators rely on automation software to promote our content on Twitter and Facebook because who has time to tweet all day? This saves me time. And meets my needs.
We all have some value or skill or resource that may help other people, but we have to be clear and outline what we are offering. The exchange within a partnership must always be equal.
#Latergram – Day 4: A highlight from our programming yesterday was our peer to peer resource share. We each expressed our current needs in regards to our respective projects. In turn, the group gave connections and ideas that could help. It was cool because many of us are in different industries. This gave us an opportunity to see our projects from different angles. #mtptrain
Values come first
Jenna Walker, Co-Founder of Artifact Uprising, an eco-friendly photo printing service, spoke to our group while we visited The Commons on Champa in Denver.
She opened up about the difficult but rewarding climb to owning a million dollar company.
Before she started her business, she and her business partner outlined their business values. Everything you do in business from there on starts from that value system, she said.
One of AU’s values is sustainability. They didn’t want to do anything that would harm the environment. They had this written down before launching and later made sure that the paper they printed their products on came from recycled elements.
This also brought to mind a conversation I was having in a group chat earlier this week. One major issue some companies are facing now in Silicon Valley is diversity. Many are being called out for not hiring more people of color in their workforce.
When diversity is left out of a value system, there are then issues like the one Airbnb recently faced. On the accommodation site, hosts were getting away with discriminating against potential customers who were Black on the platform.
AirBnB as of Thursday, announced that they were implementing a special tech team that will combat discrimination on the platform. Perhaps doing a better job at making diversity and inclusion a value early on would have saved Airbnb from this kind of issue.
But hopefully future start-ups can learn from this situation as well.
What are the qualifications for your Yes?
Ryan Whalen, Director of Initiatives at the Rockefeller Foundation, spoke to us on partnerships as the train made its way to Detroit. What stuck with me is how he determines his team is capable of taking on a new project or partnership.
It was very intentional. The conditions were the following:
Concept: Both sides must agree on what is happening.
Calendar alignment: Are we both available AT THE SAME TIME to make sure everything is executed ?
Capacity: Do you have the capacity (enough time, energy and resources) to actually do what you’re saying you will do.
I think these can apply to work and personal relationships (dating in particular). Most partnerships and projects fall apart because of the reasons above.
Having these three boxes checked off before moving forward with anything can save everyone time.
The past two weeks, I took a break from editing "The Questions 100" #HC100Q💯 to gather more content while on #MTPTrain. I'm really excited to bring you these stories from LA, San Francisco, Oakland and Milwaukee. I'm honestly just getting a chance to reflect on everything. But I thank those who donated to the fund and checked in on me while I was away. Because of you, I can continue the work of amplifying the voices of MILLENNIALS of color and diversifying their identities in media. ✨✨✨✨❤️❤️❤️
During our orientation, Patrick Dowd, the CEO of the Millennial Trains Project, said the week ahead would be alot of “productive discomfort.” This was true.
For instance, Randi Gloss, an MTPer last year and a leader this year, led a workshop called Courageous Conversations. During that hour we engaged in some productive discomfort as we spoke about racial inequality in America.
For some individuals it had been some time since they had that heavy of a conversation. For others, these were everyday conversations they were exhausted from having.
Sometimes we don’t want to engage in difficult conversations that challenge the status quo. For people like me, a Black women, I often feel like speaking out is grounds for extermination.
I could lose my job, connections or even my life. It is risky. Also it is an act of labor as well. I can’t count the many times I’ve had emotionally strenuous conversations on race, sexism and queer-phobia.
Although, I have chosen to have them, I don’t think everyone has to be like me. I would even say there needs to be some kind of special training in how to approach these conversations in everyday life.
In a perfect world, everyone would be willing to engage and learn from everyone’s experience no matter how different. That’s not the case, but we have lives and minds to save so anyone willing to engage in this discomfort is doing their part.
And a bonus!!!
There is an “Inside an Outside Game” in every movement
After we pulled out of Los Angeles, Jamie Henn, co-founder of 350.org, a climate change advocacy group, gave a workshop on his work. At first I thought it would be hard for me to relate. But I was so wrong.
I loved loved loved what Henn said about false dichotomies in movements for change. There is often an idea that progress in society can only come one of two ways.
One is fighting on the micro level and focusing on one thing at a time on a smaller scale. The other is on a macro level and taking on an entire problem head on.
But truthfully problem-solving is not that clean cut. “There is an inside and outside game,” Henn said. And there needs to be players on both fields.
I hope I’ve been able to convey what I meant when I said this week transformed me. And this wasn’t even all of my notes, but hopefully these keys can elevate your thinking as well!
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