I just got back this morning from the summer workshop at Nazareth University in Rochester where I helped a group of six rising seniors from Brooklyn, Harlem, and The Bronx, draft their personal statements for college.
It was a high energy weekend (as you can see from the cover image) with over 80 students from New York, Maryland, Kentucky, and Bermuda participating. I'll tell you more about this summer workshop and the nonprofit that's been leading this program in a future issue, because today I wanted to talk about showing up.
One of the themes of the program and something I've been thinking about is the idea of showing up.
These kids had flown, trained, or ridden buses for many hours to show up to this 4 day weekend program. Volunteers and staff showed up too and together amazing things happened.
That's part of the power of showing up—bringing energy and commitment to what you do.
But then there's how you do it. Because showing up can mean doing the bare minimum. At least I showed up.
Showing up is about appearances. How did you show up?
It can be about presence. It can be about how you make people feel.
When people are considering creating content, doing an interview.
Or sharing their ideas with others in some kind of medium.
The concern about "how should I show up?" emerges.
I recently met with a pair of audio producers. They worked behind the scenes to help executives and leaders, artists and musicians look and sound good so their best selves could come through in podcasts and music production.
But because they were so behind the scenes and everyone's best kept secret, they didn't always have control of the clients they got and the opportunities they could take on.
They wanted to put themselves in the limelight, something that they rarely did that they weren't as comfortable with going from behind the camera to in front of the camera on the mic, not listening in.
One of them said that they plan to bring on a couple of guests who were their friends as a starting off point, and I said, " Why worry about guests?" You've got the two of you.
You already have a lot of differences. One of you works in more corporate settings. One of you works with artists. One of you is Asian, one of you is black. There's already a lot of cultural and professional dynamics that could be a play and. They've been friends for a long time, so the rapport and the comfort would be there. Why not start with a list of topics that you care a lot about that you find yourself talking about a lot: EQ mixing, mic quality, pop filters, sound dampening, projection, verbal ticks.
There were so much that they already knew from all their years of experience working directly with people.
"But aren't we just adding to the noise? Aren't there already a lot of people who talk about this stuff?"
"Maybe, but they aren't you," I told them. Think of it as a substitute for a conversation. If you don't have time to meet with someone one-on-one, perhaps the next best thing is for them to watch your podcast or your video on the topic.
And then came the question of showing up.
"How should I show up to this?"
"Do you think it's better to be more authoritative and directive and tell people what the right thing to do is? Or should I be more suggestive and open?"
" How do you like to show up?" I asked. "What's it like to work with you when you work with clients, what's your vibe?"
And he said, "well, this sounds cheesy, but I really try to help artists find their voice and I want them to sound good, and I want them to feel good about the way they sound and to find a sound that works for them."
"There's your answer," I told him.
"If you're consultative, if you're thoughtful, if you're personalized, then that should be your M.O. When you make the podcast, you said you hate when people sound overly produced. So talk about that. Talk about the downsides of that. Talk about how every artist deserves to have their own mix and their own sound."
I could see the light bulb clicking for him. It made sense. If someone hears you on the podcast, they should meet you in real life and realize that you're the same person, just even more rich and human when you're in person.
That's how you show up in a way that's authentic. I know that's a word we throw around a lot, but authenticity is how you wanna show up and what you're going to show up like when you are with others.
Some people are good at maintaining a performance, and that can be authentic too. But what's weird is when somebody drops the mask, whether they're tired or they're just frustrated and a totally different version of them comes out. That's when people feel confused and uncomfortable.
If you like to make puns in real life, make puns in your content. If you like to drop references to college basketball, or old seventies movies or references to TikTok memes. Bring that same energy when you show up in other places.
And if you find yourself evolving your style and the way you like to present, let that shift take place everywhere. No one is expecting you to stay the same your entire life.
They wanna know that you're a real person, that you have things you love, things that annoy you, quirks and ticks and flaws. AI is the only thing that lacks arbitrary opinions:
"I'm sorry. As a large language model, I can't..."
What can't AI do? That's what you can do. That's how you can show up.
Listen to this issue on audio here.