Personal Writing

Interesting investments

I spent this past week at the SOCAP conference. Aside from being in beautiful San Francisco, the conference brought about some unexpected results. Or to speak in the parlance of the conference, it paid some excellent dividends (oh yes, I’m very versed in VC speak now. Ha!)

I attended the conference because the Bush Foundation paid for a number of us who were selected by a committee from SOCAP to attend. It’s certainly the kind of thing that I would never have invested in for myself. Initially, I was overwhelmed by the size and scope of the conference–nearly 3,000 attendees from all over the world with many people working on serious projects that required millions of dollars of investment. Believe me, that is NOT a language I speak or even ponder.

But I decided to jump in and see what I could glean from it to scale down for my purposes, both as The Arts Partnership and for what I hope to develop with extraordinaryextraordinary.

Here are some take aways, many of which were developed in excellent one on one conversations I had with some fabulous women I met:

  • Practice makes (more) perfect: My ideas around this blog and how I hope to expand it resonated with people from all over the world, and by talking about it over and over again, I am starting to refine the way I think about it and the way I share it with others.
  • Self care is an absolute must: Being a hustler, whether that’s as a nonprofit leader or a budding entrepreneur, is exhausting and never ending. Don’t neglect your mental and physical health. Take time to meditate, remove technology from your home life, find a network, learn how to get the knots out of your own neck and shoulder blades, celebrate the little wins and more. It all helps lead to sustainability and success.
  • Reach out to people you don’t necessarily see a direct connection to: It’s not always about finding the person you think can do something for you, your business or your career. Sometimes, the best conversations come from meeting someone who isn’t in your field and can’t obviously help you in any way.
  • Really listen: If you’re going to bother to network, then bother to really listen to what other people are saying, both about their work and yours. You just never know what idea, seemingly unrelated to you, will spark a new pathway for you to ponder and pursue.
  • Leave work out of it (sometimes): I had a great conversation with a woman, first about our work and then about being moms. I shared my experiences, since my child is older than hers, and we made a real connection over our mutual love of our kids and our happy sadness that they are growing up so fast. Our work lives aren’t related at all, but I left knowing I’ll stay in touch with her because we share that emotional connection.
  • Be prepared to make connections for others: I was able to connect a number of new contacts to people in my life who are doing work that is much more closely aligned. I thrive on helping others get ahead, so it was fun to play matchmaker.
  • Listen to what others have to say about you: A new person can oftentimes cut right to the core of something others who have known you for a long time can’t. Really hear what someone’s response to you is because they have no reason to be anything other than honest in a situation like a networking conference.
  • Be brave: Step outside of your comfort zone and see what happens. I met three new extraordinary women, had some incredibly interesting political, global and environmental conversations, talked about if money has value properties such as “good” and “bad,” heard developers talk about how to meaningfully use the arts to revitalize systems, communities and entrepreneurs and so much more.
  • Recognize the gift of time: Most of the conversations I had had nothing to do with the arts. But being out of the office and away from town meant that my day to day grind was disrupted, which meant that for this extended period, I was simply given the time to breathe and to think about my own work differently.
  • Open your eyes: There’s so much out in the world–take advantage of as many opportunities like this as you can. Worst case scenario: this week had been a bust and everyone had been dismissive of my little life in my little city in the middle of the country. I still would have enjoyed the weather, the scenery and the food. Best case scenario: an investor would have found me and demanded I take a check for millions of dollars to continue the good work we are doing. My week fell somewhere in-between, and much of that was because I leaned in to the generous spirit of all these people and made the intentional decision to just be open.

I’m grateful for the gift of time, for my team at TAP so adeptly managing the day to day when I’m out of the office and to Dr. Marry for taking care of the home front all on his own, new relationships, safe travel and the opportunity to think differently. All important investments in my continued personal and professional growth.

Dayna Del Val is on a mission to help others (re)discover the spark they were born with through her blog and newsletter, her professional talks and the (re)Discover Your Spark retreats she leads. Dayna works with people to help them not just identify and articulate their dreams but to develop a framework to get going on the pursuit of those dreams—today, in the next few months and for the years ahead. She's at the intersection of remarkable and so, so ordinary, but she knows that pretty much everyone else is, too. She's excited to be sharing this extraordinary journey with you.


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