Jen Bladen

I took a Creative Live class this week and found it hugely inspiring. The instructor was April Bowles-Olin, who is crazy smart. (In case you’re clicking those links, yes, I am blogging about taking a class about blogging. Meta.)

April asked the class, “What do you want to be known for?” Great question. 

I Want To Be Known For Creating Connections.

The thing I value most in life and in my work is connection with others. I’ve never met a stranger. 

When I first moved to Tulsa, I struck up a conversation with the woman in front of me in line at the grocery store. To this day, she’s one of my closest friends. 

Some of my favorite memories of travel are conversations with someone on a train or in a ferry port — someone I had never met before and whom I never saw again. 

As Mindy Kaling says, “Best friend isn’t a person, it’s a tier.” My best friend in Los Angeles and I are hosting a week-long writer’s retreat this summer. My best friend in San Diego and I can spend weeks or months without speaking, but when we get together it’s like no time has passed at all. My best friends from 7th and 8th grade and I are going to see Depeche Mode together this fall. I value connection.

I’ve never met a dog to whom I didn’t profess my undying love. 

I’m the teacher who bonded with the “difficult kids”. I’m the bookseller who has 20 minute conversations with strangers about Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time. I’m the customer who talks to the barista about her day (if there’s no line behind me!). I recently had a 45-minute conversation with a Jeep owner and a Honda owner at the gas station about the pros/cons of each vehicle which turned into talking about dogs and then bearded dragons and then movies, of course, and finally about our jobs and their spouses and kids. 

But let’s be super clear: I’m also the introvert wearing her headphones and pretending to be asleep on the plane. I am an introverted extrovert after all. 

I Want To Be Known As An Expert In My Field. 

After connection, I value intellect the most. To me that means both education and experience. 

I sought my Master’s in Education not because I needed to but because I wanted to. I was curious. I still am. 

When a colleague suggested I get my MJE from JEA, I looked into it because I wanted to see what I could learn from the experience.

I want to be known as the yearbook consultant who inspires kids to make the best yearbooks possible. I want advisers to email me to say that I’ve inspired their students to be better humans. I want human resource professionals to email me to say I’ve inspired collaboration between departments and therefore a healthier, happier workforce — and that profits are up! I want to be known as someone who has all the answers — or is willing to hunt down the answers! 

A mentor once told me that everything a teacher reads informs his teaching. Every sci-fi novel or travel magazine or blog post or children’s book or curriculum guide. For me, it’s really true. I got as many ideas for my presentations out of reading Andy Weir’s “The Martian” as I did reading Simon Sinek’s “Leaders Eat Last”. (I highly recommend both books!) 

I Want To Be Known As A Fearless Public Speaker. 

Only recently have I figured out that most people are terrified of public speaking. I mean, I know it’s what a lot of people say they’re scared of. Like spiders and heights. But I’m slowly realizing that it’s something that most people genuinely hate — something that makes them quake in their Keds. 

It’s foreign to me because I so genuinely love it. I get a thrill realizing that my audience is understanding the point I’m trying to make. I love making a group of people laugh. Or gasp. Or groan. 

Public speaking is the ultimate introverted extrovert experience. I get to connect with 10 or 100 people, without having to have anxiety about a one-on-one conversation with any one of them. It feeds my extrovert self while protecting my introvert self. 

One of my favorite parts of the spring is building new presentations for my audiences. I can’t wait to show you what I’ve been working on for you. It’s an exciting part of public speaking to prepare and practice. I want to make sure that I’m fully comfortable so you can get the maximum amount of information out of the short time we have together.

Now it’s your turn. As a staff and as an individual, what do you want to be known for?