Fascinatinger: Ira Glass on Failure and Creativity

March 29, 2011 by

Ira GlassA few weeks ago I had the great pleasure of attending a talk by Ira Glass, host of the popular NPR program This American Life. Ira was there as part of the Alex Krieger ’95 Memorial Lecture series, given each spring in memory of Vassar student Alex Krieger, who was killed in an automobile accident during the spring of his freshman year.

Krieger loved humor, and his parents honor his memory by inviting outstanding American writers and humorists to speak to the students. Past speakers have included  Tom Wolfe, Wendy Wasserstein, John Irving, P. J. O’Rourke, Calvin Trillin, Jules Feiffer, Oliver Sacks, Tony Kushner, David Sedaris, Michael Chabon, Sarah Vowell, Gail Collins, Augesten Burroughs, and, most recently, Frank Rich.

When Ira walked out on stage, he sat down at a plain table with some sound equipment. Then he shut the lights out and began to speak. It was awkward at first, but I quickly relaxed in my chair and began to feel the magic of listening to him on the radio. It was the perfect beginning.

Ira rambled from one subject to another, recounting his experiences at NPR and humbly sharing some of his best and his worst moments as a reporter and master storyteller. He eventually turned on the lights and offered a few pearls of wisdom.

You don’t need anyone’s permission to be creative.

Start creating. Now. You don’t have to wait for lessons or school or a job to unleash your creativity and validate your talent. You need to work at it, whatever “it” is – music, writing, film, singing, accounting, blogging, landscaping, cooking.

Even he has to work at it. His staff conceives and produces dozens of stories for one show. Many of them get cut. The Onion writers generate hundreds of headlines at a time – again, most get thrown away.

You will not produce a masterpiece on Day 1.

Ira cautioned students that if they wanted to work on his show, they had to have a body of work to show them before they even apply. Technology barriers are so low that there’s little excuse for not producing your own work.

And his corollary to this…

At first, you will probably suck at what you do, even if you love it.

Give yourself permission to fail. In every failure there is a lesson.

To illustrate, Ira played a clip from a story he did seven years into his radio career at NPR. SEVEN YEARS. It was truly awful.

He was reporting on the rising price of corn, and by the time he got to the urgent tortilla shortage, we were all in stitches with him. The story had no point, no message, no purpose. It was just facts and anecdotes thrown into a jumbled mess. It was easily forgettable, unlike his work at This American Life. I admire his grace and humility for revealing a work he’d probably rather forget.

My friends at MomsRising have a lovely way of dealing with failure. They hold a joyful funeral for their mistakes. They embrace them – pulling the plug on something that’s not working, not assigning blame and analyzing what went wrong.

If you’re going to beat yourself up, at least take notes and do a better job next time.



HOW TO: Change the Category of Your Facebook Page

March 25, 2011 by

Image source http://www.flickr.com/photos/crystaljingsr/

Not long ago, when you first created a Facebook page, you had to choose a specific category – local business, musician, etc. – and could never change it. Decisions, decisions.

Facebook actually advised you that in order to change the category, you’d have to delete your page and start again. As if!

Choosing the right category up front matters for one main reason. Each category has a predetermined and unchangeable set of fields – your name, year founded, office hours, etc. Choose the wrong category, and fields that you might need are not available to you, and conversely, you could get stuck with fields that you don’t need.

Is this a dealbreaker? Not really. It’s not like the yellow pages (remember those), where improper categorization meant you were simply not found. Most people find your Facebook page in other ways – the newsfeed, Google or Facebook search, your site, etc.

But appearances matter and you don’t want to market your dogwalking business as a storefront with specific store hours. You want to represent properly.

Changing your existing page category is really quite easy.

  1. Go to your Page, click Edit on the top right
  2. Select Basic Information on the left
  3. Use the drop-down menus to change your main and sub-categories
  4. Be sure to scroll down and Save Changes.

How to Make a Brand New Page

If you’re making a page for the first time, start here: http://www.facebook.com/pages/create.php.

Here’s what it looks like today (Facebook reserves the right to change everything at any minute, so I make no guarantees that it will look or function this way tomorrow):

Facebook Create a Page

Click on any one of these to choose a subcategory. Below is the Local Business or Place category expanded.

Create a Page - Small Business

Need help choosing a category and setting up your page? Be sure to Like Facebook Pages, Facebook’s own page with news, tips and advice on Pages, and check out the Resources Tab for category guides for nonprofits, musicians, government, school communities and more.

Another cool tool for seeing what’s out there in different categoriesDiscover Facebook Pages. Browse through great examples of the different categories of pages, and see a list of your friends and how many mutual likes you have.

This is a Facebook-curated space, so it skews heavily toward larger brands such as Starbucks, Disneyland and the New York Yankees.

Lastly, check out my post Borrow Nobly: 30 Pages of Information and Inspiration Curated by Facebook for Facebook pages that highlight best practices and current examples in a variety of categories such as sports, media, politics, government and nonprofits.

Question mark image credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/crystaljingsr/


Borrow Nobly – 30 Pages of Information and Inspiration Curated by Facebook

March 22, 2011 by

“Genius borrows nobly.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Did you know that Facebook curates dozens of its own pages on topics such as news and politics, online safety and security, celebrity and sports marketing, and nonprofits and global disaster relief?

These pages are excellent sources of information and inspiration not just for marketers and developers, but for teachers, journalists, artists, small business owners, nonprofits, athletes and parents, and any combination thereof.

lightbulb graphic

Like these pages because they:

  • Give you examples of how people, companies and organizations are using Facebook to raise awareness, stimulate democracy and change the world
  • Provide news and updates on Facebook itself – its features, policies, tips and tricks
  • Offer statistics and research to help you understand, evaluate and plan your time and efforts on Facebook

Go outside your niche – like a page that is completely different than your profession or interests. You never know where and when inspiration will strike.

Can you think of any Facebook-sponsored pages that I’ve missed? Add them in the comments section.

NOTE: I’ve excluded Facebook pages outside the U.S.

Photo credit: tiff_ku1