Jessica Lawrence is the Executive Director of NY Tech Meetup (NYTM), the largest Meetup in the world and a non-profit organization supporting New York’s growing technology community. NYTM’s goal is to build a sustainable and diverse technology industry that drives economic growth, leads innovation, and creates positive, high-impact change. The organization’s perennially sold-out monthly events have served as a springboard for hundreds of the city’s technology start-ups from Tumblr to Foursquare to Livestream.
My Definition Of Success | Success in the past has sometimes meant getting good grades or a promotion or a raise, but success for me now means flourishing – both my own, and the flourishing of those around me. It isn’t just about being happy, but having a true sense of well-being. Author and researcher Dr. Martin Seligman has a model with five components that resonates with me: it’s about experiencing positive emotions like joy, comfort, hope; being engaged (experiencing flow), having positive relationships, experiencing meaning (finding connection with something greater than yourself), and experiencing a sense of accomplishment (setting goals and working towards them). I feel successful when I’m flourishing and when I’m able to help others experience it as well.
I Am Driven By | I’m in large part driven by a sense of unfulfilled potential. I have a continual sense that I can contribute more, that there is more that I can extract from myself, more ways that I can add something meaningful to the world. I’m also driven by the desire to help others reach their full potential and flourish. I picked up Austin Kleon’s book, Show Your Work!, the other day, and even just a few pages into it found myself saying, “This is an amazing book! This is so helpful!” I’m driven by wanting to give that experience to people – to have them feel that a talk I’ve given, an article I’ve written, a conversation I’ve had with them, a product I’ve made, or a company I’ve built has made their lives better.
The Difference Between Good And Great | The difference between being good and being great is most often tied to how much effort you are willing to put into something. The great writer is the one who gets up every day and writes, even when it’s difficult. The good writer sits around waiting for inspiration instead of working.
A Key Talent | Conscientiousness has been crucial to me. Although by no means perfect at it, I tend to think first about how my actions will impact others: how will the conference that I’m planning or the dinner that I’m curating or the website that I’m helping to design make people feel? When I was planning a conference in fall of 2013, I developed a new practice that helps answer that question: I wrote myself a letter, pretending that it was coming from a thrilled conference attendee. In their voice, I described all of the aspects of the conference that would leave them thrilled, whether it was inspiring speakers, feeling taken care of, or having amazing food. I then translated those concepts into actionable ideas, like creating name badges out of Scout Books notebooks so that they would always have a notebook handy, or having a chalk artist create portraits of every attendee on the chalkboard wall in the event space. The letter gave me a framework and something concrete to work towards.
How I Use My Mind | I use my mind by observing my mind, by looking for patterns, by getting curious about what is and is not happening. When I’m stuck, it’s usually not because of external forces, it’s because my mind is in the way. I’m counting myself out before I’ve even tried. I’ve let fear apply the brakes. I’m ascribing intent when there wasn’t any intent there. It’s not about defeating your mind but understanding it and gently reshaping its distortions.
Dealing With Doubt | I have moments of self-doubt, fear, and negativity every day. My internal dialogue is harsher to me than any external critic ever has been. It’s a voice that says, “who are you to be speaking up and speaking out?” It’s a voice that judges me when I do little things wrong or when I find a task challenging. That voice can feel like an enemy that I have fight on a daily basis, but it can also feel like a friend. It keeps me humble. And it teaches me how to work through challenges, even if they are self-inflicted. I’ve learned to pause my catastrophizing and work with my fear by articulating what I’m really afraid of and why, and by looking at the best-case, worst-case, and realistic outcomes of any situation. I also think that being bold isn’t something that you do once and then do on auto-pilot from that point on. Being bold, moving ahead in spite of fear, is a daily practice.
Performing At My Peak | I don’t think that anyone can always perform at their peak. I think the trick is to not let those non-peak times turn into catastrophic moments of self-judgement. One day of sitting at your desk and getting absolutely nothing done does not mean that you’re a lazy, unproductive person. Giving one less than stellar talk doesn’t mean that you’re a bad speaker. Failing to close a few deals doesn’t mean that you’re a horrible salesperson. Make a small mental note of the circumstances at the time so that you can recognize patterns if they develop, but otherwise, let it go. Part of performing at your peak if forgiving yourself when you’re not, and moving on.
Advice On Building Wealth | I would recommend that before they take steps to grow rich, they understand exactly why they want to be. Security? Power? A sense of winning some grand life competition? To change the world? To feel successful? Because they think being rich will make them happy? Despite all the evidence that once we have our basic needs met, additional money doesn’t make us happier, many of us still hold onto the belief that we’ll be happier with more money in our bank accounts or with nicer houses and cars. Once you understand your motivation – your underlying goal – relating to being rich, ask whether money is a requirement to get you there. Can you accomplish it without being rich? Can you actually find a sense of security or feel successful without accumulating more money? Are you using your current lack of money as an excuse for not moving forward with what you want to accomplish?
The Legacy You Would Like To Leave | I want my legacy to be about how I made people feel and the positive impact that I had on their lives. Did I help them thrive? Did I make them laugh? Did they feel supported and loved around me? Did I help them reach their full potential? Did I solve important problems and make the world better?