Edition One

Oh, hello there. Since this is the first, let’s start with intros. I’m Kim, and I have no idea what I am doing. So please liberally use that reply button on your email client and give me feedback as I go along.

Thing to note: While we have a topic, this is not going to be a “management and leadership” newsletter. This is a place for me (and you!) to explore what it means to be “a middle”: where we are, who we are, and what that even means.

Who are “the Middles?” Read my intro post

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Promises from me to you 

  • I will send this out as often as I can. Life being what it is, I’m not sure it’ll be weekly, but at least once a month.
  • Please send in thoughts. If you want to write up a thing and send it out to people, cool. If you have a job, please send it my way. If you made a cool project and are up for a Q&A, yay, get a hold of me.
  • There will be essays. I love essays, and I have many in my head, so expect those.
  • This goes beyond work. What I’ve found is leading is also about balancing life, kids, partners, feeding ourselves, etc. Some week in the near future, we’ll probably talk about mental health.
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The first act of faith

When I say “we ended up here,” I don’t mean to imply that I didn’t kick, scream, and fight my way to the position I find myself in. I worked for it. You probably worked for where you are, as well. But we didn’t get here alone.

When I was in high school, I was in orchestra. I played the violin, although my real heart is in the cello, but that is another story. Phil Peters was the conductor of the Valley High School Orchestra in West Des Moines, Iowa and he led it well. This was where I was given my first act of faith.

I’d already displayed my love for arts in schools. When the school district threatened to cut arts and music funding, I took my first stab at public speaking by going to a school board meeting, armed with statistics about how music makes kids better and how important orchestra was to me. But let’s be honest: I was not a very good violinist. I might have had some talent, but I didn’t practice nearly enough and my family couldn’t afford private lessons, so I learned mostly by ear and the instruction I got in school.

Somehow, though, Mr. Peters decided I could be the chair of the second violins, the section that plays harmony to the first violin’s melody. Our first chair first violin was Ashley Hinson, who is now in the Iowa Statehouse. Now, she was talented. Baffled by why Mr. Peters even gave me the position, my standmate Kelsey and I spend lunch hours figuring out bowings, doing what we could. I played with gusto, I did the whole body movement thing when I wanted to show my section when we needed to jump in. I practiced more. I listened to more classical CDs, rotating them with my standbys of Orgy and Powerman 5000.

I look back on that time with so much gratitude for Mr. Peters. Here was a nerdy, awkward, semi-goth Asian girl, who didn’t have the talent, but he put his faith in me. He pushed us as an orchestra, he pushed me as a leader. During my time in high school, our music department was given the first ever GRAMMY Signature School award.

It only takes one act of faith. I still have my violin, though I don’t play, but what it represents to me is the first time I felt like I mattered. It was the place where I found myself, working on whether we should start with an up or a down bow. It was the first time someone put their faith in me when I didn’t know I could do something.

There are hundreds of moments like that in my life. Tiny moments that changed my course. Gratitude is always preached about, and it’s easy to be grateful for the mentors you’ve had for years or your partner who puts up with your work hours. They’re there all the time. But sometimes people pass us by in a flicker and nudge us in the right direction. We may not see it immediately, in fact I spent the better part of the last decade completely forgetting about being in orchestra. When I was reminded of it the other day, I realized I was one of those statistics I preached about in that school board meeting. Music, not the music itself, but the opportunity music gave me, put me where I am today.

I’m going to send this newsletter to Mr. Peters when it hits your inboxes. I’m going to say thank you. And I’m going to look for someone in my life I can nudge. I may not feel like I’m important enough to be a mentor some days, but I certainly have the ability to nudge, to take the first act of faith for someone.


Recommendations

Crock pots save all.
In between calls, writing, and every thing else, it’s been the best thing to help me eat semi-healthy. Got meetings for nine hours straight? Throw stuff in this thing and you’ll magically feed yourself whenever it is that you get home.

Great things I’ve read lately
Great journalism: A different migrant crisis than you’ve head of (Mother Jones). Fascinating responses: AskReddit’s answers to “Whats the rarest thing you own?” (Reddit). This list of places to opt out from is wonderful (thanks to Soo Oh!). Tips for newsrooms to hire better from Tanzina Vega and Stacie-Marie Ishmael.

Jobs jobs jobs 
Partnership manager for a great hate crimes project (Propublica). A bunch of new gigs at my favorite criminal justice project (The Marshall Project). More video jobs than I can count as part of a huge expansion. (WashPo)

Adorableness

(Because what is a newsletter without cute things?)